School rules run amok

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I’ll give a short example. The rule says, “All students must be in the classroom when the bell rings.”

That’s a fine rule. We need to keep that one. My problem is that teachers can get in trouble if they don’t 100% enforce that rule. If an administrator does not like you, trouble becomes particularly likely. Then it’s your fault if the kid’s in the hallway. (I don’t feel like I have much to worry about because administration knows me. I am good for extra work on a regular basis, among other considerations.) Teachers in some schools are written up when students ignore the rules.

But teachers are not sticking cogs inside wheels for a living. Students exercise their free will regularly and I don’t know any teacher who has learned a magic spell to counteract free will.

Two days ago, two of my students were late to class. I could see them standing at the end of the hall. In a loud teacher voice I told them to “Get into class right now!” One called back, “She’s crying!” I repeated my demand because I know my students. The girl in question would cry if her boyfriend forgot their two-week anniversary. She cries all the time. She cries if anyone else cries. She is one of the best sympathetic criers I have ever met. So I forced the girls to come to class.

But I would like to reserve the right to leave another student alone at the end of that hall. I know my kids. I want the ability to make a judgement call. When that kid who never cries has a crisis, I need to be able to adapt to the situation without worrying about administration landing on my back.

Eduhonesty: As I noted, I don’t believe my administration would cause me trouble because they know me. In many lower-performing schools, though, teachers and administrations come and go in a revolving door of hiring, firing, and moving up and on. Too often, we don’t know each other. Teachers should not have to worry about being “written up” for allowing a student to break a rule. Let’s assume I am an intelligent professional trying to do my job. I’d like not to have to worry about looking bad because I am not 100% with a program that is not 100% enforceable in any case.

Before we were all judged by rubrics and rules that are becoming less and less flexible, I could let a kid sleep in class without worrying about receiving a professional black mark. Now, in some schools, I’d be immediately reproached and maybe even end up with a reprimand in my file if an administrator walked in and saw that sleeping kid. Let’s be clear that I wake almost everybody up if they try to snooze during my presentation. But when a kid from a group home says, “Sorry, ma’am. I was up all night because we had to go pick up a new guy and I only got two hours sleep,” I want to be able to say, “You can sleep. I’ll catch you up later.”