In my earlier days of classroom management, I created a plane-flight analogy for my high school students on the first day of school.
You have just entered American Literature Airlines, piloted by Cheri Sabraw. Please find your seats soon because once the door is closed, you will be off on a fast-paced flight. Oh, and by the way, there will be no eating on this flight, no headsets, no gum, no magazines, no going to the bathroom, no arguing belligerently with the flight crew, which is made up of one person—me.
Kids enjoyed this creative way of delivering the First Day of School Rules.
I had to relinquish that sweet little analogy when airline travel changed from the upscale, classy, and exciting method of transportation it once was.
People now fly in dirty sweat pants, show no concern that their iPod music is being broadcast throughout the first 5 rows, push their seats back so quickly that your tray table leaves a crease in your gut, stand above you with smelly armpits and try to shoehorn their big piece of luggage into the overhead mini-bin (all while squishing your coat and God Forbid, you new spring hat), leave their garbage under the seat or in your magazine flap, and sloppily talk on their phones while boarding because they are sure we are dying to know about their colonoscopy.
Airlines-kaput! I needed a new way of delivering the rules. The Line of Good Taste emerged.
Any of my 4000+ students will remember this line, drawn so dramatically on the first day of school in Room N-9. Like the drum major in the University of California Marching Band, I marched up to the front with a thick piece of beige chalk in my hand. Leaning back, arching back, I then flung my arm down to that tacky linoleum floor and drew a thin line, about 7 feet long. This, I announced, is The Line of Good Taste. Don’t cross it.
How do we cross it? What will happen if we do?
You will cross The Line of Good Taste if you do any of the following:
1. Use crass language. Crass language includes not only the known swear words, but also those words that we ALL know are just boring ways to express anger or disgust. Remember, this classroom is the Holy Haven of our Spoken Language.
2. Are rude to anyone in the class. I defined rude behaviors as eye rolling, interrupting, snickering, muttering, and yawning with a big wide-open mouth.
3. Eat in class. Eating in class shows the teacher that what she has to say isn’t as important, as say, predicate nominatives or dangling modifiers, Jay Gatsby or Nick Carraway, plot or theme.
4. Dress inappropriately for an academic discussion. Literary analysis is serious business, especially to English majors. Girls with bellies flopping over and out of tightly buttoned jeans, body parts cascading out of halter tops, and rear ends emerging from low-slung pants are distractions.
Students seemed to appreciate this line. They would ask me if they were getting close to falling over this line. Were they dancing on this line? They also began to consider the words Good Taste, recognizing that in the world of their homes and classroom, having standards would help them lead an examined life, a life faced with one choice after another. Choosing to listen instead of to interrupt, to dress with some modesty instead of to flaunt for attention, to respect and tolerate instead of to condemn and gossip—such consideration began to emerge after a year wrestling with The Line of Good Taste.
As teachers and parents, you can draw your own Lines of Good Taste. And, it is never too late to do this. There is one hitch: you must live and work by the constraints of your own design.
Our kids and students want order and structure. What they don’t want is a new friend.
And of course, as the years pass by, your kids (or students in my case) will become some of your best friends.