Example #17 Rules and Community

What if a lesson on class rules were about growing together?

Ali wanted to establish the character of the class for her 9-11-year-olds right at the beginning of the new school year. She decided to create a different lesson and join in all the activities herself.

"I began this process by sitting in a circle with the pupils. In the centre I placed large sheets of paper for recording our responses. I posed the following questions:
  • What would we like our class to be like? Why?
  • What don’t we want? Why?
  • Can we create a classroom where everyone can flourish and learn?
"We read the responses and discussed them to create a shared vision. To make this more concrete, we used role-play to explore the various behaviours and attitudes that make the class a place where they can grow and serve each other. Rather than starting by drafting rules we discussed the following question: ‘What sort of people would we have to be to create this type of class?’ The pupils added virtues to an outline of a person as a response to this. (They were familiar with Christian virtues and values from previous work.) For each virtue they explored the following:
  • What thinking, feeling and doing is involved?
  • How can we help each other grow like this?
"We decided what this would look like in classroom practices for both teacher and pupils. For example: "If we want a place of respect, a practice might be 'if one person is speaking the others put their hands down and listen until that person has finished'". This involves self-control. Finally, the class decided if any rules result from this process."

What’s going on here?

Ali saw that what was needed was a classroom culture, not just rules. It is about the people we become. She wanted to move from rules to vision and virtues and invited students to take responsibility together for shared ethos and their exercise of self-control.

She engaged students directly in negotiating the vision for the class, having them experience the implications of the ideas discussed through role-play and focusing their attention on virtues and how they related to one another.

She reshaped her practice by addressing the layout of the room, the specific questions to be asked, and ways of guiding the interaction of the students (arranging them in a circle).

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

The Bible holds up Jesus as the example of what a human being could be and urges people to develop a character like his (Philippians 2:5) as the basis for living together well. For Christians, the character of Jesus determines the direction of growth in virtue. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are another defining factor. These are: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Finally, the Christian hope for the future is about a new earth where there is justice, peace, love and joy and where people serve each other. The Christian lifestyle is about beginning to live the future now and practising an alternative way of living, characterised by faith, hope and love.

What difference does it make?

So often we start a year with a class set of rules, for which there may or may not be ownership. In contrast, Ali emphasised the students becoming the people they could be. She also saw this as a communal process and not just individuals growing. In a faith school context this was explicitly informed by Christian teaching.

Where could we go from here?

This could lead into journaling, mentoring, possibly using a buddy system where pupils of the same age support each other. This approach could lead to further work on personal development and faith formation, as appropriate. Some of the virtues explored as part of this process can be developed across the curriculum and through work units on living in community. The task of considering how to intentionally shape the character of a class at the beginning of the school year is applicable to all classrooms.

Digging deeper

The Christian life draws from a vision of the people we could be rather than from rules; it is about the people we become, inspired and enabled by Jesus (1 John 2:6). It is also about all that our world could be, inspired by the vision of the new heaven and earth where God’s peace and justice reign (Revelation 21:4). Our vision of the future can be traced in the way we live now.
Truth lies in character. Christ did not simply speak the truth; he was truth; truth, through and through; for truth is a thing not of words, but of life and being. Frederick W. Robertson
Rules have their place; they are like the fence around a playground, they mark the boundaries; but God wants us to play on the swings not hang around the fence. Rules alone will not make people act ethically. Rules may curb bad behaviour but faith is about so much more than that. Just keeping the rules will not make a person a good football player. Similarly, just keeping the rules does not make a person a good Christian. Character (or virtue) is about numberless small choices made with God’s help. Those choices bring about change until they are automatic – part of our character. It is learning new habits of life.

Explore similar examples:

What if language practice helped students think about community?
What if a discussion of rules was about life as a playground?
What if design and technology were about serving communities?
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1Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. 9Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. 10So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 11And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, Jesus Christ is Lord! Lights in the world 12My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Then on the day when Christ returns, I can take pride in you. I can also know that my work and efforts were not useless. 17Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you. 18In the same way, you should be glad and rejoice with me. Timothy and Epaphroditus 19I want to be encouraged by news about you. So I hope the Lord Jesus will soon let me send Timothy to you. 20I don't have anyone else who cares about you as much as he does. 21The others think only about what interests them and not about what concerns Christ Jesus. 22But you know what kind of person Timothy is. He has worked with me like a son in spreading the good news. 23I hope to send him to you, as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me. 24And I feel sure that the Lord will also let me come soon. 25I think I ought to send my dear friend Epaphroditus back to you. He is a follower and a worker and a soldier of the Lord, just as I am. You sent him to look after me, 26but now he is eager to see you. He is worried, because you heard he was sick. 27In fact, he was very sick and almost died. But God was kind to him, and also to me, and he kept me from being burdened down with sorrow. 28Now I am more eager than ever to send Epaphroditus back again. You will be glad to see him, and I won't have to worry any longer. 29Be sure to give him a cheerful welcome, just as people who serve the Lord deserve. 30He almost died working for Christ, and he risked his own life to do for me what you could not.
1My children, I am writing this so that you won't sin. But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. 2Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. 3When we obey God, we are sure that we know him. 4But if we claim to know him and don't obey him, we are lying and the truth isn't in our hearts. 5We truly love God only when we obey him as we should, and then we know that we belong to him. 6If we say we are his, we must follow the example of Christ. 7My dear friends, I am not writing to give you a new commandment. It is the same one that you were first given, and it is the message you heard. 8But it really is a new commandment, and you know its true meaning, just as Christ does. You can see the darkness fading away and the true light already shining. 9If we claim to be in the light and hate someone, we are still in the dark. 10But if we love others, we are in the light, and we don't cause problems for them. 11If we hate others, we are living and walking in the dark. We don't know where we are going, because we can't see in the dark. 12Children, I am writing to you, because your sins have been forgiven in the name of Christ. 13Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you have defeated the evil one. 14Children, I am writing to you, because you have known the Father. Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you are strong. God's message is firm in your hearts, and you have defeated the evil one. 15Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. 16Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. 17The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live for ever. The enemy of Christ 18Children, this is the last hour. You heard that the enemy of Christ would appear at this time, and many of Christ's enemies have already appeared. So we know that the last hour is here. 19These people came from our own group, yet they were not part of us. If they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. But they left, which proves that they did not belong to our group. 20Christ, the Holy One, has blessed you, and now all of you understand. 21I did not need to write to you about the truth, since you already know it. You also know that liars do not belong to the truth. 22And a liar is anyone who says that Jesus isn't truly Christ. Anyone who says this is an enemy of Christ and rejects both the Father and the Son. 23If we reject the Son, we reject the Father. But if we say that we accept the Son, we have the Father. 24Keep thinking about the message you first heard, and you will always be one in your heart with the Son and with the Father. 25The Son has promised us eternal life. 26I am writing to warn you about those people who are misleading you. 27But Christ has blessed you with the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit stays in you, and you don't need any teachers. The Spirit is truthful and teaches you everything. So stay united in your heart with Christ, just as the Spirit has taught you to do. Children of God 28Children, stay united in your hearts with Christ. Then when he returns, we will have confidence and won't have to hide in shame. 29You know that Christ always does right and that everyone who does right is a child of God.
1I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea. 2Then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city, coming down from God in heaven. It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and ready to meet her husband. 3I heard a loud voice shout from the throne: God's home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. 4He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone for ever. 5Then the one sitting on the throne said: I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. 6Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty. 7All who win the victory will be given these blessings. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 8But I will tell you what will happen to cowards and to everyone who is unfaithful or dirty-minded or who murders or is sexually immoral or uses witchcraft or worships idols or tells lies. They will be thrown into that lake of fire and burning sulphur. This is the second death. 9I saw one of the seven angels who had the bowls filled with the seven last terrible troubles. The angel came to me and said, Come on! I will show you the one who will be the bride and wife of the Lamb. 10Then with the help of the Spirit, he took me to the top of a very high mountain. There he showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down from God in heaven. 11The glory of God made the city bright. It was dazzling and crystal clear like a precious jasper stone. 12The city had a high and thick wall with twelve gates, and each one of them was guarded by an angel. On each of the gates was written the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13Three of these gates were on the east, three were on the north, three more were on the south, and the other three were on the west. 14The city was built on twelve foundation stones. On each of the stones was written the name of one of the Lamb's twelve apostles. 15The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring stick to measure the city and its gates and its walls. 16The city was shaped like a cube, because it was just as high as it was wide. When the angel measured the city, it was about two thousand four hundred kilometres high and two thousand four hundred kilometres wide. 17Then the angel measured the wall, and by our measurements it was about sixty metres high. 18The wall was built of jasper, and the city was made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 19Each of the twelve foundations was a precious stone. The first was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was agate, the fourth was emerald, 20the fifth was onyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, the eighth was beryl, the ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst. 21Each of the twelve gates was a solid pearl. The streets of the city were made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 22I did not see a temple there. The Lord God All-Powerful and the Lamb were its temple. 23And the city did not need the sun or the moon. The glory of God was shining on it, and the Lamb was its light. 24Nations will walk by the light of that city, and kings will bring their riches there. 25Its gates are always open during the day, and night never comes. 26The glorious treasures of nations will be brought into the city. 27But nothing unworthy will be allowed to enter. No one who is dirty-minded or who tells lies will be there. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be in the city.