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Beyond Rules: Relying on Roles, Routines, Rights and Responsibilities to Create Culture

In my continuing efforts to create the culture of possibility that I desire for my kids and myself, I have decided to reframe my policies and procedures into roles, routines, rights, and responsibilities. The intent is not all that different from the old frame, but I believe the new frame better fits this current leg of my journey. As always, if you find some value in what you see here, please feel free to use and/or adapt. If you want access to original doc, please DM me on Twitter @MonteSyrie.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

Roles, Routines, Rights, and Responsibilities

Welcome to your language arts learning journey. I will be your guide as we make our way along our 180-day path this year. But, before we get started, there are some things we need to discuss that will hopefully help you have a successful journey in room 211 this year.


Here are the various roles that I will need you to play over the course of the year. Sometimes, our day’s path will require you play one specific role; most times, our path will require that you play many simultaneously. Either way, I promise I will not ask you to stretch yourself beyond your limits. You got this.

  • Role #1: Yourself. This is your most important role. I need you to be who you are. I realize that the setting in which we find ourselves sometimes impacts our ability to be ourselves, but my hope is that the classroom community and culture we create during our time together will give each of us the comfort and confidence to be who we are. This is the role that matters most to me as I join you in your journey this year. I am excited to know YOU.
  • Role #2: Valued Community Member. This is your second most important role. At present, many of us are not well-acquainted, but we are in this together either way. And as we will spend a lot of time together both struggling and celebrating over the days to come, my hope is that we establish a community that is rich in relationships and in excess of empathy. We are a community.
  • Role #3: Reader. This will be one of your worker roles. Lots to read as we explore various texts along numerous paths, discovering the power in others’ words. I need you to be a reader. I need you to believe you are a reader. We are readers.
  • Role #4: Writer. This is also a worker role. My hope is that you write more this year than you have in all your other years combined. I believe this is perhaps one of the most important skills you can develop for life now and later. I need you to be a writer. I want you to believe you are a writer. We are writers.
  • Role #5: Mistake Maker. Another worker role. By now, you know there are no penalties for mistakes in room 211. In fact, mistakes are enthusiastically encouraged as they are launching points into learning. Mistakes lead to learning. We will travel down many mistake paths this year, which means we’ll find lots of learning. We are mistake makers.
  • Role #6: Reflector. Last role but no less an important one. By now you also know that I will expect you to add to your learning story each day in your Journey Journal. Each day we will end our time together, reflecting on and sharing from our day’s experiences. Reflection is such an important part of learning. I really need you to become reflectors.


Our trail stretches far into the distance, and while many unkowns lie in wait, here are some things that you can come to expect on a regular basis: our daily and weekly routines. It will take some time for these to become routine, but my hope is that these common expectations will help us move along the trail with some certainty and efficiency.

  • Every day we will begin with Smiles and Frowns. This is our community check in, where you will have the opportunity to share what is going in your life in the frame of a smile and/or frown. All will be encouraged to share, but no one will be forced to share. If you choose not to share, you may simply say, “pass” when it comes to you. (5 min.)
  • Every day we will begin our work with Mindset Mantras (see handout). I know for some of you this will be kinda corny, but I believe that if we hear it, we say it, we will believe it. Above all, I want you to believe it. Mantras will be a regular part of our journey. (30 sec.)
  • Every day we will take a Brain Break halfway through the period. This is a time for you to stretch, talk, walk, and check your phones. (3 min.)
  • Every day we will end our work with our Journey Journals (see handout). As mentioned above in the Reflector Role, we will reflect upon and share from our experience each day. (5-7 min.)
  • Monday is a We Are Writers day (WAW). As the name suggests, we will be writing every Monday, working on either the assigned writing or our Passion Paper.
  • Tuesday is also a We Are Writers day (WAW).
  • Wednesday is a We Are Grammarians day (WAG). Here we will work primarily with syntax and other “needs” that we discover from your writing.
  • Thursday is a We Are Readers day (WAR). Each week on Monday you will either receive a Life is Lit passage or an Article of the Week. It will alternate each week. Along with the text you will be given practice. The reading and practice are due on Thursday, when we will discuss both.
  • Friday is a We Are Learners day (WAL). Friday is an extended reflection day in our Journey Journals. It will also be devoted to your personal reading.
  • Every two weeks on Friday, you will complete a Learning Log (see handout). This time will be devoted to your officially recording your progress with growth and proficiency. This will also be a time for portfolio updates and upkeep.
  • On Mondays and Tuesdays during our WAW time, we will conduct scheduled writing conferences (see handouts).
  • Every day your cue to leave will be my message, not the bell. I will dismiss you each day with something along the lines of, “Thank you for letting me learn with you today. Have a great day.” After you hear this, you are free to go.


As a member of this community, you have the following rights.

  • I have the right to feel safe.
  • I have the right to learn.
  • I have the right to ask as many questions as I want.
  • I have the right to make mistakes and not fear penalty.
  • I have the right to “prove” my learning in various ways.
  • I have the right to feedback as an essential part of my learning.
  • I have the right to access Syrie for help whenever possible.
  • I have the right to eat and drink in class.
  • I have the right to express that my rights are not being granted or protected.


Beyond your rights and roles and the routines of the room, you will also have responsibilities as a member of our learning community.

  • I have a responsibility to get to class on time. If I am late, I will not disrupt the class. I will quietly apologize and sit down. I understand that if my being late becomes a habit, Syrie and I will have to find a solution.
  • I have a responsibility to know and honor the routines of this class.
  • I have a responsibility of monitoring my behavior so I do not disrupt the learning of my community members.
  • I have a responsibility to self-regulate my use of electronic devices in this room. I will keep my device stored out of sight until the Brain Break or when I have been given permission to use it as a tool. I understand that if I cannot self-regulate, Syrie will ask me to keep my device on his desk during class. I may have it back during Brain Break. I will also have future opportunities to prove I can self-regulate.
  • I have a responsibility to be a great listener. This means, I will not talk while others are talking; I will visually track/connect with the speaker; and I will use gestures to demonstrate that I am listening.
  • I have a responsibility to self-regulate my leaving the room. I may go to the bathroom when I need to, but I need to work at keeping my leaving to a minimum.
  • I have a responsibility to take ownership for my learning. It is my learning.
  • I have a responsibility to be sensitive to and respectful of others’ viewpoints. In short, I have a responsibility to be kind.
  • I have a responsibility to clean my space before I leave for the day.

Interventions for when I do not meet the obligations of my responsibilities.

  1. Reminder(s)
  2. Conversation(s)
  3. Parent Contact
  4. Office Referral (It is unlikely that I will ever get to this point.)

2 Replies to “Beyond Rules: Relying on Roles, Routines, Rights and Responsibilities to Create Culture”

    • Primarily through the use of their writing their learning stories in their Journey Journals, and giving them a voice in our daily entry task: Smiles and Frowns. And importantly, my giving them ownership of their learning. I hope, anyway.

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