I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity. – Bill Veeck
I have always hated rules. I hate being told what to do and I hate telling my children what to do. I have also though been exploring the consensus process in my personal life, and here and there in the classroom. I decided rather than shy away from classroom rule, we could create a flexibly set of rules through consensus. I am sure I will continue to be challenged by this, but hey, I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t like a bit of challenge.
This class is not yet able to sit in a large group to talk so I brought multiple small groups of children together to talk about rules, with the intention of bringing them all together to go over what they each thought.
First, we talked about what rules are.
M: Rules are to be healthy and be safe. With teachers also.
A: Rules are listening to teachers.
T: A rule keeps you healthy.
They then started to list examples of rules so we moved on to the next part, deciding what rules we want in our classroom. Over the course of three groups, each group agreeing to the rules of the previous groups, they came up with the following rules:
M: Teachers take care of kids until parents come back.
K: If someone takes something from you, talk to them.
L: If you ask a teacher for something and they say no, you can ask another teacher.
E: If you don’t want someone to play with you, get space in your cubby.
M: Teachers can convince you to go to the bathroom.
L: If you accidentally hurt someone (like with a stick) you tell a teacher.
A: No hitting. M: Unless you ask and they say yes.
L: If something is heavy, work together to pick it up and put it away.
A: If there is a problem talk to the kid. M: Or the teacher.
T: If you don’t listen to a rule you have to go away.
We hit a roadblock when A decided she wanted a rule that you can’t sit on your knees, with your knees pointing outwards. Everyone else disagreed, stating they like to sit like that.
A: Well I have that rule at home so I should have that rule at school.
M: Well my Zaza says I can sit like that, he’s never said I can’t. I like to sit like that.
E: Yeah me too, it’s comfortable.
A: But my home rule is that so my school rule has to be.
L: Well you can have a home rule and school rule be different.
A: I can’t.
After a bit more discussion we decided we would talk about it again in the larger group.
Arbitrary rules teach children discipline: if every rule made sense, they wouldn’t be learning respect for authority, they’d be learning logic. – Stephen Colbert
I am eager to see where this continues to lead us, and am curious to see how the rules will impact their day to day play experiences. I also am ready to be challenged in my own thinking, and try out a new practice. Next week, I plan on reading the rules they chose in small groups back to the whole group, and see what they think of them.
Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.