How it works in [insert your name here] classes, or “Why didn’t you read the directions?!” (The 27 things you need to know to survive the next three years.)
Welcome to middle school. Things work a little differently here than they do in elementary school, including how teachers operate their classes. Middle school is about:
1) responsibility–taking charge of your own life,
2) autonomy–breaking away from having mom and dad do everything for you, and
3) accountability–owning the consequences for the decisions you make, either good or bad.
My goal for you. My goal is to prepare you for high school. So, your goal should be: I want to learn what I need to know to be ready for high school. I’m here to help you accomplish that goal. It takes two years to accomplish. My class is fun, but that’s not my goal for you. I’m not here to make you feel good about yourself, but you may feel pretty good after you spend a year with me! You build your self-esteem by setting goals and accomplishing those goals. In the process of accomplishing your goal, you may not always feel good, but you will be ready for high school. Guaranteed!
I have rules. I call them rules because the real world calls them rules. I’d love to say, “I trust all middle school students, so let’s just see how it goes.” But I’ve read Lord of the Flies. So, in the ancient, historical tradition of Hammurabi, Moses, and Emperor Qin, I offer these written rules. (I have the same rules as any other teacher, but I list most of them, so I am clear about my expectations and you have no excuses.)
THESE ARE THE THINGS I EXPECT FROM YOU:
ONE. Be in your seat when the tardy bell rings. Get focused fast when you get there (This is a choice you make.) Stay in your seat unless I tell you to get out of it. Stay focused until you leave. You may then un-focus. (If you feel like you are going to vomit in class, leave immediately! I’ll find out why you left later.)
TWO. Treat each other like you want to be treated. Leave the hostile attitudes* for reality shows and professional football.
THREE. Be respectful both of me (I’ve earned it!) and others in class (They are earning it.)* Respect is often communicated with the tone of your voice. Don’t roll your eyes if you disagree. Don’t shake your head if you disagree. Just state your opinion as well as you can using regular English in a calm manner. We all have opinions. You may not agree with me or with others all the time, but disagree respectfully. Do not call people names or use profanity. In my classroom, some language is unacceptable. Do not call other people any name other than by their name or their nickname. Ethnic slurs are offensive. I will not tolerate them. Do not call people names that refer to a physical characteristic. (In some cases, this is sexual harassment.) Do not call people names that refer to sexual orientation such as “Gay” or “Homo.” This is sexual harassment. Do not use the word “retard” in my class. And never slander the Beatles!
FOUR. Be silent when I’m talking. Raise your hand if you wish to talk, and wait for me to call you. Then, if someone is talking, be silent. There is a time to listen, and there is a time to talk. Do each in its own time.
FIVE. If you are having a difficult day, tell me.* Just say, “I’m having a bad day.” If life hands you more than you can handle, let me know. (Death in the family, cancer in the family, or your BFF was texting your boyfriend or girlfriend last night, etc.) If your dog ate your homework, get over it. He must have been hungry. It’ll show up in the backyard in three days, but it will be too late to turn it into me.
SIX. Read the directions and follow them. If you do this you will be fairly successful in life and you will not gargle with Windex or use toothpaste for zit cream. Remember The 2 Minute Test!
SEVEN. In an emergency, do what I say and do it quickly.* My niece and nephew were seniors in high school in Littleton, Colorado during Columbine. Fast action saved lives there! Earthquakes come upon us in a matter of seconds. Fast action may save your life. Slow action may result in serious injury to you and those around you.
EIGHT. Use your cell phone without permission and you lose it. Count on it! You can pick it up in the office!
NINE. Do your own work. Cheat and I will catch you.* You will reap what you sow. Plagiarize and a search engine will catch you. Lie and it’ll bite you in the bitter end. (Cheat: to let someone else do the work you/they were supposed to do. This includes copying someone’s homework, using a cheat sheet, letting another student copy your work, texting answers, or intentionally giving an incorrect score on your own or another’s work. I catch you cheating = no points for you, a call home from you, plus detention or referral. Plagiarize: to use someone else’s work and call it your own. Lie: to communicate something other than what really happened.)
TEN. Do all assigned work and turn it in on time. If you don’t do assigned work and turn it in, you get “F’s.” If you get “F’s,” you don’t pass middle school. If you don’t pass middle school, you hang around in alleys. If you hang around in alleys, you meet ex-CIA spies doing secret deals. If you meet ex-CIA spies doing secret deals, they ask you to carry plans for nuclear weapons to Mediterranean rebels. If you carry plans for nuclear weapons to Mediterranean rebels, they start World War III. Don’t start World War III! Do your assigned work and turn it in on time.
You must turn in work ON TIME to receive credit Do I really have to say this to a middle school student? I’ve heard, “But I did that assignment!” more times than Lindsey Lohan has been in court only to have the same student turn it in a day later with the lame-o excuse, “I don’t know how it got there, but I found it wadded up at the bottom of my backpack!”
And for the sake of western civilization, PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR PAPER! After seven or eight years of school, you still forget this? Really? I am not psychic and cannot tell whose paper it is by feeling it; I am not a handwriting expert and do not know your paper by just looking at it. No name = no credit. Papers with no names get shredded and fed to my red wiggler worms for compost in my garden. Then each summer, I grow tomatoes, make salsa, and eat your no-name homework with chips and guacamole while watching the Dodgers.
In the upper-left corner of your paper, write this:
First name & Last name
Class period & period
ELEVEN* All class rules apply when there is a substitute teacher. This is non-negotiable. I know this is difficult, but it’s not impossible. I expect it. In the words of E.T.—“Be good.” My substitute teachers are my friends. I will not tolerate your rudeness to my friends.
TWELVE – Miscellaneous “Do-nut” rules that you have known for seven years:
- Please do-nut write in school textbooks. They have enough writing in them already.
- Please do-nut do your makeup in class. Keep your makeup in your backpack. I do not want to see any product or instrument (comb, brush, blowdryer, etc.) that will make you look better or worse than I look.
- Please do-nut eat in class. Refrain from eating, gobbling, chewing, masticating, gnawing, sucking, imbibing, drinking, gulping, melting, or dissolving any substance (food, candy, gum, Big Mac, etc.) with your mouth. Water is acceptable if you do not “crinkle” the bottle.
- Please do-nut touch others’ possessions. They do not belong to you.
- Please do-nut touch others’ bodies. They do not belong to you.
- Please do-nut wear anything that will embarrass me. This goes for the girls in class, too.
- Please do-nut use class time for going to the bathroom. You will get one “bathroom pass” for each trimester. Using the classroom for a bathroom will earn you a lousy reputation and you’ll have to clean it up.
CONSEQUENCES FOR BREAKING THE RULES STATED ABOVE
Time outs & ALC (in school detention) time outs
© 2019 Doug Hanks. All rights reserved.
* Most of my rules are based on the work of Ron Clark, whose book, The Essential 55 (Hyperion Books, ©2003 Ron Clark) was invaluable in formulating this list of rules. If I borrowed one of his original 55 rules, I have placed an asterisk(*) next to the number. Others are exclusive to my teaching style. Thanks to Richard Shetley, veteran teacher at Vineyard Junior High for his website and phrasing on certain rules (‘hostile attitudes,’ ‘cheat and I will catch you’) and Rule 7 which is so important in a crisis situation. I attempted to phrase the all the rules in a positive tone, but Rule 12 simply demands the negative.