When I landed my first teaching job, a principal-friend challenged me to consider having only two classroom rules. The challenge gave me pause.

“What would they be?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “Consider the things that are most important to you and then base your rules on those priorities. Sometimes discipline becomes an issue because there are too many rules. Do yourself a favor and create two rules that are easy to remember.”

I decided to take the challenge.

It’s a good thing I was hired early and had a couple of months to consider the two classroom rules everyone could live by. Being a writer at heart, I spent many weeks working the words to have just the right classroom rules.

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Be ready to learn.

Two rules.
Six words.
Everything we needed.

Years later and I still believe these are the only two rules necessary for any classroom. They are more than rules, they are a way of life. The secret is to build a community with these six words as a moral compass.

Although I like to be efficient, one thing I’m thankful I’ve never rushed is establishing and understanding the rules. I like to toss out the rule-making to students.

What should be the rules of our classroom?

There are always more than two. Kids have a sense of right and wrong and they want a safe place to learn and grow. Often a long list of rules doesn’t correlate to a safe place. A safe community is more about the unwritten rules than a list on the wall.

How could we group these rules?

Categorizing is important to learning. When 30 students try to make a list of class rules, it’s expected that it will be a long list. Take some time to group the rules. I bet you’ll find they fall into two categories.

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Be ready to learn.

What does it mean to be respectful and be ready to learn?

No matter how awesome you are, you will never-not-ever create a rule to stop every misbehavior. It’s impossible. Kids are creative. Not only that, but classroom rules shouldn’t really be about stopping misbehavior.

Classroom rules are about empowering students to be the best students they can be. Consider two rules that will allow students to be their best learning selves.

I’m confident that there are many pairs of rules that will empower students as learners. Mine aren’t the only set. In fact, it probably doesn’t really matter what pair of rules you select. What matters is you consider the priorities for your students and set boundaries that allow them to be their best selves.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on classroom rules. Will you weigh-in in the comments?


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