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It’s Ok; I Was Just . . .

It’s ok; I was just . . .

I was sitting on an airplane right, just leaving the gate and taxiing to the runway for takeoff. The mandatory announcements had been made reminding me and my 300 closest friends to fasten our seatbelts, put our tray tables up, and turn off our phones or put them in airplane mode.

I am guessing most of my fellow passengers would describe themselves as fairly honest and law-abiding people. Yet, the nice lady seated next to me was still texting, and the man a few rows in front of me stood up to get something from his suitcase in the overhead compartment. The flight attendant told the man he needed to be seated as the plane was in motion. This response – “It’s ok, I just needed to get my book.” A different flight attendant politely reminded the lady seated next to me to put her phone in airplane mode or turn it off. Her response – “It’s ok, I am just finishing this thought, and then I will turn it off.”

Rules are rules but sometimes, well they just need to be bent a bit, right? After all, who does it hurt? It’s easy to rationalize breaking a rule. After all, turning off my cellphone in flight doesn’t even make sense with modern technology. My texting isn’t going bring down a jumbo jet. I saw a report on the Internet proving that.

“Mommy, the commercial said you aren’t supposed to text while you are driving.” “It’s ok honey, I am just checking to see if your dad is on his way home, and besides, there isn’t much traffic right now.”

Educators are guilty, also. We know it’s not legal to copy classroom sets of a story from a book, but well, it was the perfect story to emphasize that point, and besides, it’s ok, teachers probably can do that. Who will it hurt? We tell our students that due dates are important, and there are penalties for late work. If we aren’t able to return their work with feedback by the originally promised time, however, well, it’s ok. “There were extenuating circumstances. They need to understand I have a life too, you know.” If the rule in the computer lab is no food or beverages in the room, why is it ok for the teacher to have a cup of coffee on his desk? If the rule is no cellphones in class, why is it ok for the teacher or principal to have one visible and in use?

Teachers and parents are the primary role models for young students. Those little eyes and ears are watching and listening constantly ­– not only watching and listening but also learning. When your little boy says you shouldn’t be texting while driving your response should be, “Thank you for reminding me of the rule. I forgot it for a minute(and put the phone away).

Classroom rules were established for a reason. Rules are only rules when they are enforced and followed consistently by everyone. When we allow a rule to be sometimes broken, we no longer have a rule. When we allow a rule to be broken by some people and no by other people, we no longer have a fair rule. Rules need to be applied consistently. Rules should frequently be reviewed to determine their relevance. The “no cellphones” rule is an example. Quite a few of the schools I have worked with still have that rule on the books, but everyone acknowledges that most students have their phones in the pockets or backpacks. That is a rule that needs to be reviewed and modified.

If you catch yourself saying or thinking, “It’s ok, I was just . . . I hope you stop and think about what you are unintentionally teaching those around you. What you are really saying it, “It’s ok, and that rule doesn’t really apply to me. I can handle it. That rule is for other people. Honestly, I am above the rules.” If you want and expect those around you to follow the rules, you have to lead the parade and follow the rules yourself.

Howard Pitler, Ed.D. is an author of Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd ed., Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, and A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd ed. He has worked with teachers and administrators internationally for over a decade to improve outcomes for kids. He was named a National Distinguished Principal be NAESP and is an Apple Distinguished Educator. He can be reached at hpitler@gmail.com, on Twitter at @hpitler, or on his website, www.hpitler.com.

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