As I have taught in a variety of schools, it has become evident that there are certain rules which are common to each campus. I thought it would be not just beneficial but necessary to expound upon them:
- Thou shall expect the unexpected. I was teaching a first grade class and a little boy came up to my desk, looked me over head to toe, then poked me in the belly and asked, “Are you pregnant?” My head was spinning on how to answer him when another boy came to my rescue and declared to him and the class, “Boys don’t have babies!” Note to self: I either need to lose some weight or sit up straighter. Maybe both! Be ready for kids to say the craziest things. They have no filters.
- Thou shall learn the children’s names as soon as possible. Everyone wants to be known by their name (including kids). Make that a priority. Kids will ask you, “Do you know my name?”
- Thou shall never use the “S” word. I was teaching in a class and said, “I don’t know why they did that. That was a stupid decision.” Simultaneously you could hear in unison: “Ohhhhhh….you said the ‘S’ word!” I tried to explain that I was not calling someone stupid, just the decision….but the disapproving looks told me I had broken one of the 10 commandments and there was no redemption. So, I did what any teacher would do: I pretended it never happened and got them refocused on the task at hand. Note to self: Don’t say the “S” word again.
- Thou shall let kids be kids and not expect them to act like adults. Make learning fun, creative, and interactive. It should not be a chore or boring. Teach collectively, but always with the individual in mind.
- Thou shall not allow running inside the school. The reason is: kids would run to their desk, run to the pencil sharpener, run to lunch, run to the bathroom, run to their next class, and yes, run over you. If one runs they all want to run, so it is apparently contagious. I wish I could bottle that energy! I would be rich!
- Thou shall have a secret word, phrase, or clap. I ask them what their teacher does to get their attention. I might try it if I like it, but often I just tell them that I do this: then I clap clap clap clap clap, and tell them to repeat it. We practice that a couple of times and make sure they get it. Sometimes I throw in some funny clapping just to make them giggle. This is a necessity to be able to get them to focus as a class. Whatever works for you: a bell, a series of claps, a train whistle, a funny phrase, or a duck call…you have to have something to help them refocus.
- Thou shall learn to not speak when others are speaking. Kids have a tendency to get in your face to get your attention, regardless of what you are doing or who you are speaking to. This is a hard habit to break since it goes to the core of everyone in wanting to be heard, but it has to be enforced if you expect to get anything accomplished. It makes perfect sense to them when you explain they will have your full attention when you are talking to them. Till then, they have to wait their turn.
- Thou shall learn to share. When kids won’t share something with one another, I have found this to be effective: I tell them, “Either you two figure out how to share this and work together quietly, or I will take it away from both of you.” The look on their faces is like, “What just happened?” LOL. It does get their attention and order is normally restored pretty quickly. Funny how kids learn to share at that point.
- Thou shall cure boo-boos. Band-aids and hugs cure about 99% of the boo-boos you encounter. Give them both freely.
- Thou shall not fear. Little kids are very susceptible to letting fear devastate them. Help them put things in perspective. I had two kids recently that showed me how powerful fear is in children. One boy was telling this little girl about the storm that was approaching the area and how flooding was expected. He was very good at painting a doom and gloom picture verbally. Perhaps he has a future in being a weather forecaster. The next thing I know this little girl is boo-hooing. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “It is going to FLOOD!” I assured her that was not going to happen here and she was perfectly safe. It took some effort, but she finally calmed down. Don’t let fear get a foothold in the kids’ hearts and minds. Fear is one of the greatest giants we each have to face. Show kids how to deal with it. Give them the courage they lack and they will never forget you.