Expectations Vs Rules and The Honor Level System

©Copyright 2008, Budd Churchward


We have found that one of the tools Proactive Teachers use in their successful discipline plans is to focus on behavior expectations instead of rules.

Rules become lists of things that you are not supposed to do. When a teacher finds she has to discuss discipline with a child in the context of rules, she is bringing attention to the inappropriate behavior.

Expectations, on the other hand, describe positive behaviors. In this context, she is focusing on the behavior she wants.

Middle level students do not like the idea that someone is telling them they are doing something wrong. They quickly jump to denial and can become argumentative. This soon leads to confrontational escalation and what may have been a very minor offence becomes major in seconds.

The teacher says to a child, "Jason, stop talking."

Instantly Jason replies, "I wasn't talking!" And the teacher retorts back. The escalation has started.

A proactive teacher focuses on the behavior she wants. She says, "Jason, you need to turn around now and let Jamal get on with his work. You can get back to yours, too."

She tells him exactly what she wants him to do.

Rather than a set of rules, we recommend that you create a list of expectations. Instead of No running in the hallways you use Move through the building in an orderly manner. Then when a student receives an infraction we think of it in the terms of "Failure to ...."

That would be, for example, Failure to settle conflicts appropriately.

Here is a list of common expectations:

To set up your own expectations click on Edit Infractions in the Site Editor.

Picking expectations for your school

Your Honor Level System discipline plan will be more successful if the staff chooses their expectations rather than having an administrator hand them the list. As we go from school to school we find the lists to be nearly the same everywhere. Even so, this is one wheel that is worth re-inventing.

When teachers are part of this process, they take more ownership in the final product. That owner ship is key to success in your school.

You might appoint a small representative group to work out a proposed list and then share it with the staff. This expedites the process and the teachers are given the opportunity to express their concerns and comments. Remind the group that these expectations for the everyday, garden variety, discipline issues that we deal in the classroom and hallways. The big ticket items are covered under Direct Administrative Assignments.

You may find that you have an item that splits the group, nearly half are for it, many are opposed. It is better to simply not put it on the list. This list should be one that nearly everyone agrees with.

Even in a school wide discipline system there is room for some individuality. As you will see below, sometimes a few "rules" are appropriate. There may be expectations that are unique to some classrooms or locations.

Sometimes a few rules make sense.

You still may want to have a few simple rules. Perhaps there are set of rules for the lunch room. And as we stated above, if the staff is split on including an expectation, encourage those who want it to include it in their own classroom rules.

Then be sure to include: Follow classroom rules in your list of school wide individuality.

When teachers create their own classroom rules, encourage them to keep the list short. Three or four should be adequate. If his first one is: Follow Directions, he has covered pretty much everything that might be an issue in the classroom. Here is a sample list. Sometimes there will be items that are unique to one classroom.

A final note on Classroom Rules

The principal or vice principal should ask each teacher for a copy of the classroom rules. Keep these in a notebook where anyone who would discuss discipline with a student or parent has access to them.

This way if a youngster is in the office and his record has: Follow classroom rules listed repeatedly in his record, you can turn to a teacher's page and go over the items in the list with the child.

Also, asking for a copy of the list helps the teacher understand that the office has the expectation that there will be one. 8-)