Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 121

Rules are only as good as their enforcement.

Some leaders are rule makers.

Others are rule breakers.

Regardless of which camp you fall into (or if you fall into either camp), rules have one big problem.

They need to be enforced.

A rule is only as good as the enforcement that takes place after the rule was followed or broken.  If a leader were to create the following rule for his/her school (please don't do this by the way): "Mobile devices must be kept in a pocket or stowed in a locker throughout the entire school day," that tells community members that this is a rule to be followed.  The first time a student (or a staff member or parent, for that matter) take out their device, the implication is that the person will be reprimanded or at worst, have the device confiscated.

Of course, in all but the most strict environments, this doesn't happen.  Usually, one of two things takes place: enforcement is lax, with only some community members feeling the brunt of the rule, or the rule being ignored from one subset of community members and not others (i.e. a teacher can text during a break between classes, but students cannot).

Unless you're willing to make rules that apply to all and can be truly enforced, people will only see the social negatives of the rule, and not the educational reasons why the rule was made (for what it is worth, I really can't see any educational reason to prevent learners and leaders from using their devices for academic purposes. . . just sayin').

Rather than making rules that will be broken and won't be enforced, it is better to create shared goals with all your stakeholders.  Why not build a goals committee composed of teachers, leaders, students, and parents that has as its charge to come up with five to ten (no more than this) goals that all will strive towards?

If we take the device "rule" above, it could instead be written as a shared goal such as this:

"In all but the most extreme cases, we, as members of XXXX School will use our devices purely for learning opportunities, knowing that our time here is meant to maximize learning, not detract from it."

For an elementary school, maybe the goal sounds like this:

"We all promise to use our devices only when we need to get in touch with a parent or guardian, or when we are learning something where a device would help us learn even more."

These certainly aren't perfect, but if I could come up with them in two minutes, imagine what a committee of stakeholders could do!

The key difference is that these are goals to strive for; they can still be used as reflection opportunities for community members when something is done that shouldn't be (that's the real purpose of rules anyway, isn't it?).

What's great about goals is that they are benchmarks to reach for, not places of punishment.  If a student falters or a teacher doesn't hold to the goal, anyone in the community can mention the goal without fear of retribution or guilt.  That in itself makes shared goals much more powerful than rules.

As you continue to reflect on the year that is/was and start thinking of the year that will be, consider moving from rules to shared benchmarks.  Your community will thank you.

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