Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rules are rules, right?

I have written here several times about rules and the importance of establishing them and using positive language.. etc. In my classroom, the "wewillbes" are always the same throughout the year, regardless of if the students are in the classroom, traveling in the hallways, or playing outside at recess. I struggle with the lack of consistency between teachers and administrators in my building. For example, my first rule is "we will be safe", some people value punctuality more and actually encourage their students to run in the hallway. Consequences for breaking rules also vary from teacher to teacher and depend on several other factors, including the day of the week and the mood of the administrators. While I think some consistency would go along way towards improving the students' performance and our overall sense of community within our school, I cannot directly change other people's behavior and actions.

In celebration of spring break week, I took a small trip to Washington DC for a few days of fun, relaxation, and city exploration. Traveling to the Washington area from my city, I had put a plastic tub of play dough in my backpack. Something seemingly harmless, something to keep my hands busy and calm any airplane related nervousness. I went through security at my home airport without a problem. Leaving DC, I encountered a few problems with security. Apparently they have a thing against play dough. But, it is not a liquid, gel or aerosol. Apparently, it is a substance they have neither specifically approved nor disapproved. Thanks to Shelly for this post. So when the Xray technician was examining the contents of my bag, she called the supervisor over and they loudly discussed the possibility of me carrying play dough.

When they pulled the bag out of the machine, I claimed my bag and said that yes I did have play dough. The supervisor told me that it was not allowed. I calmly explained that I had traveled with it through another airport without any problems. He shrugged his shoulders and asked why I had it. None of his business was my first thought, but I tried to explain that it was to help with anxiety. He dug through my bag, found a stress ball and told me that was good for anxiety, gave it a couple of squeezes, stared intently into my eyes and tossed the ball back into the bag while putting the play dough in this secure container.

I did not mean to cause a ruckus or delay the people behind me. And if I had known that play dough was a problem, I wouldn't have bothered to bring it. But some of the kind security workers enforce the rules differently, creating confusion. It just reminds me that even when school resumes next week and the school year begins to wind down that I still need to be consistent with my students. Oh yes and apparently, play dough is not always allowed on the airplane.


  1. I just had a huge conversation about inconsistency in classroom expectations. Some of the students I see during the day come from the most lax environment I have ever seen. When I try to enforce rules in my classroom, they look at me like I'm crazy. The best school environment I've ever worked in had a school-wide policy for handling behavior so that every student understood the expectations of every adult and all of the teachers were using the same language to communicate their expectations.

  2. this reminds me of another teacher who favored his own time more than teaching. as a result a whole class of high schoolers spent a year playing video games. i say in addition to consistent expectations of student behavior we need consistent teacher behavior and expectations