I just finished watching the movie "The Ron Clark Story," and I loved it! One of my students was kind enough to lend me the DVD for the weekend. It is a great teacher movie.
If you haven't heard of Ron Clark, he is the author of "The Essential 55." I have had this book for a while now, but could never find the time to read it. Finally, I decided to borrow the audio book from the library, so that I could listen to it on the way to and from work. One of the best ideas I've had. =) If you have never read his book (or heard it), you should go get it. For lack of a better word, the Essential 55 are "manners" for the classroom, but if you are a parent, they work there, too.
I started using some of his rules in the classroom and came up with some of my own. My students absolutely love them! The rules are manners like "Always use sir or ma'am when talking to an adult," or "Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze or burp," or "Walk in a straight line," or "All rules apply when there is a guest teacher (substitute) in the classroom." I've had the kids do these things in the past, and would remind them of these rules whenever I needed to, but it was never a focus.
Make it a focus. When you stop and take the time to focus on these things in particular (ie., catch them being good), write them down and post them on the wall, have the kids practice...it really changes the importance of these "small" acts of kindness. These are things most kids might hear at home, but when their teacher is saying them, too, it changes things. The kids really begin to focus on doing all of these things and go out of their way to be "caught." The classroom atmosphere is better, there is more respect, they try harder with their behavior and their academics because everyone is feeling good!
One thing to keep in mind, though. You can't just go and write 55 rules on a piece of paper, go over them with the class, and expect things to change. You have to "BE" the rules, they apply to the adult as well. "Rule #55: Be the best person you can be!"
"The Essential 55" is a keeper. "Rule #54: Carpe Diem!"