Last year, during a panel discussion at an ETFO provincial conference, a colleague, Jason Johnston, said this about the Chicago Fire Department: “It spends approximately 80 percent of its entire budget each year on ﬁre prevention. They have never had to use the entire 20 percent that is left on actually putting out ﬁres.”
This made me think about our daily instructional programs. How much time do we spend effectively planning and teaching life lessons? And how much time do we spend putting out ﬁres?
Barrie Bennett and Peter Smilanich in their book, Classroom Management: A Thinking and CaringApproach, say: “Rules: This is your one opportunity to set yourself up for a year of happiness or a year of grief – the decision is yours.”
With this in mind, I’d like to explore what we can do as classroom teachers to invest in the education of “ﬁre prevention”: how carefully we set up our routines in September and the degree to which we ensure that students understand how and why the rules are essential in building a respectful class community.
Teach them what you want them to do
September should be about connecting with each of your students and discovering who they are, what they are interested in, and what kind of learning opportunities motivate them. It is the most inﬂuential time to establish your behavioural expectations so that they can be carried through consistently all year.
Simply listing the rules and reading them out loud together is not enough. Consider formal lessons for the behaviours you feel strongly about. Include in your lessons an introduction and an emotional hook so that the students feel motivated about the topic. The lesson body should develop a deeper understanding of the components of the rule or routine and explain the possible consequences. Always build student ownership into the lesson body and include students’ voices and input.
Finish up each lesson with a followup that encourages students to think about, discuss, and reﬂect upon the need for the rule in their classroom community. Provide them with opportunities to share their responses with peers and to actively discuss their own feelings and thoughts about the rule or routine.
Repeat for each expected behaviour