Monday, November 30, 2009

Now that is a very long list of rules.

I picked up this book from my local library after my Rafe Esquith kick, because I had a suspicion that this is the guy Esquith upbraided for leaving his classroom for a book tour and a motivational speaker tour.

Turns out that hunch was right--this is the teacher. While I certainly don't agree with all Esquith's personal opinions on his fellow educators, I have to agree with him here.

The word that comes to mind: manipulative. In this list of 55 classroom rules, many interesting stories arise, and many are good ideas. But an equal number made me cringe for their deception, manipulation, and showboating.

For example, he tells a story about calling a student's parent and "lying through his teeth." He tells the parent that the kid is terrific, both behaving and performing well in school, in order to have a positive first contact with the parent. But the opposite is true. Then, after three days, he calls back and tells what's really going on, and this time the parent is on his side and disciplines the child. Starting out positively with a parent sounds like a great idea to me, but with lying? There's got to be a better way.

In another story, he tells us about his "famous Dorito rule." No student is ever allowed Doritos, ever. He relates how a student brought Doritos and noisily began to munch them, just so she could see Clark's theatrical confiscation. He is proud of this. It made me wonder what could have been accomplished in the time all this showboating took.

One more: Due to his great ideas and the huge scale of his projects, several years ago Clark was short-listed for the Disney Teacher of the Year award. He lands an anonymous donation to take the whole class with him to the award ceremony. But he doesn't tell them that. Instead, he gathers the students and their parents in the library for a big show of drawing three lucky students' names from a bowl. Just as he's about the draw them...he announces they're all going! Hurray! I felt bad enough for the children who were strung along like this, but to manipulate parents like that? Fellow adults who are your partners in the children's education? I would have been steamed if I were one of those parents, just so Clark could have his big Santa Claus moment.

To summarize: he's obviously got energy and ideas to spare, and I appreciate his enthusiasm. (55 class rules! Some of them are about how to clap or where to place your napkin at a restaurant!) But I am not drawn to this particular teacher's style.


  1. Ugh! He sounds awfully gimmicky and in it for attention. Thanks for the warning. =)

  2. That sounds pretty awful. I like to avoid he word "rule" if at all possible. Its negative. How about less no and more yes?

  3. I couldn't agree more, Allie. Not only does it create a better environment to focus on the positive, but on a meta-cognitive level, it makes more sense to think about what we're doing rather than what we're not doing. Thanks for commenting!