Saturday, August 10, 2019

Policies & Procedures

The most important thing I have learned in teaching middle schoolers is the importance of procedures. Unfortunately it took me a long time to figure out just how much I needed a clear, complete set of instructions spelling out how to do things in my science lab.

Early on in my career, I made the [totally incorrect] assumption that by the time kids made it to middle school, they knew what to do in a classroom. Nope.
  1. Middle school is brand new to 6th graders. They are moving between classes by themselves. They are not in a line. And, lordy!!!! They are dealing with lockers!!! (If you teach 6th grade, you know what I am talking about.)
  2. Most 6th graders have never had science in a science lab.
  3. Every teacher has her or his own way of doing things. What one teacher doesn't mind, drives another one crazy.
  4. Puberty in 7th and 8th graders makes them forget almost everything.
Bottom line, when you're dealing with a 6th grader in particular, but any middle school student in general, everything is news to them.

After hearing a talk by Harry Wong - a procedures ninja -I set about creating my own. They have to be updated periodically, but the basics stay the same.

I created a handbook of sorts, a set of Important Stuff to Know for my class. Each child gets a copy and it stays in their binders all year long.

  1. I lay out my rules. These are non-negotiable and short and sweet. Be respectful and do not interfere with teaching and learning.
  2. I list my policies. These are often created by my school or department, there are several of these. They explain how I make decisions.
  3. Finally I list my procedures. I have quite a few of these. I try to cover every possible situation that can arise in my classroom. My procedure are simply how we do things in MY classroom. Not the teacher next door, not the teacher from last year, my room. Procedures include things like:
    1. how we begin class.
    2. how we end class.
    3. how we get materials and supplies.
    4. how we turn in assignments.
    5. how and when we sharpen pencils.
    6. what we do during a fire or lock down drill.
I have a LOT. 

I start with procedures the very first day of school. I review and reinforce them repeatedly.

I start with the ones I use most often - how to enter and leave class, how to get supplies, how to work in a team, and so on from day one.
More specific procedures like how to watch a video, or what to do if I am absent, I introduce as I need them.

I go over and over and over procedures. For the first three weeks of school, I provide reminders, oral reviews, whatever, to make make sure my kids know how to keep our classroom running smoothly. After a major holiday, I review again.

It's a lot of up-front work, but it pays off big time during the year.

You can find my procedures HERE.