Monday, July 24, 2017

Teacher Tom: "I Want To Remind You . . ."

Teacher Tom: "I Want To Remind You . . .":

"I Want To Remind You . . ."

When I first started teaching my own class of 3-5 year olds, I had this idea that the children should make their own rules. I'm sure I'm not the first to have had this idea, and I had probably heard about other classrooms that had done it, but when I set about turning this important project over to the children I only had a vague idea about how it would work. Indeed, I'd not really even thought about the process, nor the consequences: I just started with the idea that it was the right thing to do.

You see, I didn't want to spend my days bossing other people around, telling them "Don't hit," or "Don't run in the hallway." I didn't want to be forever chirping, "We don't hit our friends," or "We use walking feet indoors," statements that may have the virtue of sounding gentler, but are still commands (coupled with a kind of lie because, quite clearly "we" do hit and run or there would be no need to say anything). 

You can read here for a more step-by-step description of how we do it, but we start our year in an official state of anarchy. Typically within the first few days someone has complained, "She hit me!" or "He took that from me!" That is when I say, "It sounds like you don't like that. Does anyone like to be hit?" The answer is always a universal "no," so I respond, "Well then we all agree, no hitting. I'm going to write that down so we can all remember." Then I ceremoniously tear off a long sheet of butcher paper and hang it on the wall, writing "No hitting" with a Sharpie marker that I've been carrying in my back pocket expressly for this purpose. That usually opens the flood gates and we quickly compile a list of agreements about how we are going to treat one another, one that we will be adding to throughout the year. I'm trying really hard to refer to them as "agreements," but we continue to mostly call them "rules."

The longer I've taught, the more I've come to see these Teacher Tom: "I Want To Remind You . . .":

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