How I establish the rules of my classroom

A teacher recently asked me if my students and I collaborate on the rules of my classroom at the beginning of the year.

Actually, the teacher used the word “norms” instead of rules, because norms is quite the buzzword these days. One of these words that filters into education for a while, only to be replaced at some point by the next big thing.

My students and I do not collaborate on the rules of the classroom. The notion of teachers and students collaborating on rules is a popular one. Some teachers spend days establishing the rules (or norms) of their classroom through a collaborative process with their students. Such a process reportedly produces a greater level of ownership and buy-in from students.


I don’t do this.

Unless students are allowed to establish rules such as “Homework is optional” and “Candy will be made available upon request,” the rules that these classes decide upon always look conspicuously like the rules in every other classroom in every school in America.

My system is simple:

I establish the rules of the classroom. Then I encourage students to find ways to dodge, circumvent, or alter these rules without getting caught and punished.

It’s much more fun this way.