Monday, December 2, 2013

School Rules

Some mornings the children want nothing to do with circle time or academics. We start such days by crossing the street to the park, which is often still wet from dew, and run around and play hard. (My first grade teacher in Finland sent us outside to run in the woods. It worked wonders then and still does today).

But after a few particularly rowdy mornings I asked the children if they thought we should have any rules. They all enthusiastically agreed "Yes!" – even the couple who were beating each other with their seat cushions.

I asked what the rules should be, and offered to write down what they said. Here's the result:

1. The Apple gets to lead and blow candle - not anyone else
2. No phones
3. Raise your hand and no interrupting
4. No screaming, standing up, yelling, showing private parts, disturbing, lying down
5. No playing with stuffies in circle time

This set has worked remarkably well and it has remained on the wall of the tower room where we meet in the morning. 

Maybe the reason it has worked is that it is consistent with John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle:

"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

The harm principle has become somewhat of a guiding line to us. The children have become familiar with it through arguments about what they can and can't do. They think it's fair.

For example, rule 5 originally read "No stuffies in circle time." It was amended to "No playing with stuffies" after one of the girls pointed out that the stuffies didn't bother anyone if they were not being used.

That sense of justice is probably why these rules continue to get respect from the grown-ups and the children – even the ones called out for breaking them.

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