The Decline of Rules: Losing Control of Today’s Kids

The world is changing.  So are schools.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand why.  We are creatures of habit, and sometimes, as adults, we expect schools to be the way they once were when we went to school.  After all, we turned out ok, right?

When we went to school we walked to and from school, followed rules, memorized facts and wrote tests to show what we had learned.  In fact, the rules were so engrained in our heads that we can easily finish these commands:

  • Be ________!
  • Sit ________!
  • Don’t _____ in the halls!

Some may call these the good old days.  But today’s schools are not preparing kids for the past – they are preparing kids for the future.  Neuroscience has taught us more about how our brain learns, and practices of the past are no longer considered ‘best’ practices.

We now understand that kids need to be engaged in their learning, to move throughout the day, to find their voice and and to demonstrate their learning in authentic meaningful ways.  When we connect to what we are learning, we give it value.

The re-designed BC Curriculum outlines the Big Ideas that children need to understand, while also focusing on ‘Core Competencies’: the applicable skills that children can develop and use throughout life to succeed interpersonally and in the workforce.  The core competencies include: Personal and Social Awareness, Communication, Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking.

As schools shift to focus on the process of learning, rather than the memorization of fact, we must also look at the school rules that may also need to evolve.


For years, children were taught to be quiet in school.  The teacher had the content and delivered information.  It made sense for children to focus on listening: otherwise they would miss the lesson.  Today’s classrooms are different.  Children have information at their fingertips.  Teachers have become facilitators of learning, guiding students as they create, explore, play, wonder and think critically.  We now understand that play is important at any age as active involvement and hands on learning allows us to retain information at a much higher rate than lecture style learning.   Children learn thought Inquiry, asking great questions and learning how to navigate information and reach their learning goals.

In this video link, children eloquently explain why their voices need to be heard:


Last week, our school participated in the Global Play Day.  From K through 7, students were invited to play all day long.  Intermediate students were invited to move throughout the school to join activities including board games, lego, card games, gym games and outdoor play.  Students chose whether to play individually or as a group.  The day focused on communication, cooperation, creativity and trust: trusting students to make the decisions right for them.  For the first time in a long time, we did not have one office referral for poor behaviour.  Teachers were able to learn about their students noticing individual learning styles and interests.

We now know that a student’s ability to self-regulate is a better predictor of future success than a child’s IQ.  At Harry Hooge, our teachers start by asking children to identify what they need to be ready to learn.  The answer is different depending on the child.  Just like adults, children have different learning styles and preferences.  Some like to wear noise cancelling headphones to focus in silence.  Others prefer music in the background.  Some choose standing desks, while others choose comfy corners with softer seating.  Some choose wiggle stools to allow them to fidget as they learn and some join peers and work collaboratively at table spaces.


We now understand from neuroscience that physical activity releases dopamine to our brain and accelerates the learning process.  It’s no longer appropriate to have students sit all day.  Our school recently piloted active hallways.  Rather than asking students to line up and quietly move through the halls, students are invited to use the hallways as body-break spaces.  As students transition from one learning space to the next, they are encouraged to hop, skip, jump and move.  We know that this extra motion gives their brains an extra boost and allows them to get ready to learn.

As the BC Curriculum evolves to meet the needs of our future, it’s a good time for schools to re-examine their practices.  Why do your school rules exist? Do they meet the needs of today’s learners?  Are they grounded in science? Do they align with the re-designed curriculum?

The good old days are exactly that.  Good, but old.  We are losing control of today’s kids, and that is something to celebrate. Our kids are ready.  Ready to have a voice, ready to share control of their learning, and ready to develop the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world. Let’s make sure our School ‘Rules’ align with what works for kids.










3 thoughts on “The Decline of Rules: Losing Control of Today’s Kids

  1. Recently, I have been wondering why Felt I had to make sure we are in a straight line and not talking in a hallway. It’s certainly not how I walk in “real life”. I am chatting with my friend or significant other when walking -in the mall, in a museum, the grocery store, walking to the movie theatre, etc. I don’t expect this in the classroom so why in the hall on our way somewhere. So. I stopped. And we got where we were going. No one yelled. They simply enjoyed a conversation or made a comment about art on the wall.
    They talked to me. It was a great time to share our thoughts and feelings.
    P.S. I love the idea as using the hallways for a body break!

    • I totally agree Jenn – it sees so unnatural. I have spend most my time at high school and no one lines up single file – kids all manage to find their way through hallways and cafeteria lines just fine while they chat and move freely. I always ask if this is about compliance or connection – and choose connection every time.

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