A big strength of the two rules system is that each conversation is framed in a way that shows students how the rules benefit them. Instead of focusing on blame, condemnation, and punishment, my conversations with students facing problems showed them how their choices had the power to influence the outcomes they experienced. These conversations showed students how in each moment they had the power to make a choice that would help them or make life more difficult for them. Make no mistake; this is not a system about coddling students and excusing their behavior. I always held students to the highest standards of behavior and expected them to meet them. But when a student didn’t or couldn’t meet those standards, it was important for them to understand why and it was important for me to provide resources and support to help them get to the point where they could.
The two rules conversations you will find in my upcoming book, show students in the process of acquiring cognitive and social skills they would need in adulthood. The earlier young people can acquire these skills, the better. A two rules framework that complements a disciplinary system creates an environment for learning life skills as well as academic skills. When students develop the ability to see beyond themselves and empathize with how their actions affect others, they become capable of making choices that benefit not only themselves but also their peers. It's crucial for students to acquire both self-regulation skills and an understanding of how to support and contribute to their learning community.
How are you helping with conversations within your building? Talking with others is the best way to begin to build trusting relationships. Children need to have conversations, see, hear, and watch others having conversations in order to feel safe talking. Have a conversation today, another one tomorrow, and keep having them!
Many people fear if we talk about some things, it plants seeds in the minds of children. However, if we never talk about them, others are telling them things that may not be true.
Pose questions, provide ways for students to feel safe in talking, and continue to build on working to have everyone feeling good and safe to talk. Never give up and one day, they will talk.