Step Two: Classroom Rules

This is step two in my summer goal to create a comprehensive classroom management plan.

Something I never thought I would have to say as a high school teacher: “Stop playing with the scissors/glue.” Yikes. Other things I had to say a lot were, “get off your cell phone,” “stop talking,” and “pay attention.” All of which would fall under ‘off-task behaviors.’ I had students drawing and writing and playing games and doing work for other classes. All of which comes down to them being off-task. I suppose I never thought I needed to communicate the expectation of being on-task because they are high schoolers and should know better. These are teens who are close to adulthood, so I had the idea to treat them like adults. I should not have done this. They have no idea how to be adults. My goal should be to teach them how to be adults.

The first step is to think of traits I value in others. Then possibly get more specific and turn the traits into a guideline for success. Last is to identify a behavior – what does that trait look like to me – and turn that behavior into a rule.

I value when others are respectful. More specifically, I want my students to have mutual respect and understanding with each other. To me, that means complimenting and encouraging others, no matter what. It also means when someone else is talking, it’s important to “listen to listen, not to respond.”

I value when others are patient. Not just with others, but when themselves too. To me, this looks like saying things like “I can do this,” and “I will get there,” when starting to feel discouraged. A simpler rule might be “Always Try,” instead of getting so lengthy with the rule. I’ll have to get input on this one.

I value when others are open-minded. In the classroom, I specifically value students being open-minded about what they learn, how they learn, and how others learn. This looks like changing your thinking based on learning new information. It also means researching something on your own that you’re not sure about. It means understanding that others learn differently from you and that doesn’t make them wrong.

I value a sense of responsibility. Not just with work, but also with improving yourself. Being responsible in the classroom looks like keeping up with missed work and being prepared for class before the bell. Which means having all materials on your desk and ready to work. It also means you only pick up supplies when using them and put them away when done. As in, don’t play with the glue, just use it and then put it away. Self-improvement in the classroom means staying persistent when you don’t understand something the first time.

I value when people are focused. Specifically, I think successful people are able to be focused on where they are and what they are doing. This looks like putting away distractions, such as cell phones. Since I will have a policy for where to put phones that will be part of a routine, I don’t think I need to list it as a rule. This will keep my list of rules shorter for students to remember. Listen to listen and not to respond also falls under staying focused.

  1. Listen to listen, not to respond.
  2. Always try
  3. Compliment and encourage yourself and others daily.
  4. Keep track of missed work.
  5. Be prepared for class before the bell rings.
  6. Pick up supplies only when needed and put away when done.

Notice that none of these specific behaviors are negative – as in none of them say “No __________.” I won’t say “no cellphones” as a rule, I’ll say “put cellphones away.” I won’t say “don’t insult one another,” I’ll say “compliment and encourage others.” It’s important to me that my rules be in a positive tone instead of a negative one. Easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar and whatnot. I want to promote a positive and encouraging atmosphere, and that starts with the rules I set.

What are some traits that you value in others?

What does that look like?

What is one (or more) of your personal guidelines for success?

I would love to read any thoughts, inputs, or reflections that you have on positive traits, what helps a person be successful, and what rules help promote those traits. I would also love feedback on the rules I have drafted here.

Parents, what rules do you want to be enforced in the classroom?

Teachers, what rules do you have in place that have worked well for you?


Strength 5: Intellection

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

Intellection means that I am a deep thinker and introspective (129 Rath). Makes sense. My brain never seems to stop running and I frequently need alone time to process events, conversations, and ideas. I also day-dream a lot, making it hard to pay attention to any one thing. Probably why I focus better when there is music or some kind of background noise. This video on Intellection helped me understand that this strength is the reason I work better alone – that’s where a lot my ideas develop. This can pair nicely with my analytical strength because after I have an idea, I can start forming a plan for data collection, data analysis, and/or implementation of the idea.

Next year I will be teaching two different classes in two different departments. That’s two different groups to plan with. I need to be sure to set up a schedule for what days I plan with what teachers and what days I plan alone and be sure to set those boundaries and expectations with the other teachers. Without this, I could easily see spending both my off periods planning with each department instead of having time on my own to plan.

One suggestion that Liesveld and Miller had is to ask important questions and “keep track of the questions that have stimulated the most discussion and generated the most learning” (138). They are right in that I do come up with some pretty good questions when I have time and space to think. Perhaps I should include whole-class discussions as a regular activity in my instruction. Or at least small group purposeful talk. Maybe I should have the students start out with small group discussions and turn into a while class discussion, once students have had the opportunity to develop and voice their ideas in a less-intimidating setting.

Oh! Maybe I could have a big question that I pose to students at the beginning of class for them to keep in mind the entire class. Then at the end of class, after clean-up time, they can partner up or group up and discuss that question until time to leave class. I like it.

What other ways do you suggest I implement deeper thinking into the classroom? I would love your suggestions on ways to make class discussion more successful. I haven’t done many of them, so this will be fairly new territory for me.

Strength 4: Responsibility

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

Responsibility basically means that I take pride in my work. I will volunteer for task after task and feel personally responsible for the success or failure of whatever I take on. Others can rely on me that if I say I will do something, I will. If something goes wrong, I feel like I have to fix it or make it up to the person, rather than just apologizing. (149 Rath) I learned in college that I have to be careful to not put too much on my plate. I would volunteer for things left and right and would have to drop the ball on something. I learned to look at what I already had to do and if I could realistically take on another thing and get everything done without skimping quality.

I am honestly not sure how to apply this one in the classroom. I burnt myself out in my first semester because of this trait. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure everyone learned, even the ones that didn’t try or care. That meant that I was constantly stressing about how to help certain students that didn’t want help. I even put extra work on myself to help them succeed even though they didn’t care and didn’t do it anyway. It was a frustrating nightmare for me and I had to learn to let go.

Maybe I can use this strength to help divide out responsibility in the classroom. These high school students are about to be adults and have no idea what that means. Maybe I should find a way to incorporate responsibility into my lessons and/or classroom management. One idea would be to have students tidy the classroom before they leave. I could put a timer on for 1 minute where they have to pack up, put things away, tidy up, and throw away any trash they find. I can also help them divide up the various responsibilities of group work.

Liesveld and Miller say that my “heightened awareness of right and wrong could position and prepare you to make significant contributions to the ethical and moral development of students,” (153). I’m not entirely sure how I could tie that in other than just making moral choices and letting the students see that.

What suggestions do you have on making “significant contributions to the ethical and moral development of students”? I would also love to read your ideas on how I can bestow a sense of responsibility on my students. What other ways do you think I can utilize this strength in the classroom?

Strength 3: Individualization

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

This strength involves my ability to see people as individuals rather than a group. I don’t like generalizations and I have the ability to see what’s unique about a person, including their strengths (121 Rath). It may seem like I have high patience, but really I have high understanding (which leads to having patience). According to this video on individualization, “it is the ability to personalize and customize.” Rath asks the question “What is your best method for building relationships?” (122) For me, it’s games. Depending on the game, I can get to know certain things about a person, or in a game of chance that doesn’t involve a lot of thought, I can get to know whatever I want through conversation. Having fun together builds relationships and playing co-op games can really build relationships.

Maybe one of my reward systems can involve getting to play a game with the teacher instead of doing whatever review the rest of the class is doing. These would have to be students that understand the current material well enough that I’m not worried about them reviewing – so I will have to be careful that everyone gets included somehow. I’ll also need to be selective that the games accomplish my goal – for us to get to know each other better in some way, build our relationship, and encourage teamwork.

I’ll also need be sure to explain to my students that it is completely fair to treat everyone differently (123 Rath). They need to know that I will treat them fairly, but not equally because they are all unique individuals. I should incorporate a way to remind them of this regularly – perhaps in my lesson or in an activity that shows how equal does not mean fair.

When I lecture (yuck), I should try and relate what we are learning to my individual students (123 Rath). This would probably work best by asking them “has anyone ever _____?” and maybe having one or two share a story, then explain how that was related to the subject.

The most obvious way I can utilize this strength is by differentiation. However, I’m not quite at that point yet. I am hoping I will be able to at least figure out three different levels that students are at and have different assignments based on their level of understanding, but we will see. I definitely plan on incorporating more differentiation in the future, but for now I have enough to focus on.

What suggestions do you have for incorporating games into the classroom? I would also love to read your suggestions on enforcing that idea that fair doesn’t mean equal or how to relate lessons to individual students.

Strength 2: Analytical

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

This strength explains why I plan on doing so much research with each step for my summer goal. And why I get all “ga-ga” over someone showing me methods of collecting and tracking data. Basically, I love evidence, data, getting down to the root cause of a problem, and questioning ideas (49 Rath). This isn’t to say I don’t have wishful thinking type ideas, it just means that I do the research to turn the wishful thinking into a more realistic plan. And then I can share those ideas with others and satisfy my relator strength. I need to be careful that I don’t just analyze and collect data – that I actually follow through with action. If need be, I should find someone who pushes me into action. A good person to partner with would be someone with the Activator strength. (51 Rath)

Things I can help do for my students with this strength include pointing out cause-and-effect, being the “voice of reason” when students get “emotionally charged,” explain my thinking process when figuring things out, and help my students see the path they need to be on to succeed (77-78 Liesveld & Miller). One thing I want to try to get better at is teaching my students to use their learning styles to help them learn in any environment. My analytical strength can help with that by talking through the process of what I do to learn in an environment that doesn’t automatically meet my learning style. I can also give them data and examples of how to do this in all kinds of situations with all different styles of learning.

Perhaps I should explain my reasoning behind each rule/routine to my students which could allow them to benefit and perhaps even be more invested in following them. Or at least know that the rule isn’t for nothing, even if they don’t agree with the reasoning. I’ve been reading a book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek that so far talks about the importance of starting with the reasoning behind something, then the how, then the what, instead of the other way around. This strength could make it easy for me to do that in the classroom.

What suggestions do you have for applying the analytical strength in the classroom? I can see how it can be used to research classroom management techniques and lesson planning idea, but I would love to read your ideas on how I can use it in the actual classroom as I design my classroom management plan.

Strength 1: Relator

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

The relator is all about building up close relationships (145 Rath). These are the people that are more happy having a few close friends than a bunch of casual friends. This means that I am comfortable with intimacy, only value genuine relationships, excel at building lasting trust, and have a desire to really get to know the people I interact with regularly (145 Rath). In my case, those people would be my students. This means I need to make sure to implement a system where I can get to know my students and they can get to know me – just not too much. I need to have firm boundaries going in of off-limits topics or I know I will be open about anything and everything. I need to know what these limits are beforehand. I like the idea of encouraging others to also make deeper connections with each other, so I need a system in place that encourages my students to make that connection with one another, but also allows me to spend one-on-one time with students to get to know them better. I also want to incorporate a way for students to get to know me, within the limits that I set. I may want to think about making this system more informal than formal, if I can. (149-151 Liesveld & Miller) Although I know that structure is absolutely necessary in a classroom, looking back, I do believe that I enjoyed having some informal systems in my classroom. As long as I can find a way to keep them well-managed.

Watching this video on relators has helped me realized more about my relator-self. I am not a shy person, I’m just not as good with interacting with people on a casual level as I am on a deeper level. Once I pass that threshold, I’m good. A good trick would be to have others introduce me to people (which I actually do that sometimes). I think another good trick would be to ask questions that show an interest in their lives and find a window to open up about my own life. I don’t want to ask too many questions, because that can push others away, but I also want to be able to show an interest.

An idea that the video gave me is to do frequent check-ins with my students. He used to do weekly check-ins with his employees on a one-on-one basis, and I really like that idea. I probably wouldn’t try to do them weekly for every student, but maybe I could make monthly work or just once every 6 weeks. We can look at personal progress in class and with their goals and behavior. It would also be a good check-in to make sure their needs are getting met.

What are your suggestions on how I can incorporate some of these systems in the classroom? I would love to read your ideas on how to let my relator talent shine, but still make sure that everyone is getting the attention they need.


Step 1: Understanding My Strengths

This is step one in my summer goal to conquer classroom management.

When I was first hired, my principal had me take the strengths finders test and gave me a book, “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath. It’s based on the idea that you can only build up something you’re not naturally good at so much, but if you work on something you have a natural talent for, you can build it up to the max. It also takes less effort (or at least feels like less effort) and is more encouraging to build up a strength rather than a weakness. They use the formula “Talent X Investment = Strength” to show that if you have a low talent, even if you invest a lot in building up that talent, it can still only get so strong. But imagine the strength if you put a high investment in something that is already a high talent! That’s what I will be focusing on in this post series: my top five strengths and how I can best utilize them in the classroom. The idea is that this will help me figure out how I want/need my classroom to work which will help me build up my classroom management plan. I may also spend some time figuring out what my lesser talents are so I can be aware of things that probably won’t work for me. I can also see if any of my teacher partners have strengths that I am weak in and learn to rely more on them in those areas (23 Rath).

In addition to the strengths finder website and the book, I will be using “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller as a resource for studying my strengths. There is also a Gallup Strengths Center YouTube Channel that I will be checking out since they have informational videos on all the strengths. Some of what I record here will be specific ideas from one of those resources and some will be my own reflections and epiphanies on what I read and watch.

I will be looking at each strength one day at a time so I can really dive into the depths of each strength. My top five strengths in order are: Relator, Analytical, Individualization, Responsibility, and Intellection.

Please let me know if you have any other resources for me to check out while I’m on this journey of self-discovery.