Student behaviour as a way to test teachers…
As explained in the video below, student behaviour is often a way to test the teacher at the beginning of the year to find out what sort of “relationship” can be expected from both parts…
A clear code of conduct will help fathom the type of relationship that both parts (teachers and students) can expect. However, we also need to answer a few questions…
Should we impose a generic code of conduct? Should we make it a flexible tool and/or organic “document” where everyone (leadership group, teachers and staff, parents and pupils/students) can take part and express their views? Shall we get everyone’s opinion before a “real” code of conduct can be adopted by the school?
First of all, let’s have a look at codes of conduct…
Codes of conduct often look like this (based on https://www.thoughtco.com/developing-a-complete-student-code-of-conduct-3194521):
- Avoid distractions.
- Always have the appropriate materials and be ready to work at the designated time that class begins.
- Never intentionally harm another student.
- Use school-appropriate language and behaviour at all times while maintaining friendly and courteous behaviour.
- Be polite and respectful to everyone.
- Follow teachers’ instructions, class rules, and expectations at all times.
- Do not be a bully and do not let bullies get away with it.
- Do not become a distraction for others and encourage fellow students to do well.
- Attend lessons regularly, be on time and participate in class to be successful.
- Represent yourself in a manner that you will be proud of in 10 years from now.
Can students, parents and staff really buy into what can be termed a very “generic” code of conduct? Could we have shorter and user-friendlier codes of conduct? Edutopia (https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-i-dont-have-classroom-rules) published a rather short and therefore enjoyable version: just 4 rules!
- Be respectful to yourself because it sets the context for being able to participate in a community; to others because it is hard to be a student and everyone’s struggles merit your respect; and to the teacher because although it is a position of authority, the teacher should also be vulnerable and learning.
- Be engaged, because merely being present in the classroom does not necessarily qualify as participation, and a truly pluralistic community requires all voices.
- Be prepared, because informed conversation requires prepared members, and preparation transcends just the work that is assigned—and is closer to deep thought, sincere skepticism, and a general willingness to interrogate assumptions.
- Be courageous, because learning requires acknowledging that there are things we don’t know, skills we lack, and ways in which we might still be foolish—which is a scary prospect for everyone in the class, teacher included.
Based on that idea, I came up with my own version: 5 rules which seem to encompass everything we need to get a “productive” classroom:
- Be actively involved.
- Be prepared.
- Be mindful.
- Be honest and trustworthy.
- Be the best you can be.
Those 5 rules contain the imperative “be” rather than the negative “don’t”: it is therefore a code of conduct allowing parents, students/pupils and staff to be aware of, own and feel responsible for their code of conduct (and therefore behaviour in the classroom). Students, parents and staff need to be empowered if they are to truly own what could be then termed “their” code of conduct.
It might be illusory to think that schools have time for this, but if the code of conduct is “right”, if it is owned by every member of the community (parents included), a lot of disciplinary issues would be easily solved…
- Can we cover all discipline aspects with just 5 rules?
- Do we need different rules according to subjects (French, chemistry, mathematics, etc.), teacher and classroom (PE, chemistry, biology, art, etc.)?
Codes of conduct change according to countries and legal systems, but generally speaking, they list a number of things which tend to be very similar whatever the subject, teacher and/or classroom.
Now that these issues have been dealt with, let’s try and be a bit more practical… Let’s try and design a real code of conduct and let’s have a look at possible consequences for breaching said code of conduct.