What rules do teachers have to follow that students don’t know?

School rules vary from school to school and district to district, so these might not be true for all schools. Just all of the ones I’ve worked at:

  • We cannot leave students unsupervised for even a minute. That’s why we’re on our phones sometimes… we’re chatting with our coworkers there, since we can’t do it in person, since we’re all stuck in our classrooms. If another teacher shows up to watch the class while your teacher goes to “make copies,” they’re probably just going to the bathroom. They texted the teacher who was on a planning period at the time to ask them to watch the class a minute. “I need to make some copies” is a code term for “my bladder is about to explode.”
  • We have to count our students once we’re outside for a fire drill, to make sure we have them all. Losing a student during a fire drill is a quick way to get reprimanded. Sometimes, the firemen who are conducting the fire drill will grab a student from the back of the line and take them to the office, and wait to see if the teacher notices the missing student.
  • Before copying a worksheet for the class, you have to make sure that it’s not copyrighted against that. A lot of those “summer workbooks” that your parents get at Barnes and Noble for you to work on over the summer… a lot of those are copyrighted specifically against teachers making classroom copies of those worksheets.
  • Attendance-taking is a big deal legally. If you get nothing else done each day, you still need to make sure you took the attendance correctly. If a student ditches school, and you don’t notice and mark them “present,” and they get busted, be prepared to get sued.
  • We were not allowed to send them to the office unless we had first contacted the parents and first tried several ways to remediate the behavior. If, and only if, the strategies we tried were not successful, we had to write up every strategy we had used on a form and the reaction of the student, when we contacted the parent…and their reaction. In other words, if a student was ever sent to the office, a teacher had to quit teaching and shut down the classroom while they filled out a form that took a minimum of about 20 mins. to fill out. It wasn’t worth it.
  • We also had rules about what had to be posted in the classroom. The word wall, the calendar, the objectives for every subject…and how the student would know it was met, the goals for the quarter and the per cent of the students meeting those goals, the student learning qualities and a way to monitor themselves if they are meeting them, student work had to be displayed, anchor charts for everything taught needed to be visible. In In short, every piece of the wall was dictated as to what was there, AND administrators came around with checklists every other day to check if you had them on the walls. If there was an ADD student, to them it was just a mess; they just had to not look at anything to be able to concentrate…or they would be distracted by all that was on the wall. Oh, and don’t forget the mandated the student library in each classroom.
  • The district-operated temperature in the room kept going up and up to save money. I got around that by placing a heat lamp on a shelf underneath the thermostat. That made the air-conditioning for my room and one other pop on more frequently. I felt sorry for the teachers teaching in 86 degree heat.
  • Our district had rules for exactly how we had to write our lesson plans. I literally took 6 hours every week to fill out all the information the exact way they asked me to do. After about 3 months of that, the teachers’ unions got involved and they said it was obsessively extreme paperwork for the teachers, so the district had to quit requiring the work…not the lesson plans, but their specified way to write them.
  • One year, the principal made a rule that no student could fail. We were told that if a student failed an assignment or test, they would have unlimited reteaching and retakes of alternate assignments or tests. Really? I felt that rule was not only compromising the time of the teacher, but taking away the opportunity for the student to qualify for needed placement. Ha. Silly me. When I said something in our faculty meeting, I was pulled into the principal’s office…again.
  • One year, my school said that every teacher had to teach the same way…even have the exact same bulletin boards on the outside walls. We were supposed to share ideas (not a problem) but we had to all teach the same way (big problem for me). I had ideas that made teachers have to prepare. I had ideas that may have teachers have to clean up. I had ideas that made teachers have to spend money. My team teachers did not want to do what I suggested…one year I purchased and made kits for all the teachers on my team so that I could teach the way I wanted. Finally, I just shared my ideas, but did them anyway when other teachers did not want to extend the same amount of effort. That resulted in a lot of jealous teachers (when students compared what they did in their classrooms to mine). Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to lower my standard of teaching just because the rest of my team did not want to do the same amount of work.

All the paperwork, red-tape, and rules pretty much take away any power the teachers have to discipline in the classroom. If teacher wants to teach the way they want, they often do so at risk of being harassed by the administrators…and other teachers.

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