Thursday, 14 May 2009

A lesson in consistency

Tip #1: When you create a rule decide whether you can be consistent with it. If not, it's probably not worth making. Being consistent is almost more important than the rule itself.

The reason I say this is the impression left by my own form tutor Miss. Watson. Twelve years on and she is still my teaching role model. Why? Nothing explains it better than this true story....

Every morning Miss Watson lined us up outside form room: boys on the right, girls on the left. This separation drove me wild and I still disagree with her decision but regardless of our moaning separate we must. As we entered her classroom she would smile, say something personal and interesting while quickly checking our uniform. Once seated, the routine continued. Every single day she reached into her stock cupboard and picked out a bottle of nail varnish remover and a tissue. She then placed this on Emma's desk for Emma religiously painted her nails every night even though it was against school rules. With a sigh Emma picked up the bottle and scrubbed her nails clean.

I delighted in the regularity of this event. Every morning Emma would wear new nail varnish. Every morning, Miss Watson silently and patiently waited for her to take it off.

Until the fateful morning when Emma triumphantly slammed the bottle down and pronounced, "I can't take the varnish off, the bottle is finished!" Her smugness was quite clear. She had won the battle.

Quick as a flash Miss Watson leaned into the stock cupboard, silently pulled a new full bottle of remover from behind the door and placed it gently on the desk. A FULL bottle. Who knew how many more she had in there? It was clear, Emma was beaten. The next day, Emma didn't bother to wear nail varnish anymore. And I never again complained about the boy/girl separation, it wasn't worth it. The woman was as consistent as the hills and I knew it was going to be her way or nothing.

I've told this story a million times to new teachers and I repeat it to myself on those days when I worry that imposing rules makes me a mean-dragon. But clasroom rules are rules - make sure they have a purpose and then stick to them just like Miss Watson.