Why The Golden Rule?
One of the biggest mistakes I made as an early teacher was trying to establish a class full of rules—thinking that was all I needed. I quickly learned, “Rules without relationship always leads to rebellion.”
No matter how well crafted your class rules are, some clever student will find a loophole and way to break them. Or you will find that students follow your rules–but only when you are watching them!
Since those early days, I have fallen in love with a relationship-centered approach like the one taught by Jim Fay: Teaching with Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom
This is not one of those paid endorsements, but I would sign up to be a spokesperson for them in a skinny minute!
Since studying the Love and Logic approach to classroom management, I have built my classroom atmosphere on one main rule: The Golden Rule.
The Empathy Effect
The Golden Rule stems from Biblical teaching, which causes it to be controversial for use in the classroom. That is especially the case for teachers in public school.
However, in each grade level and school setting I have taught (read my bio here) The Golden Rule has served me well in helping to establish a classroom culture of ‘others-centeredness.’
When students are taught to stop and ask themselves, “How would I want to be treated if this were me?,” the results are powerful!
My students and I spend a lot of time during those first days of school (Hello Harry Wong!) establishing a community where students are challenged to think about how they would like to be treated.
This teaches my students to practice empathy and understanding for each other, which carries throughout the full school year. It even pushes students to act differently outside the classroom and school setting.
The Golden Rule Set
I created a Golden Rule Task Card set that helps my students and me be intentional about using this principle in our class.
The questions and ideas reflected in the set aren’t just for the beginning of the school year. We consistently refer back to them throughout the school term to measure our actions against this standard.
Here are ways we achieve our goal of using The Golden Rule:
The Golden Jar
I found this simple jar with golden stripes in the Target Dollar Spot.
It has been transformed into our Golden Jar of scenarios. For various ‘brain breaks’ throughout the week, students pull a topic out of the jar to read or act out. These discussion topics (which you can get for free here) demonstrate ways we can practice The Golden Rule in our class.
You can take this a step further by having students think of ways to implement The Golden Rule outside of class also. Or ask students to come up with their own Golden Rule situations to introduce.
Task Cards for Centers or Classwork
Task cards create so many opportunities for learning in any class setting. This includes character education. Students reflect and write on sticky notes that can be affixed to these task cards. These reflections build Golden Rule thinking habits.
We begin each day with 20 minutes of reflection, organization, and prep for the day. Many schools call this time their Morning Meeting or Homeroom time.
Regardless of what you call it, the first thing in the morning can be a great time to review and reflect on principles of empathy and others-centeredness.
My students write in their morning response journals or participate in a Golden Rule scenario from our golden jar. This gives them the chance to refocus on our class culture and environment.
Living a Golden Life
Teachers do so much more than just prepare students for a big test at the end of the year. We prepare students for life.
Each developmental stage presents an opportunity to live a golden life. A life to show kindness and sympathy for others. This is worth any extra minute we use in our classrooms to prepare students well.
If you are interested in more character building activities to implement in your class, check out my Pinterest board below on ideas that other awesome teachers are using in their classrooms.
How are you helping your students think of others first?
Share your ideas beautiful butterflies!