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seeler's picture

seeler

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School Rules that don't make sense

I was talking to someone recently who used to be an elementary school principal.  He believes that rules should be kept to a bare minimum and that they should always leave room for some flexibility.  He told me that when he was young and just starting out he was appointed principal to an elementary school, and one of the first things he noticed about the building was that there were big signs in the corridors "No talking in the halls."   He also noticed that the teachers and some of the children were constantly 'sh - sh- sh' to someone.  And that the teachers were sometimes standing together whispering behind their hands. 

 

So he considered: 

1.  The rule didn't make sense. 

2.  It was unenforceable.

3.  Even the teachers found it hard to obey.

 

The solution - take down the signs.   Occasionally remind people to be quiet in the hallways. 

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seeler's picture

seeler

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My son phoned just as I was posting this.  We talked a bit about his school experiences.  We both remembered when he was in Grade 5.  The teacher later admitted to me that he had a terrible head ache and shouldn't have been teaching.  Some kids were acting up, his head was throbbing.  He told the class, "the next one who speaks out of turn gets sent to the principal." 

 

A few minutes later some tests were handed out and my son whispered to his seat mate:  "I hope I get a 100."  (meaning that he hoped for a perfect mark).  The teacher happened to notice him.

 

"Seelerboy, were you talking?"

"Yes."

"What does that mean?"

"That I go to the principal's office." 

So my son took his first walk down the hall to the principal's office, where the rule was, "If your teacher sends you, you get the strap." 

 

The teacher later appologized to both my son and me.  Seelerboy was generally reasonably well behaved for a ten year old boy, and he was an excellent student.    But rules were rules.  Speak out of turn and you get sent to the principal's office.  Get sent to the office, you get the strap - no questions asked.

 

 

gecko46's picture

gecko46

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When I was in high school we used to have to line-up military style outside classrooms.

We had to wait for the previous students to exit before we could enter the room.  If a student stepped out of line, they were yelled at...I remember being yelled at often.

Our principal was a miltary man, but thankfully when he retired, the practice of lining up was relaxed.

Serena's picture

Serena

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No talking to the person beside you. I had to stand in the corner a lot in grade one. Didn't like school that much that year. Also lost a lot of recesses. Ended up having a lot of tummy aches and not going to school

InannaWhimsey's picture

InannaWhimsey

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somegirl's picture

somegirl

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Not so much a rule as a punishment.  If we were caught chewing gum in music class we had a choice.  We could stick it on our nose, where everyone could see it or we could stick it behind our ear where it would get caught in our hair and we would have to cut it out.  I never chewed gum in music class.

SG's picture

SG

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Seeler, the first thing I thought reading about this principal was parenting. My ex and I were raising two kids together, I had few rules and the number one rule was, "if you can respectfully explain that a rule is unfair, well... then it goes".

 

A rule that made no sense was sitting with our forearms crossed and our heads down on the desk, no looking up,  to make us quiet down. For me, I would turn my head from one side to the other and tip my chin up... I would squirm. I was scared. I hated the dark. The nook of my folded arms was a dark place. I never once got recess in that class and I got the strap more times than I can keep track of. What really never made sense was the teacher not asking why I wasn't listening and I was taught to never speak unless spoken to. So, I took my punishment and the teacher never knew that I was not just a pain. I was scared, scared enough to keep getting in trouble.

Northwind's picture

Northwind

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I was thinking of the chewing gum rule too. We had a teacher who made gum chewers put the gum on the tip of her nose. Thankfully she had not apparently thought of the behind the ear thing. She was so mean she would have had that as the only option!

 

 

seeler's picture

seeler

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I can see how chewing gum might interfer in music class.  And I presonally find chewing fum in public to be rude and often unsanitary - I hate to wrap my fingers around the edge of a desk and feel a hard lump and realize that it is someone else's discarded gum.

 

So I see a reason for a 'no chewing gum in class' rule.  Perhaps the sensible thing would be to have a waste basket near the door and ask gum-chewers to dispose of their gum on entering the room.  Then if someone is caught, often the teacher can catch their eye and point a finger at the receptacle - walking up front and disposing of it will quickly discourage the child.  It is a consequence, not a punishment.

 

RevMatt's picture

RevMatt

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Rules at my daughter's school:

 

1) no sharing of food

2) segregated playgrounds by age (school only goes to grade 5)

3) no using the municipal park that is attached, no fence or any dividing line, to the school property

 

There are others, but those are the ones that leap immediately to mind.

chemgal's picture

chemgal

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 Oh, we had segregated playgrounds too, and it was silly.  Div I K-3, Div II 4-6, but we had 3-4 split classes.

I'm not going to get started this morning on silly rules my high school had.

lastpointe's picture

lastpointe

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I think schools separate kids play areas by age to allow the little ones access to an area where no big kids will dominate them or just simply knock them down.

 

The no snow ball fights is a hard one in Ontario.

 

I get that it is because of potential eye damage but come up with a better way.

 

A designated snowball area, kids need to bring ski goggles or something.

 

The school I volunteer at has a great male gym teacher who sets up targets and hoops and the kids have a blast aiming at the tires.......  It takes teacher supervision but they have fun for those handful of days when snowball making is possible

 

My guess is that park rule is related to the city. My kids school had a very small playground and we rented the park during school hours for use.  Then it was the responsibility of the school to monitor it, police it.....  WE actually had the janitor to rounds in the morning to pick up anything left around over night.  Beer bottles, needles, dirty magazines......

 

 

No sharing of food is the result of the over kill related to peanut allergies.  Sad rule.  How great was it to trade sandwhiches with friends.

 

I dont' remember too many silly rules for my kids, one that sticks out , though not silly was, no jumping off the top of the climber.  yikes

HenrySmyth's picture

HenrySmyth

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We were told not to trade lunches, but I had a weakness for egg salad sandwiches.  I'd trade ANYTHING for an egg salad sandwich, even my younger siblings.  (It never happened, but I always thought it was an option.)

mrs.anteater's picture

mrs.anteater

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Welcome, Henry.

Wonder how many sandwiches you would get for a little sister...

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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Couldn't wear pants except friday afternoon. Crazy rule when it was -40 all winter.

mrs.anteater's picture

mrs.anteater

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Guys,

you are probably not aware, that after WWII in my generation, "America" was seen as the most progressive continent and believed to be better at everything!

When I read here, that you actually used the strap on kids at a time when I was a student- I am quiet shocked! I never ever experienced school that way.

We didn't have rules like no gum-I guess they knew they couldn't prevent it. I always wonder why you have a "no hats" rule in Canada.

According to Wikipedia, East Germany stopped physical punishment 1949, West Germany 1973 (officially) except for Bavaria, who still had the option until 1980. (which does not surprise me). Since 2000, Germany has a law that says kids have a right to be parented "violence free".

The US still gives the right to schools in most states to "paddle" students. I believe this is closely related to certain christian beliefs and very sad. (there is a relation to Bavaria, whith traditional belives an male power structures).

.

carolla's picture

carolla

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mrs. anteater - my husband (who used to teach high school here) said once that the 'no hats' rule makes it quick & easy for the school to note kids/people who might be present in the school but are not students - enhances security.  

carolla's picture

carolla

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I got a detention in Grade 7 for sitting in the wrong seat at lunchtime.  That was a stupid rule.  I moved to accomodate a guy who had a serious crush on the girl who sat next to me ... sigh ... the things we do for love!

seeler's picture

seeler

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Mrs.Anteater - if you were refering to my son getting the strap, it was probably about 1973-74.  I graduated from Teacher's College in 1964.  At that time the rule was that the teacher or principal could use as much force in controlling/disciplining a child as would a kind and loving parent.  We were also told (although I don't know if it was the law) that we should always have a witness present - thus the principal with his secretary or another teacher as witness. 

 

My son wasn't overly traumatized.  He knew, as did most parents, that the principal was a jerk.  When I phoned the school board they as much as admitted it.  He was removed from teaching the following year and given a position sorting textbooks for the next year or so until his retirement.  As for the classroom teacher - he remained one of my sons favourite teachers and is remembered with fondness.  Except for the morning he genuinely liked the kids, and he especially seemed able to appreciate my son's wit, humour and intelligence. 

seeler's picture

seeler

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Rules like 'no snowballs' are ridiculous.   Here in NB, where we get lots of snow, sometimes from November into April, at least one school had a rule about snow - You could stand in it, you could walk around in it, but you couldn't touch it.  No bending down to pick it up, or rubbing your mittened hand along a snow covered railing.  No throwing yourself down to make a snow angel, or rolling big balls to make a fort or snow wall or sculpture.  No touching the snow. 

 

In Canada play in and with the snow.  It's a fact of life - learn to enjoy it.  Play outdoors.

 

mrs.anteater's picture

mrs.anteater

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Seeler,

SG was mentioning it, too and she is younger than me.

musicsooths's picture

musicsooths

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When I was in junior high girls could only wear pants underneath there skirts and dresses and they had to be taken off during school time.

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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Musicsooths , yes, wasn't that ridiculous?

MistsOfSpring's picture

MistsOfSpring

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A lot of the rules that have come up are things that I call "blanket rules"...rules that apply to everyone simply due to the management of large numbers of people.  Snowballs are a perfect example.  In a backyard or a park where a dozen kids have gotten together, a snowball fight is fine.  It's not particularly dangerous.  In a school yard with 500+ kids, it's a different story.  One kid accidentally hits the wrong kid with a snowball and a fight breaks out, or there is snow flying all over the place and teachers can't tell in the midst of the chaos what is good, clean fun and what is a kid being attacked by other kids. 

 

Banning gum is a similar story; some kids stick their gum to the insides of the desks and make a disgusting mess that no one else (especially the other kids) should have to deal with.  It's nearly impossible to know who stuck the gum there when there are rotary classes because you could have several different students sitting in the same desk during the day, and even in the same class students might be sitting in different seats due to working with different groups.  There's also gum on the floors or on the walls in the bathroom that makes it even harder to track down who is responsible.  "No gum" prevents the vast majority of that because all the kids are stopped at the chewing stage, not the disposal stage.  I've worked in schools where gum was allowed and in schools where it wasn't and the difference is incredible.

 

I do hate enforcing the "no hats" rule, though.  I agree hats shouldn't be worn in class, but at our school kids are supposed to take their hats off the second they enter the school and carry them to their lockers, then wait to put them on until they are exiting the building.  They are already carrying backpacks and lunch bags and who knows what else; it's stupid to have to carry their hats.  They should simply remove them at their lockers and put them away there.  Sadly, I don't get to make the rules.

somegalfromcan's picture

somegalfromcan

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Does the no hats rule include turbans and hijabs and other religious headgear??? What about toques in the winter?

MistsOfSpring's picture

MistsOfSpring

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somegalfromcan wrote:

Does the no hats rule include turbans and hijabs and other religious headgear??? What about toques in the winter?

 

All religious head coverings are allowed.  Nothing else is.

mrs.anteater's picture

mrs.anteater

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I wonder if all those rules are a British inheritance- anybody here went to school in Quebec? Were they more laissez-faire there?

lastpointe's picture

lastpointe

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I think the no hats rule is two fold.

 

Traditional british politeness has men take hats off indoors.  No idea why but my guess is it has something to do with respect for the king or something like that.

 

But I know in Toronto the baseball hat became a symbol for gangs.  The colour, the side tilt, how much of a tilt, it all meant something and caused issues with different gangs being in the same high school.

 

So most schools started a no hats policy to cut it out.

 

 

seeler's picture

seeler

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I tend to agree with the no hats rule in the classroom.  I'm of the generation that learned a gentleman removes his hat when indoors.  But wearing it as far as his locker makes sense, especially when his hat is under his parka hood and its -20 degrees and blowing. 

 

When I went to school I never heard of a child losing his (or her) hair because of chemo treatments.  I guess when that happens the child should definitely be permitted to wear a baseball cap, or scarf, or whatever is most comfortable for him/her.  And the rest of the class should be permitted to wear them as a show of support.

 

Also, in a country where 1/2 the school year is winter, it was cruel and unnecessary to have girls forbidden to wear pants.  Try walking two miles to and from school, carrying a back-pack, wading snow, following a blizzard, in below freezing weather.  Fortunately that rule has gone by the wayside as girls and women everywhere wear slacks, children usually don't walk as far to school, and schools are closed during the worst weather. 

 

Also rules should be inforced with common sense.  Some schools go from Kindergarden to Grade 8.  A 'no tank tops' rule makes sense for the older kids - but to embarass a six-year-old for wearing her new sundress on a hot day in June by making her put on a sweater from the box at the back of the room makes no sense at all. 

 

SG's picture

SG

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mrs. anteater, you are correct and many US states still paddle. Those that do not mostly did not stop until the 1980 and 1990's.

 

Michigan, where I did my pre-high school years banned corporal punishment in 1989 (though banned, versus illegal, means it is only banned in public schools. I asked my mom how often she thought I got "the board" at school. She said nonchalantly, "oh about once every week or two until grade four and then only once a month or so". I got it tons, but it was "normal" that kids got spanked at school.

 

Pennsylvania, where I did high school, abolished it is 2005 (yes, kids were hit with a wooden paddle when I was in school in the 1980's) I got the paddle in 1984 and was only a few months from turning 18. Why did I get the paddle? For walking out of a class when the teacher was debating homosexuality. (I had asked to be excused and was told no - when words like "abnormal, sick..." were being used,  I broke into tears and rushed out the door and to the washroom.... without a hall pass. I had skipped class or been disruptive or something. I would take the board or get a 5 day suspension that meant no prom. I took the board.

My niece, an epileptic, was paddled (yes that means with a wooden paddle) in this decade.Texans like giving the board to the kids and the chair to their criminals.

 

For a glance at those US states that allow corporal punishment or dates they banned it check out

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934191.html

beforeorange's picture

beforeorange

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That's so sad about the girl with epilepsy being beaten.  I am so glad there is no way that could happen in Ontario without a teacher losing their job and being charged with assault.

I'm a high school teacher and I constantly weigh these rules in my mind.  I think arbitrary, silly rules erode respect for the important rules.

I try to do the whole 'do unto others' thing.  I don't want to be told I can't go to the bathroom, for example.  But I also know that they are kids and don't always know what's best for them.  So I say, "Can it wait, I don't want you to miss the lesson?"  If they say no, I let them go.  At some point, the value of not harming the child who is telling the truth is more important than the harm of the child who is wandering the hall instead of learning.

The bottom line for me is safety.  If a kid uses a swear word out of dirty habit, I say, "Watch your language!"  It doesn't happen that often.  If they say, "That's so gay!"  the class gets a boring lecture about the power of words.   If they abuse another student verbally, though, they go to the office right away.  I'm pretty sure most of my kids respect and understand the difference.

mrs.anteater's picture

mrs.anteater

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SG

When did you rescue yourself to Canada? It's seems soo Middle-Ages down south that I think Canadians should consider controlling the border better, building a Wall and only let refugees through.

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