day 12 | 5 Rules for the Classroom (and Life)

Rules are a part of life. We live in a voluntary compliance society, not a police state. Respect for the rules and fear of punishment keep the peace, though in some cases, not very well.

Classrooms, too, have rules. Since the primary goal of many classroom teachers is the prepare students for life, it only follows that the rules enforced in the classroom be analogous to real-life.

These are mine:

1) Be on-time, on-task, & prepared to learn EVERYDAY.

Teacher friends, stop me if you’ve heard this one, “Why do we have to do this? When am I going to use this in the real world?” Ugh. While I can’t confirm that I’ve personally ever used the quadratic equation at a time that I wasn’t teaching it, I can’t stress enough how much those values of organization, critical thinking, and problem solving have served me well. Also, it’s awesome to know things. It makes you a more interesting and well-rounded individual. I love knowing just enough about most things to be curious about everything.

Rules (2)2) Keep all personal electronics put away.

Things are not bad, but can be used in bad ways. Phones are not bad, but can be a distraction while driving. Having a nice house is not bad, but mountains of debt that break up a family are dangerous. Alcohol is not bad, but poor decisions and ruined lives are. Knowing the proper place and time for certain behaviors is a valuable skill. Discernment is key.

3) Be responsible for your own learning.

Almost anything would fit here. Be responsible for your own: happiness, finances, health, family, faith, success, fulfillment, behavior, etc. On and on. This isn’t the point when I tell you that you have to look out for yourself because no one else will. However, no one is going to come along side you and make sure you succeed. In a classroom setting, the teacher does the best they can, but the students are responsible for holding up their end of the bargain. In life, sometimes there is no bargain and it’s all on you.

4) RESPECT: the teacher, the classroom, other students.

We live is such a temporary, throw away society. If it’s broken, just get a new one. I think this skews the image we have about the value of things and of people. How would you treat your phone if you knew it was the only one you’d ever get? Is that how you treat your mom, knowing that she’s the only one you’ll ever get?

5) Trash goes in the trashcan. #notyourmaid

In the 4th grade, my class competed in the annual door decorating contest by displaying the book If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover. In college, I learned that in Business Ethics, this is known as the Critical Imperative. What if everyone did the thing you’re doing? Would it still be a good idea?


day 6: First, Do No Harm…

I spent many years believing that I was bad at math. If you asked me my least favorite subject, I’d be quick to tell you how much I loved science and the humanities and that math was terrifying and I hated it. It started in middle school and extended until my early 20s when math became an important part of my life.

Turns out, I’m really good at math. And I LOVE it. So where did this fear come from?

I had a teacher who ruined math for me. Someone who was supposed to open my eyes to its wonder left me with a bad aftertaste. It wasn’t until I met my sweet friend, Christine, a high school math teacher, and saw the love and passion she brings to the subject and the way that she cares deeply for her students that I started to fall in love. Now, I teach math, among other things, and I relish in imparting my love of learning to my students.

I knew that when I signed on for this teaching gig, I wasn’t going to change every student’s life. I’m not going to churn out a group of future scientists every single year. I’ll still have students who hate science, who fear math, who believe that learning about the rock cycle was a waste of time and fail to see how my class was about more than just the phases of the moon.

I won’t reach every kid. I’m realistic enough to understand this and idealistic enough to try anyway.

9b4945ba14dbf2216b409ec5d2e88a75And then I got a call from the parent of one of my students. After a recent tutoring session, in which I realized that she wasn’t understanding because she just doesn’t take in information aurally, I left her in tears. Instead of holding my tongue and speaking privately to her parents, I expressed my concerns in front of this student. I forgot, for a minute that she’s just a kid and that my words have the ability to tear her down much faster than they can build her up.

Suddenly, I was that teacher whose careless actions could affect a student for years to come.

The worst part? It won’t be the last time this happens. There will be other casualties. Other times I say something thoughtless and break a heart, though never on purpose. I’m only human and I make mistakes. I could swear up and down that I’ll never say anything hurtful again, but it would be an empty promise.

Teachers aren’t required to take an oath, but I can strive for a purpose. First, do no harm…