Beatrice S. Fennimore, Professional Studies in Education completed a presentation at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Atlanta, Ga. on November 2012. Her presentation titled “Beyond Keep Your Hands and Feet to Yourself: Classroom Rules for Good Citizens in Caring Communities” explored respectful and democratic classroom rules as an opportunity to teach the skills of civic responsibility in a democratic society to young children.
In this presentation, Dr. Fennimore critiqued the traditional suggestion that teachers create "student buy in" by involving them in the creation of class rules. She argued that this can be coercive and inauthentic, because teachers in fact have the power to shape not only the rules but the consequences for breaking rules. She suggested the alternative of two sets of classroom rules to help children learn two important democratic skills: respect for authority and laws, and civic engagement for the good of the community. Teachers should be honest with children in presenting the rules they have created for the common good because as the authority in the classroom they have the responsibility to do so. After the first few weeks of school, teachers can begin to engage children in conversations about the quality of their classroom community and rules they could develop and agree upon related to their interactions with one another. The five areas for classroom rules to be discussed and developed by the children were: (1) Be a Peacemaker, (2) Be a Leader and Problem Solver, (3) Be a Role Model of Integrity, (4) Be a Respecter of Authority, and (5) Be a Diligent Worker.
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