Those who know me personally know that I am a rule follower. Always have been, always will be. I think rules are important. Very important. Heck, when I text, I spell out all words, use proper punctuation, and capitalize appropriately. Why? Because those are the grammatical rules I was taught. I've been teased for my firm stance on adhering to rules. I've been told, "Lighten up, Brent. Don't be such a stickler." Here are my thoughts on the subject...
Rules must be followed. When rules aren't enforced, they're not rules -- they're suggestions. If there is no consequence for not following a rule, then it's not a rule, because rules must be followed. Suggestions, on the other hand, are things we'd like people to do, not expect them to do. If you're not going to enforce a rule, get rid of it.
A good rule is not arbitrary. Rather, it is put in place for a specific reason. From the time we were small children, we've had safety rules guiding our behavior. Don't run with scissors. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don't stick objects in an electrical outlet. All common rules there for our protection.
Rules must be enforced by everyone in the organization. Inconsistent rule enforcement sends the wrong message. For example, fighting is prohibited in all schools, and I think it's pretty safe to say this is a rule that is consistently enforced. But what about, say, a "no gum" rule? If Teacher A enforces the school's "no gum" policy but Teacher B allows students to chew gum, what is the result? First, Teacher A is going to be perceived as the "bad guy" for not allowing students to chew gum. Second, students are sent the message that some rules are important (no fighting) and some aren't (no gum), and that they get to choose when and where they follow certain rules. Yes, there are major and minor categories of rules, but all rules should be important. That's why they're rules.
Beware of the danger in suspending rules. When a rule is suspended ("Today you don't have to follow the rule"), it compromises the integrity of the rule. Again, it sends the message to students that on every other day, the rule is important, but not today. This is why I never used homework passes. I didn't want to send my students the message that homework is important and must be completed unless you have a pass. I felt that suspending the rule on homework would undermine the importance of the activity.
The Three C's: Clarity, Consistency, and Consequences. Without these three things, students can't be sure of what to expect. Regardless of whether or not they'll admit it, students want (and need) rules. They want the structure and security rules provide. Clarity, consistency, and consequences are imperative, because without them, a fourth C is produced -- confusion.
So now I must ask myself this question -- "Are all of my rules, both at school and at home, good rules?" Something to think about.
Thanks for reading.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
Brent on Twitter