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2 Rules and 1 fact

Every year on the first day, just like so many other teachers, I lay down the law.  The rules, the expectations.  Pretty standard stuff.  But then I tell the students two rules and one fact that the three most important things to remember in my class (and in life).

Rule 1: No Glitter. Now, don't get me wrong.  I love glitter.  Sparkly things are pretty! But, sometimes I really hate glitter.  First, when  kids cover a project in glitter it is inevitable that the glitter is going to end of everywhere.  For months afterwards, I go home with pieces of glitter stuck to my face and and I find it all over the classroom. Also, I run a science classroom where students learn to think like scientists and act like scientists. As far as I can tell, scientists don't often (or ever) put glitter on, well, anything.  It's hard to take someone's life's work seriously when it sparkles.  After I present this rule, there are the inevitable "What about...." questions.  What about glitter tape? Or glitter glue? No and No.  If you have to ask "What about..."then the answer is no.

But this rule also has a figurative meaning. I HATE when kids spend so long making a project look pretty that they run out of time for the content.  Or when parents spend a ridiculous amount of money on supplies so a student can build a working volcano that actually shoots magma (um, this would actually be really cool) and in the end the kid learns nothing about content. As long as student work is neat and professional, I don't really care what it looks like.  The content is always the most important thing.

Rule 2: Just Be Nice. There's a back story to this one. A bunch of years ago my mom called me.  She said "Jess, I just started a church and it's called the Church of Just Be Nice.  All you have to do to be a part of the church is to just be nice.  And I've already excommunicated your father" (She was kidding about that last part.  He was sitting right next to her and he's actually a pretty fantastic and kind hearted guy - although he'd never want to let on that he was actually nice). In 2011 my mom passed away. Every year on her birthday and the anniversary of her death I declare the day to be "Just Be Nice Day" and I ask people to be just a little kinder because sometimes a little kindness can go further than you've ever imagined. I share this with my students too.

But, it's not enough to be nice two days of the year.  It's important to be nice every day.  It's never OK not to be nice, or at the very least, respectful, to another human being.  You don't have to like everyone, but you don't have to be mean either. Why waste the effort of being mean to someone you don't like.  Just don't interact with them. This is hard for students some times (especially in middle school). But I remind them often and praise them for their kindness and hope that this rule is one that they follow in school and in life.

Fact: I am awesome. At the beginning of every year I tell this fact to my students.  I am awesome.  They laugh and I tell them with much seriousness that they can laugh but it's true.  The way I see it, the most important person to think I'm awesome is me.  I want my students to see how important it is to accept, like and even love yourself.  And if you think you're less than awesome: (1) you're wrong and (2) do what you have to do to find your awesome.

So, in summary....no glitter, just be nice and I (and you) are awesome.  Rules to live by.

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