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Practical Application

9 December, 2015 - 12:14
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Whether it is cooperative learning, the freedom to go to the library, open campus, or whatever, teaching students to find the balance between freedoms and limits will greatly assist you in having the type of school climate you desire. The first step is to define and agree (with the students and teachers) what that school culture and climate currently is. It will help if you literally list the freedoms and list the limits that you now have. You will probably see a much longer list of limits than freedoms. As you recall from the task on setting high expectations, rules and limits are usually very low expectations. So, if your list is mostly limits, you will need to raise the expectations and seek more of a balance between the two.

Your perspective and teaching that privileges and positive student expectations are freedoms help the students begin to view these as freedoms. With this view, the students are much more likely to respect any limits in order to gain or continue to have their freedoms. They will now know and remember that all freedoms come with limits and it is their responsibility to respect both.

Your students, your vision for the school you desire, mandatory rules and regulations, and many other factors will influence your decision whether significant changes are needed. Often, simply rewording student expectations from negative limits to positive freedoms can greatly assist in having more of a balance. Students accept expectations like "Students are expected to help others in their learning, but complete tests individually." They have little respect for "No Cheating."

So, whether you make major changes, e.g., an open campus at lunch, hall passes not required, students choosing their groups or assignments, or minor changes, the task is to know, understand, model, teach, and find the balance of freedoms and limits. Most successful principals and teachers with this task implement changes in small steps. As the students accept initial freedoms and behave appropriately, they are ready to accept greater freedoms. As the adults see improved responsible behavior from smaller freedoms, they will likewise be more acceptable to allowing greater freedoms. This task often surprises principals and teachers at how much better their students behave with their new earned freedoms.