Classroom guidelines: Are there any students from hell in here?
On the first day of class, and to set the tone for the classroom learning environment, I ask the question, “Are there any students from hell in here?” Of course, I have caught their attention immediately. I invite them to share with the class what might be some of these behaviors, and why? Usually about six or seven behaviors are identified and written down on the overhead.
Then, I share with them 12 more guidelines (see below ) for a civil, respectful, meaningful, fun, and productive class. After we have discussed each of the 12 guidelines, they are asked to pair up and interpret or analyze the quotations at the end of each of the guidelines by following these instructions.
Instructions: Interpret the following quotations at the end of the guidelines below by choosing any one of the following instructions (A – D); then share with another or others.
- The essence of the quote is…
- In other words…
- For example…
- To give you a metaphor ( or analogy) so you can better understand what I am saying…
- Whenever possible, prepare in advance – fifteen to twenty minutes of focused searching on the Internet can produce a significant amount of information on almost any subject. Often students come into class, sit down, and check their phones. What about reviewing the chapter (or reading it for the first time)? Or, try reviewing the syllabus, or double-checking your assignment to be handed in. “The more you practice what you know, the more shall you know what to practice.” – W. Jenkin
2. Supportive evidence enhances your personal opinions, otherwise, merely sharing your opinions can sometimes be an exercise in navel-gazing. Research the pros and cons or the point and counter-point sides of an issue. Your understanding will be more balanced; avoid either/or thinking; strive for both/and perspectives; “I challenge you to give me your perspective that is most opposite mine that I might understand your point of view.” – Masai Tribe
3. Set reasonable expectations – people seldom change their minds easily or quickly, particularly in the case of long-held convictions. Be open-minded, not narrow or close-minded. “Seek not to be understood, but to understand.” – Stephan Covey
4. Leave egotism and personal agendas at the door – to be productive, discussion requires an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility. Egotism produces disrespectful attitudes toward others – that is, “I’m more important than other people,” “My ideas are better than anyone else’s” and “Rules don’t apply to me. I can interrupt whenever I want.” ”The first step to knowledge is to know that we are ignorant”- Cecil
5. Contribute but don’t dominate – talkative people need to exercise some self-control and more reserved persons need to accept responsibility for sharing their thoughts. “Narrow minds think nothing right that is beyond their own capacity.” – Rochefoucauld
- Avoid distracting speech mannerisms – “um,” “ah,” “like,” “you know,” and other annoying mannerisms when you speak. Use good English; avoid vulgar or inappropriate language along with comments that may offend someone. “If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others.” – Tyron Edwards
7. Listen actively – When we don’t listen to one another, discussion becomes a little more than a serial monologue – each person takes a turn at speaking while the rest ignore what is being said. When you find your mind wandering, bring it back to the task. “How can I be here if I am always there?” – Tagore
- Judge ideas responsibly – Be especially careful with ideas that are unfamiliar or different from your own because those are the ones you will be most inclined to deny a fair hearing. “What is not fully understood is not possessed.” – Goethe
9. Resist the urge to interrupt – This is rude and disrespectful behavior, and in many cases it is a sign of intellectual insecurity. If you really believe your ideas are sound, you will have no need to raise your voice or to attempt to silence the other person. Make it your rule to disagree without being disagreeable. Raise your hand to be recognized.“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” ― Maurice Switzer
10. At all times, when someone has the floor and is speaking, refrain from carrying on a conversation with someone else; chuckling/giggling; or rolling your eyes – this type of behavior says, “I don’t care what you are saying; it doesn’t matter to me.” Avoid text-messaging and playing games on your cell phone which, for some, is becoming a form of addiction. Put your phones out of sight lest you be tempted. From time to time, I will instruct an individual to check out pieces of information on the internet. If I see someone using a cell, I will stop class and ask you to put it away. “Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” – Steve Spielberg
11. Use the instructor as a cue, that is, when he or she wants to transition to another learning plan, that should indicate, be quiet and listen for instructions for the next learning plan. “If the student is not ready, the master will not come.” – Confucius
12. Near the end of the class, do not start packing books and notebooks into your back pack. Wait until the class is formally dismissed for the day. “Stop and smell the roses” – Mac Davis
(an adaptation from Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues with Analyzing Moral Issues by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero with Judith Boss, pp. 21- 26, McGraw Hill, 2014)
Roger J. Vanden Busch
August 31, 2014