Management 101: Stop with the Vague Rules!

Classroom management is a daunting, difficult, and creative process in which educators have to find out how they can communicate values, rules, and expectations to their students. In an article by Dr. Richard Curwin (which can be found here), he argues that teachers have fallen into a trap, believing that the fewer rules a classroom has, the better.


This is not true. Having fewer rules only creates more room and possibilities for confusion. When the line is not clearly set, students will feel obliged to test the teacher’s patience and rules. Curwin says in his article, “Often, the only way students can find the real lines is by crossing them. This encourages rule breaking rather than stopping it.”

While these are great values to have in a classroom, they do not specify rules or repercussions, thus are too vague.

By setting fewer rules, expectations and repercussions are not clearly outlined, which is what allows for the confusion. However, if values are explained, and then the rules that are in place to enforce said values are also explained, students know exactly what to expect. Students know when they are crossing the line and they know they will be held accountable for it.

A good method to get students on board with specific rules is to ask them for their input. That way, students won’t feel too pressured, nor will they feel as though the rules are unfair because they will have the chance to base rules off of their values, too. Asking for students’ input in their own behavior can help them reflect on what they are doing, which can mean the difference between having control of the classroom, and having no control at all.

A fun way to get students involved in the constructive criticism of their own behavior is through an app called ClassDojo. My only concern with this app is that I cannot see it working with older grades. With elementary students, being able to customize your own avatar and get instant feedback through a cute -but childish- application can be very constructive for adjusting and maintaining proper behavior. In high school I see it as something that may actually instigate more unruly behavior than it would help maintain positive behavior. Teenagers can be stubborn, and if they are told through a cartoon-looking avatar that they are losing points because they didn’t hand something in on time or were interrupting the class, they might just turn up the attitude. The ClassDojo app, though its a fun and cute way of providing feedback, looks as though it is very childish, and the last thing a teacher wants to do to a teenager full of attitude is to treat them like a child. Teenagers respond better to constructive criticism when they are talked to like adults. I think students need to be treated like adults, so that they have the opportunity to prove themselves as being respectful and responsible.

While I would like to use ClassDojo with younger grades, I do not think it would be as effective in a high school class.

Photo Credit: Rhys A. via Compfight and venspired via Compfight cc

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One thought on “Management 101: Stop with the Vague Rules!

  1. I agree with your comment about Classroom Dojo in high school classes.. I made the same argument in my response! I think the portion of your response about Dr. Richard Curwin could have more of your personal input. I feel like you summarized and reiterated the article and I wanted to hear more how you felt about what he said!

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