Fresh off WordCamp San Diego, I was checking out Matt Mullenweg’s (founder of WordPress) blog, and ran across this short, clever YouTube video from Derek Sivers. Wow, is it ever true! It got me thinking. How many rules do we conjure up in our schools and classrooms to make our jobs more convenient and our students easier to control, when really we’re just crushing the spirit of the youngsters in our charge? Insert “Teacher” every time you hear “business owner” and see how it resonates with you.
I think back to all the rules that blanket most classrooms, especially math classrooms.
- ONLY PENCIL surely began because one student’s scrawling in pen was wrong, couldn’t be erased, drew the ire of the frustrated teacher, who then invented a no pen rule. I’ve eased up tremendously on this one myself. Students could pretty much write in blood if it were allowed.
- NO GUM, NO FOOD, NO DRINKS These seem to be a universally shunned trio of class black sheep. In all honesty, I think all three have a time and a place AT school, but the occasional mishap generally has all three banned inside most classroom walls. The teachers who allow such rule breaking are, dare I say, mavericks. When I first started teaching, these rules were posted by the school facilities manager in every classroom, on an unsightly shade of pink card stock, in unflattering font, telling all who read, that this was a place of NO. Underneath them I wrote, just for fun: NO SMILING, NO GIGGLING, NO LAUGHING, NO FUN, which actually made all four occur. Except from far away, my NO SMILING rule looked like NO SAILING and puzzled many students.
- NO CELL PHONES Kids text, get on the internet, and can distract themselves right out of our content during class time, but shouldn’t we be using the rich technology they already pine to use to our advantage? Ask Alan November. Why punish the whole lot when it’s just a few students who need to get guided back to the straight and narrow? I loathe students texting in class, but me outlawing cell phones because of the actions of the immature few will ultimately derail my opportunity to use these as tools of learning.
About 10 years ago, in the middle of a lesson, I had a very cool, likable, honors student, blurt out the F-word. THE F-word. Yep, right at the conclusion of something we did as a class. It might have been that we arrived at the solution to an involved problem together, I don’t recall, but in a fit of exclamatory delight he said “F#$% Yeah!” In no way was his slip-up appropriate or allowed to slide by. I called him on it, in a firm yet tactful way. It was innocent. It was a mistake. It was also passion. Yet, to this day, I don’t have a sign on my wall that says NO F-Word. I will have that conversation when it comes up and honor the the many who have not used it by giving them one less NO to shout at them.