Students from the Kindergarten class

Rules for Grown-ups: A Socratic Dialogue with Pre-K Students

The other day I forgot to take my shoes off when I entered the classroom. This is against our Pre-K classroom rules and my students were quick to point out my offense. I appreciated their candour, apologized, and promptly removed my shoes. Puzzled at my response, one of my students responded, “But you don’t have rules—you’re a teacher!”

“Teachers have rules,” I replied, “Everyone has rules.”

“Yeah, but grown-ups make the rules. You can make the rules however you want.”

“Some rules can be made however grown-ups want. Not all teachers have rules about keeping shoes off in class and that’s okay.”

“Yeah, like in Mrs. Katrib’s class we keep our shoes on”

“That’s right.”

“Why do you have to follow your own rules? Can’t you change them?”

“Well, I only make rules I think are good rules. I made the rule about taking our shoes off inside because our dirty shoes make my carpet dirty. My shoes are dirty because I was walking outside in the mud with you all. All of our shoes are too dirty for inside the classroom.”

“Yeah, your shoes are really dirty. You should wash them.”

“I suppose so”

“Does God follow rules?” asked another student.

Before I could respond another student jumped in. “Well God is Jesus and Jesus is the boss of everyone so He makes all the rules. And Mrs. Cogburn has to follow Jesus because Jesus is her boss.”

One of my students looked at me through squinted eyes, “Is that true? Is Jesus really your boss?”

I laughed, “Yes, yes He is.”

“Do you always follow His rules?”

“I try to, but sometimes I don’t.”

“Do you have to go to your House Head then?” 

(our system of school discipline appears to have made an impression)

“Sort of. I go to talk to my priest.”

At this point, a large mosquito hawk invaded our room and the dialogue was cut short. The day continued on, but this exchange has continued to make me think about how to communicate to students that rules can be created for the sake of love and not the sake of power. Teachers are in the same boat as kids, we all need to follow the good rules of those who truly love us.

(For those wondering, this was a real dialogue I had with my Pre-K students. Due credit belongs to them for providing me with their thoughts and questions. As for the mosquito hawk, it was eventually shooed out of the room.)


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