by KellyAnn Bonnell, MA
This is the third in my series on Classroom Management. I started by sharing the common classroom management mistakes that new classroom teachers make. I introduced you to the three M’s – the Me Mistake, the Management Mistake and the Manumism Mistake. Next I shared with you a few ways to build your classroom community. In this installment I’ll be sharing with you the three R’s of Classroom Management – Rules, Rights and Responsibilities. This is at the foundation of classroom citizenry that I have implemented in my classrooms since 1991 and is at the heart what I talk about in my workshop Building a Classroom Community in a Connected World. No classroom community is successful without a clear understanding of how these three concepts fit together.
Let’s start rules. I would venture you would agree with me that a major part of public education is teaching children to follow rules in different settings. We have rules for classroom conduct, playground conduct, etc. In fact, I’d venture that if you asked your students what the rules are in a specific academic setting they will be able to provide a pretty good set of rules to guide their behavior. Schools do a really good job at this mandate.
How do you think your students would respond to the question, “Why do we have that rule?” Would they be able to talk about safety or do you think they’d simply say it was because that’s the way it’s always been, or because it’s the teacher’s rule. While schools may be really good at teaching students to follow rules, we aren’t so good at explaining why the rules exist. And yet this is a cornerstone of a good guidance and discipline system.
The why is where the second “R” – rights – come into play. The constitution of the United States protects our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Brown v. The Board of Education gave us the right to equal educational opportunities. The rules we create in educational settings exist to ensure that children’s rights are protected even if it from their own youthful decision making. The Make Your Day Citizenship and Discipline program makes a valiant attempt at addressing rights with their one rule philosophy. That one rule is “No one has the right to interfere with the learn or well being of others.” However it does not go far enough.
Bill Maher said, “We have a Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities.” With rights come responsibilities. This is the third and most important “R” in classroom management. In my workshop Building a Classroom Community in a Connected World I show you how to convert your rules into rights and responsibilities. This is where we spend the bulk of our time because it is in the area of teaching social responsibilities that we as educators fail. Just as our education system is not good at remediation, it is not good at explaining the responsibilities that go hand in had with rights. We’re awesome at teaching students how to be individually responsible. We teach them to do their homework on time, to turn it in, to work in groups, etc. What we do not teach effectively are the responsibilities that come with citizenship. Not the broad citizenship of being American. The personal citizenship of being a good friend, neighbor, and community member. Certainly, we teach that we all have a right to a harassment free learning environment. We even have rules that say that we have zero tolerance for bullying. However, it is only recently that we’ve begun to recognize that this is an important of the puzzle.
The three “R”s of Classroom Management give you the tools necessary to teach the citizenship skills necessary to create a strong classroom community and with a strong classroom community makes classroom management a breeze.