A One Rule Classroom

first five daysI love the fact that my grown up profession revolves around a calendar that includes back to school clothes and school supplies. As a teacher, I always needed a “new” start the school year off fabulously outfit. It was just part of the deal! Now as an admin, I get two. One for teachers first day back, and then another one for when the kids come. (what?)

I also had a pink file folder, labeled first day of school in cute letters with lil’circles on the end, that I pulled out every year. It was full of articles, ideas, and fun “get to know you” activities that I had found throughout the years and stuck in this file. It always carried over into the first couple of days, much to my team’s consternation. They wanted to start switching classes and get to their teaching as quickly as possible. I never felt that sense of urgency.

Alan November shared a story where a physics teacher spent the first five days of his class teaching his students how to solve the problems they would be facing. He showed them Wolfram Alpha, how and where to find quality research, how to cite sources, and how to collaborate with their peers. He spent five days teaching the students how to be successful in his classroom. Five whole days. Can you imagine teachers NOT teaching their curriculum for five days? But instead built a foundation that ensured success? Love.

I immediately tweeted “What you do in the first five days shows what you value in your classroom.” I was surprised by the reaction…many wrote back saying that yes, they focused on expectations, on setting rules, on establishing parameters.

We had one rule in my class. Make me look good. That was it. It didn’t take me all day to teach that. Every question they had directly came back to that one statement.

“Do you have an extra pencil?”

“So & so said such and such.”

“I forgot my homework.”

My reaction was always the same. Does that make me look good? How can you fix it? They learned very quickly to be problem solvers and to adjust their train of thought to what was most appropriate. We spent the rest of the time making sure we KNEW each other, on a level to where they WANTED to make me look good. I learned their likes, their dislikes, their strengths and their weaknesses.  My job was to prepare them for life in the fourth grade, and theirs was to make me look good. I had a 100% passing rate on our state tests for the 6 years I taught and  relationships I still maintain with so many of them…I think we both were successful.

Plus, too many rules? Meant I had to have too many consequences, and who has time for that.


easy to please,







  1. Derrick Brown says

    I agree 100% with the importance of building relationships with our students. I can do this all day, everyday with any and every child. When I became Principal the challenge became transferring this philosophy to all adults. It’s much more difficult than I expected. I have read Todd Whittakers books, what Great Principals Do Differently and Shifting the Monkey. My goal is to continue to build relationships with staff while still holding everyone accountable. I can’t wait to start the new year and I will be purchasing new ties. (Also exciting)

    • says

      Thank you Derrick, for commenting, AND for supporting my wardrobe additions! :) I also completely agree with it not being as easy to convey to adults this relationship philosophy. I look forward to hearing how your year goes and sharing our successes! :)

      dress buyN,

  2. Stacy McGough says

    I love your one rule. I may steal it, but my rule would be Make ME Happy. After this long, I don’t care if I look good, I just don’t want any more frowny wrinkles. I’ll be shopping as well, but it usually a weeks worth.

  3. Jill Runstrom says

    I like the idea of the “make me look good” as a classroom rule, but I don’t think it should just apply to the teacher. I think it should be a rule for everyone. If we all treated each other with the intention of making others “look good” in all that we do, I don’t think teachers would have behavior problems, lack of effort, or any of the other issues that interrupt our teaching.

    • says

      Hi Jill, :) I was very narcissistic in my classroom, and even though I would bend over backwards for my kiddos, we also had a saying in my room “it’s all about…and they’d say “you”, heh. I do agree hat naturally parlays into the golden rule, but i was trying to be different to make myself stand out so they wouldn’t “act” the way they’d acted in the past. I responded to a question via email that kinda clarifies some more as well, :)

      Now, keep in mind this was 5 years ago, :) and I taught fourth graders. I prided myself on not just teaching math/science but teaching them LIFE lessons, like how to lose, why we were going to be known as THE most polite class, and what it meant to “talk back”. I told them that no one else was allowed in the school to get on to them b/c they were MINE and that I had higher expectations than anyone else in the school, :)

      We went over and over that first day how important it was the way people perceived you, and that their job, outside of that classroom, was to make me look good. (ie: not get in trouble, be super polite, helpful etc) we brainstormed a huge list of what all it “could” look like. Straight up on that was making sure I had lipstick on and that they always told me when I was down to my last dr pepper. basically, I worked on the RELATIONSHIP with them all.

      Having this one rule this way I could avoid the whole “if you do this then i’ll do that.” which didn’t ever work for anyone, :) Problems that did arise had the same typical consequences as all the other classrooms magnified by my disappointment. I spent those first few days making them LOVE me…especially the tough ones. Those were my favorites! It helps that I’m a sports girl and could talk gaming, skateboarding etc. I found a way to connect. They carried my phone for me, got my DP (always with a straw), i made them campus leaders…

      idk if “make me look good” would work with older students but I think semantically, you could find a one phrase line that would! Older kids you can be straight with, right? Mine were old enough to get that i wasn’t totally serious when i said stuff like “you better pay attention to me today, I’m wearing BLUE eyeliner, and I don’t just do that for everyone.” but they’d do it.You’d be amazed how much that would focus them, lol…

      LMK how it goes and if that answered it for ya!

  4. Bob says

    Nice post.
    Would you by any means know who that Physics teacher is? If he’s a blogger? (or any Physics teachers who blog?)

  5. @8amber8 says

    Hi Bob, I dont know the teacher in Alan Novembers speech but I am gng to email you an awesome physics teacher who does blog, :)

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