June 06, 2006

The Essential 6

Today was probably my last day of substitute teaching for the year, since the school year ends on Friday. It was not exactly the best day of teaching I've had. To make a long story short, I gave the class of 5th and 6th graders an extra assignment. I told them, "Take out a sheet of paper, put your name on it, and list five different ways you can show respect to your classmates."

Coincidentally or not, I just finished reading a book by Ron Clark called The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child. Now, most of the teachers I substitute for are wonderful; even so, I wish every one of them would read this book. It's difficult being a substitute when different teachers, often at the same school, have different rules and policies for their classrooms.

Being a substitute, there's no way I can create my own list of 55 rules for the kids to follow when I'm teaching. But I think that maybe, when school starts up again in the fall, I will present to the students the following list of six rules:

1. Stay in your seat. When students get out of their seats and start wandering around the classroom, things start to get out of control.

2. Don't throw anything in the classroom. It's amazing how many times I have to say this when I teach. (It doesn't help that one or two of the teachers I sub for have basketball hoops tacked to their walls.)

3. No food or drink except water. Every teacher has a different policy on food or drinks in the classroom, and I can't keep track of it all. So starting in the fall, this is my policy. At least I think it will be. This is the one rule I'm most unsure of. But one thing I am sure of: no one leaves the classroom to go to the school's vending machines.

4. Do not waste time. In my three years of teaching, I've let the kids waste entire class periods. My thinking was, "If they want to waste their time, and do their classwork at home, that's their choice." I think this is a common methodology of many lowly subs, but I've rethought it, and from now on, if students claim they don't have anything to do, I'll find something for them to do. And besides, wasting time is not a skill that will take them far in life.

5. No electronic devices. This is not actually my rule, but the schools'. Among regular teachers, it is not enforced consistently, and until now my thinking has been, Why should I enforce this rule if the regular teachers don't? But from now on, the kids will have to learn that when Mr. Bradfield's teaching, the cell phones and iPods must remain unseen & unheard.

6. Show respect (no profanity, no racial or homophobic slurs). If the kids don't show respect, they'll never get respect---not at school, not at home, not in the workplace.

These six rules cover 95% of the challenges I've faced in the classroom. The only challenge for me now is being willing to not back down from them.

1 comment:

L. E. McClintock said...

Sounds like school has changed quite a lot since our day... The essential 6 certainly were in practice in Mr. Marshall's class. Or Mrs. Leonard's. But, of course we lucked out to have teachers of that quality.

One of the problems is probably the diet of these kids, hyped up on too much sugar products.

It's a tremendous issue, because if kids don't learn what they really need to learn, what kind of society are we going to have in the future?