As teachers move through various career stages, do they also vary the number of rules and procedures instituted in their classrooms?
I recently heard a teacher spend five minutes talking to students about her expectations for chewing gum: when you can ask for some, what kind there should be (not too smelly), where you should stand if you want to ask for a piece...and so on. I thought this was slightly excessive, until I remembered that when I was about her age (career-wise) I had a kerjillion rules, too.
When I started my career, I had a nice tidy set of rules---maybe 10 in total. And then when I began to learn all of the difficult lessons The First Year of Teaching tossed my direction, I somehow channeled that into legislating my classroom. I had all manner of rules and procedures, although I don't think I went quite so far as devising a whole set of chewing gum expectations.
There were two problems with my response. One: it's too many damned rules. Good teachers know that you shouldn't make any rule that you're unwilling to enforce every time it's broken. I was freakin' exhausted trying to do this when there were so many rules. The second issue with having a legal code style syllabus is that the kids have six different sets to remember. Classroom management feels more like a "gotcha" system because each teacher wants something different.
And now...in my seasoned veteranhood? Hey, there's a student handbook with expectations and a discipline code. I don't repeat anything in there on my syllabus. Frankly, there's not much left for me to write about. It's a weight lifted from everyone's shoulders. I am a firm believer in teaching and reinforcing procedures: where to turn in assignments, how to get make-up work from absences, and so on. These are not so much disciplinary in nature as just helping everyone function within the general culture of the classroom.
I know it's not my place to say anything to the chewing gum rule-maker. I see my younger teacher self in her rules. I know that they feel like a security blanket for now; but I also look forward to seeing her throwing off those crutches and walking.