Category Archives: Dreams

Are Classroom Rules Needed?

My school is shifting its policies and behavior programs, and I was asked what rules I felt were essential in the classroom. I replied that I don’t have any classroom rules and have never felt like I needed them. Obviously, there was a bit of shocked silence, and then the speaker moved on to another person to ask the same question.

I decided to bring back one of my more popular posts, so here it is.


This may sound overly simple, but I tell my (high school) students that I only create rules if we need to have them. We only have them in my classes if students can’t respect one another and me.

For me, everything revolves around trust. At the beginning of the semester I work on relationship building since these bonds will make the class more successful over time. Once I establish a rapport and establish a relationship with students, things move along rather swimmingly.

In general, I attempt to deal with behavior issues on a one to one basis. I often use phrasings like “I know you’re better than this” or “I know you aren’t really acting like yourself” or things like that and then may start asking questions about why the student is behaving a certain way, possibly finishing with a technique called the “5 Why Questions.” A typical conversation might go this way:

Me: Why are you here?

Student: Because I have to take this class.

Me: Why do you have to take this class?

Student: ‘Cause it’s required to graduate.

Me: Why do you want to graduate?

Student: ‘Cause I want to get a good job.

Me: Why do you want a good job?

Student: ‘Cause I want to make money.

Me: Why do you want to make money?

Student: ‘Cause I want to buy stuff, and I want and to take care of my family.

Me: That’s your goal. That’s the dream. This class is not what you’re after–it’s the family and money. This is just a step on the way. What happens if you don’t complete this step?

Student: I don’t get to my goal.

Me: That’s your motivation. Close your eyes and picture the dream and think about that while you’re here. You don’t have to like me or the class, but you do want to reach your dream. Let’s do it together. I’m here to help you reach your dream, but I need you to help me, too.

I know it sounds corny, but the kids really buy in. And, it almost always eliminates future behavior problems and sometimes improves my attendance rates. I have not had a student removed from my classes for behavior issues in six years since I started this type of discussion with kids.

Kids understand dreams.

Merit or Popularity?

A small town school in Washington State (Bridgeport) has reached the final round for the possibility of having President Obama speak at its graduation. Bridgeport’s excellence in academics despite having the proverbial deck stacked against them has earned it this distinct honor.

However, instead of narrowing the decision based on merit and some set of criteria the schools must meet, a popular vote will help narrow the field. A small farming town of 2000 people must compete in a popularity contest with schools in Memphis, Newark, San Diego, and Pittsburgh (as well as Goldsboro, N.C.).

How is this even a consideration? Besides the obvious disparity in populations, why would an honor supposedly based on one’s laurels be decided on a popular vote? I guess education is becoming no different than NBA All-Star weekend.

No matter which schools lose the vote, they will have to live with the idea that they did not get chosen because they weren’t popular, not because they were unworthy. And that may hurt most of all.

Teacher Salaries, Unions, and The Pezz Principle

I think I should create a new humorous law like Godwin’s Law.

My law would be called the Pezz Principle which would read something like this: “As an online discussion lengthens, the probability that the union is blamed–no matter the original issue–reaches one.”

Or how about this one for the Pezz Principle: “As an online discussion lengthens, the probability that teachers will be declared overpaid–no matter the original issue–reaches one.”

Maybe we could adapt these principles to include how teachers get “summers off”, don’t have “real jobs”, or don’t live in the “real world”. I think the Pezz Principle has potential.

On a serious note, I do worry about the perceptions the public has of teachers, especially public school teachers. I have had trouble putting my concern into words based on the number of articles and discussion boards centering on teacher salaries and declaring teachers need pay cuts or benefit cuts, but then I heard a phrasing that helped me formulate my thoughts.

People once saw someone with a solid government job which was better than their jobs and said to themselves, “I need to get one of those.”

Now people see someone with a solid government job which is better than their jobs and say to themselves “He needs a pay cut.”

Instead of people wanting to improve their situations, too many people appear to want to bring others down to their level. Solid government jobs–like teachers–now seem to be symbols of corruption instead of signs of middle class strength.

Has the prosperous and comfortable suburban dream of Leave It To Beaver become the nightmarish, low-income expectation of Roseanne?

Is The STEM-Need A Myth?

At a conference this summer I listened in on a debate between two teachers regarding STEM schools, specifically whether or not the U.S. needs more science graduates. As I look around my community, very few high science jobs appear to be needed locally; however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need.

According to David Sirota, who wrote this opinion piece, the need is a myth.

Sirota cites a “recent study by Rutgers and Georgetown University that found colleges ‘in the United States actually graduate many more STEM students than are hired each year.'” Thus, we have more than enough graduates in this field? The researchers believe this to be true.

He further states that “researchers discovered, many students are pursuing finance instead of STEM careers because Wall Street jobs ‘are higher paying’ and offer ’employment stability’ and ‘less susceptib(ility) to offshoring.'” So, students are entering finance-based fields instead of scientific ones? Apparently, research indicates this is true as well.

Liberal arts majors are still getting jobs. Education majors are still being hired. Social services still need people. Entertainment fields still hire others. I just don’t see a decrease in the diversity of fields hiring.

More importantly though, I have never thought that students should flock to a field based on a perceived need. For me, passion should win out. The love of a course of study should drive one’s future. Plus, basing one’s life on money sure would seem to lead one to a lack of fulfillment. Let’s hope love wins out after all.

Obama Speaks to Kids

President Obama gave his speech to students today on C-SPAN, and I had not planned on having my students watch it since it’s not directly germane with the course of study; however, my students requested to watch it, and I let them.

Here is the transcript.

I don’t really understand the objections to Obama’s speech since his message was to become successful in school.

However as I heard today, if you play it backwards you can hear his Communist plan to indoctrinate our youth and to destroy America…or it’s simply the perfect cheesecake recipe. I can’t tell which. 🙂