It is now nearly too late in the year to make any sure modifications to classroom decorum. The bad habits which have settled in are almost certainly settled till Summer, and you have now only your plans for improving next year. Now is the time for New (School) Year’s Resolutions. Now is the time for sighing and, “Well, next year I’m going to get a handle on…” As you modify your expectations, your house rules, your personal codes which sit on top of institutional demands, a few points to ponder. Excerpts from the decorum guide I pass out to students at the beginning of the year:
1. If you are tired when you come to class, there is no need for you to announce this to your peers. If you have stayed up late studying, do not boast of how hard you have worked. Do not demand sympathy from others, or from your teachers, just because you are tired. Your friends are tired, too, as are your teachers, many of whom have children to care for. Loudly announcing that you are tired as you come into class is often a way of suggesting to the teacher, “Don’t bother me today,” and a way of suggesting to your peers, “You will have to carry the conversation today.”As Christ instructs those who fast, if you are tired when it is time for class, splash a little water on your face and put on a cheerful expression “so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting (from sleep), but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
2. A school is a place for learning. A book is a thing for learning. A student is a person for learning. Additionally, there are attitudes for learning and postures for learning. While in class, sit up straight and keep your feet on the floor. Do not put your head on the table or prop your feet up on the chairs. Treat your body as the outward, physical manifestation of your soul. If you conduct your body with dignity and respect, your soul will likely follow soon enough.
3. If you cannot remember what you read for homework just two nights ago, you have not done your homework. You should be able to answer simple questions about what you’ve read. If you are asked about an assigned text, the reply, “I read it really late last night and I don’t remember it” is not an acceptable excuse. It is an indication you have not done your work. Read slowly and patiently so that you are able to discuss assigned reading in class whenever the time comes.
4. The humanities are not graded the way math and science are graded. For example, if you take a math examination composed of ten problems and you answer seven correctly, you would expect a 70%. However, if you are assigned a 1000 word essay and only write 700 words, you should not expect a 70%. You have failed to complete the minimum requirements and may receive a 0% grade; you may or may not be invited to resubmit the paper. Think of it like this, though. If you went to a restaurant and ordered a 10 oz steak which cost $10, and then received a 2 oz steak, you would send it back. You would not pay $2, eat it and leave.
5. Likewise, if you write a 1000 word essay which is uniformly terrible (endlessly redundant information, not proofread, few citations, etc), you may receive a 0%. If a 1000 word essay is assigned, not just any 1000 word essay which is submitted will warrant a passing grade. It is even possible for an essay which receives a 0% to have some merit. Think of like it like this, if you went to a restaurant and ordered a 10 oz medium rare steak and then received a raw 10 oz steak, you would send it back. In sending the raw steak back, you would not be indicating the meat had no value, but simply that it was unacceptable in its present condition.
6. If you are assigned reading for homework and do not do that reading, you need to inform your teacher of that fact before class begins.
7. Speak of this school with respect. If you have a grievance with any decision made by a teacher, the staff or the board, those grievances should be addressed privately to a teacher or to the principal, who will be glad to sit down with you and hear out your complaint. Speaking critically of the school to your peers, especially on school grounds, is inappropriate and disrespectful. This means that all complaints about the dress code, assemblies, homework load, grades, teachers and so forth must be directed to a teacher or the administration. Ours is a God who takes complaints seriously, but you must direct your complaints to someone who can do something about them. Your peers can do nothing about the dress code. The principal can, though.