When you teach a subject like music, you find that it's hard to craft rules that apply to all the different students in your building. How can you create a set of expectations for 500 completely different little minds that sometimes come from various cultural backgrounds? They need to make sense to students at different levels, students with different mastery of things as basic as hand-eye coordination, students on the Autism spectrum, students with physical disabilities, students with IEPs for special education consideration. And they need to be basic enough (and specific enough) for completely different situations from playing melodic instruments to folk dance to composition to guided listening… Oh and all of these must apply to students with a 6 year age difference and are at completely different levels of cognitive development? If I wrote out specific rules for all those different situations and students I would run out of wall space to display them all (to say nothing of remembering them all). Can you imagine… “Carlos! Please refer to Rule 27C – Never touch the instruments when…” No way...
I really wanted a streamlined set of rules that applied to all my students and situations. I really needed a set of rules that everyone could understand and that I could use for any situation and any kid.
AND ONE MORE THING… I wanted my rules to be about relationship and not about rule following. Does that make sense? I wanted students to come to my room and be held accountable for being kind and caring and fair with one another. They get so many “You can’t do this!” and “Do it this way!” everywhere else. I wanted rules that would allow for some error and would allow for some growth. Yes, I have unspoken rules that they know “No hitting” “Don’t copy someone else’s work” and so on. I see those as universal rules. They’re just expected. Music is one of the few places where kids interact with one another and create together and have safe interactions. We teach social skills and working with peers just as much as we teach the actual art of music. My rules encourage working together, making ourselves better, and learning as a group.
Here are the rules as I tell them to my students. We take a day at the beginning of the year to go over them (and then hit them again at the beginning of the new semester in January). I talk about them a lot and refer to them often so they stay in kids’ heads.
Make Moments Matter
If I said to Brenda, “Hey Brenda, you’re an amazing recorder player. Why don’t you help us out and improvise a two measure melody on BAG.” And she said, “Mr. Row, I can’t because in P.E. Alexander was mean to me and didn’t let me hold the ball when we were playing Zone Out.” Would she be making her moment matter? Nope. She would be thinking about something else that happened somewhere else that doesn’t have anything to do with the recorder. When it’s your chance you’ve got to take it. Don’t let other things stop you from doing your absolute best. Make each moment matter like you won’t get any other chance!
Keep Moving Forward
Moving forward is a good thing, but it can also be hard. It’s not easy to try new things or to do things in a different way. And things ARE going to be harder. You can do it! If you make each moment matter and really work hard, I’m sure you’ll be able to do every single thing that we try out this year.
What happens if you don’t? What happens if you make a mistake, should you run off crying? No. What happens if you look silly or sound weird? Should you stop and never try again? No way! You are smart kids and you have great ideas! Remember what we learned about mistakes? They’re okay. This is hard, new stuff, remember? You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OKAY! If you make a mistake don’t stop and never try again. Keep moving forward. Get up, brush off, and try again. Once you figure it out, you’ll keep moving forward and forward and forward.
Treat People Royally
Now you probably hear from other teachers or friends that you should treat people the way that you want to be treated… but that’s not what I’m saying. That’s not enough!! You have to treat them BETTER than you want to be treated! I want you to treat each other like ROYALTY! Treat each person in this room as if they were a king or queen. If someone came to you and asked to be your partner and you said "No way!" would that be treating them royally? How about if you looked at another kid and said "You smell like a trashcan!" would that be treating them royally? Really think about what you're doing and saying! It's important to treat people right!
(I make sure to make good eye contact with this part) You know, in my eyes, each one of you really is as important as a king or a queen. You mean that much to me. I want to treat each one of you as if you are one of the most important people in the whole land. I’m going to treat you like royalty! If you treat one another as nicely as you would treat royalty, think of all the amazing fun that we would have.
These rules aren’t totally universal but they fit my purposes and work in almost any situation. Feel free to adapt them as you see fit. Soon I hope to have a post about how I made the rule banner signs from foam core... I'll do that as soon as I can find the photos I saved about how to use foam core... I know they're somewhere around here. :D
CHANGE YOUR CLASSROOM, CHANGE THE WORLD!
Make Moments Matter -- Guidelines for Classroom Behavior
Treat People Royally -- Guidelines for Classroom Behavior
Keep Moving Forward -- Guidelines for Classroom Behavior