Friday, May 10, 2013

Rules or Relationships

I was at a spring regional event for one of my children and I saw an interesting acrostic.  You know, one of those signs where the first letter of the word becomes a jumping-off point for a statement. This acrostic spelled out the letters of the school, and listed characteristics for each letter.
photo credit: Gord McKenna via photopin cc

What struck me most, though, was this line in the school poem, which was almost as memorable as this sign to the left.


And it bothered me.  One of those just-can't-put-my-finger-on-it moments.  Upon reflection, I think I know why.

Rules are usually a consequence for non-intrinsic behavior.  They are designed to show a power balance.

After being in 10+ schools as a parent, student, or teacher, I often see it play out like this.   A kid does something.  We don't like it.  We assign a consequence and point to a rule.  Other students notice and are to learn from the example. The adult has exerted control. This is a great example of how Skinner/Cantor/behaviorism masks itself as an uncomfortable expression of incorrectly-applied PBIS.  It is a fear culture.

If you shift to a school where rules are NOT the primary focus, it plays out differently.  A kid does something.  We don't like it.  If it is dangerous, we keep the other students safe.  We stay calm, and find a venue to talk to the student.  This is a discussion, not a lecture, about what went wrong and why it is a problem.  A logical consequence is applied, and the student leaves with new knowledge.

Look, it's obvious that we will always need some rules; this is not a call to anarchy.  But there are stupid rules out there that are more about a power expression than creating a welcome environment in a school.  And if the rule is not couched in relevancy or respect, forget it.

Take a moment.  How would you view each of these a rule designed for power or a relationship-builder? There are no right answers, but there are some great conversations that await.

Where is your building at?  What about your classroom?  Are you about control, or relationships?  I hope it's the latter, because when we build strong relationships, respectful environments usually follow.  And most of the rules take care of themselves.

1 comment:

  1. It is all about positive, professional relationships and mutual respect. It isn't difficult - or at least it shouldn't be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :-)