Consistency Counts

One of my colleagues is working on a master of education (M. Ed) degree and told me that this week’s assignment was about the implementation and enforcement of school policies. Whether it is students, parents or teachers, the researchers in the assignment say that the most popular complaint comes from policies that are not consistent in their application. The assignment asked, “Is it better if every situation is black or white?” As a school, we strive to be as close to “black and white” as is practical.

If we are talking about our “rule of 10” (10 minutes times the grade of the student) for homework, then every Grade 2 student should be getting 20 minutes of homework every Monday to Thursday night. Does that formula work every night? No, that wouldn’t be practical, but the students know they need to set aside that time, the parents know that there won’t be an hour one night and nothing the next night and the teachers know that their principal is checking for consistency within that grade level as well.

Once they hit the intermediate grades, students get more tangible lessons from this consistency. If the student requires assistance and goes to extra help at one of the regular, posted times, their comprehension of the subject will no doubt improve. If they forget their gym clothes, their participation in gym class will be limited. If they don’t complete their homework, the teacher has a specific consequence that is applied.

In high school, the rules become even more important. If an assignment is 2 days late, the student handbook (in black and white, ironically) states the consequence. Being late for class means a detention the following day. This is, of course, also the age where students like to “debate” the rules and we have learned over the years from our alumni that they appreciated (albeit later in life) that we showed them this consistency during high school. As one alumnus (now a successful restauranteur) told me, “my employees can be late with or without a reason three times; after that, they are not my employees”.

Of course, all decisions are not black and white. If a situation develops that does not fit the usual guidelines as posted in the student handbook, we can allow for shades of grey. It is just easier when there is a starting point from which the grey can be shaded.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

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