Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rules for a First-Grade Classroom

So I actually attended Curriculum Night for my younger daughter's school. I was interested to see rules posted on the wall of her first-grade classroom. The rules go like this:

We agree to:

1.) Take care of each other.

2.) Be good listeners.

3.) Remember that one person talks at a time.

4.) Treat others the way they want to be treated.

5.) Stop when somebody says "Stop".

6.) Be gentle with our things and put them away.

It's clear that these rules are about how the kids should treat each other, not just about how they should obey the teacher. It's a pretty sharp contrast to the rules from Whole Brain Teaching:

Rule 1.) Follow directions quickly.

Rule 2.) Raise your hand for permission to speak.

Rule 3.) Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.

Rule 4.) Make smart choices.

Rule 5.) Keep your dear teacher happy.

Which classroom would you rather send your kid to?


  1. PsychMom says:
    The classes at my daughter's school have similar rules to your daughter's and it's a theme that carries throughout the entire school. Children and teachers are treated respectfully.

    It's reminicent of the "Everything I need to know I Learned in Kindergarten" that came out in the 80's by that guy whose name escapes me at the moment.

  2. Well, the first set of rules have the appearance of being egalitarian. But in reality, how did the children "agree" if the rules are already posted? Maybe the teacher can get around it by saying these are the rules from last year and the new class has a chance to adopt them for themselves this year.

    As for the second set- Those are just the first set of rules, the posted on the wall ones, in Whole Brain Teaching. Whole Brain Teachers also have the children chant "lines, lines, lines" (ling up), "seats, seats, seats,(taking a seat)" etc. for many common procedures in a school day. I guess Whole Brain Teachers can't bear hearing children talking naturally.

    "Make Smart Choices"
    I've seen this one before Whole Brain Teachers grabbed it, I think it's terrible.
    It's really just a deceitful way to berate a person. Think about it, how does the conversation go when a teacher finds her student breaking that rule? "Make smart choices" means exactly the same as "Don't be stupid," every six year old know that.

    "Now Little Johnny was kicking your neighbor a 'smart choice?'" and of course Little Johnny must stand and deliver. "I wasn't making a smart choice when I kicked my neighbor." Honest result is- not only did the kid do a bad thing but the reason he did has been exposed- He was/is stupid. It's really tough to overcome the self perception of being stupid.

    We bigger, sophisticated, agile manipulators should always keep in mind how powerful we are over young children.

  3. ***
    Well, the first set of rules have the appearance of being egalitarian. But in reality, how did the children "agree" if the rules are already posted?

    SCF, when I saw the posted rules, school had already been in session for several weeks. The teacher said something about developing the rules with the children (I don't remember her exact words.) The rules poster had photos of the current class on it, so it was definitely put together this year.

    I don't expect a first-grade class to be egalitaritan; these are little kids. What's important to me is that these rules are about the kids treating each other in a respectful way, not just about respect going to the teacher.

    Also, I wanted to show that there is plenty of room between fascism and anarchy. It's not true that if you don't do the Whole Brain thing, the alternative is chaos.

  4. Oh, good. I volunteered in a first grade classroom last year (a lot of fun, I highly recommend it if you have the means) I think the list is just about right.
    I hope your little girl and her classmates have a great year.

  5. Yes, those rules are a big improvement over the WBT list. (And over the ones at my kids' school, described here.)

    I do agree with SCF about the word "agree," though. It's possible that the rules really are the product of a group process, in which case, great (even though I suspect the teacher was probably "guiding" that process toward a predetermined outcome). But I do object to all the talk of behavior "contracts" with kids in schools. "Contract" and "involuntary" are incompatible concepts. It often seems like just another example of schools twisting language to deny the reality of what they're doing.

  6. SCF and Chris, I see that there's a problem with "agree". It's not as if the kids are really free not to agree if they don't want to. It's a fiction.

    For the moment, it's a fiction I'm willing to live with, though.