1. Peg

    Brilliant! We aren't listening to our "customer base" in education. It should be a collaborative effort instead of the hierarchical system. Trust is key and there is little of that at any level. Thanks for the reminder. I will work to remember this daily.

  2. Jaime

    Love this. The whole idea of a thick book of rules undermines the professional aspect of teaching. If we want to be treated as professionals, then we need to act as such.

  3. Spot on, George. The key words you used here are "wisdom" and "trust." We set up an environment that doesn't support collaboration for both students and staff alike when we don't trust the wisdom of all.

  4. Tammy

    Trust really is the key to all organizations. If we were to trust that our students, teachers and parents are using their best judgment given their knowledge and experience we could work towards innovative solutions rather than judgments. Thank you for the reminder. I'm looking forward to sharing this with my staff.

  5. Mrs. Jane Hatzinger

    Once again, I am inspired!! Next year when my students enter the classroom, I think they will each receive a golden ticket much like the Nordstrom index card with space for one rule – which we will collaborate on and figure out together!!

  6. George,

    We see this is schools. Walk into one of your primary classes and you will see – probably – three rules (all have something to do with respect). Now, go into a high school and look at the policy manual each student is given.

    It's interesting, as our students get older and presumably wiser, we give them less opportunity to use their wisdom appropriately.

  7. George, I absolutely love this post and this one rule too! I completely agree. If we always just followed "our best judgment" and had students do the same, I think this would create quite an amazing classroom and school community.


  8. We have a 2" policy handbook, a bloodborne pathogen training powerpoint, a suicide prevention video, and a 'lift with your knees, not your back" powerpoint that we have to sit through each and every year. I'm sure there are more….I've just blocked them from my memory. I know how I feel about these. 'Must remember the same holds true for our students.

  9. We are moving away from this simple guideline. We cannot expect our students and teachers to balance freedoms and responsibilities, if they are never given a chance.

  10. Trust is key. I teach in HS and I have to trust my department. Our state provides the rules/frameworks. I am not sure that trust is totally open and unconditional though. Administrators would not need to evaluate if they totally trusted their staff. Or, is that their wisdom?

  11. I think this needs to be further dissected. I remember teachers having the 'one rule' classroom sign that had like 2 rules, the second saying 'refer to rule 1'. It's a farce. It's not that these other rules don't exist (in your example as well), but that we are making a statement around trust and expected behaviour. And, if that's the kind of thing we are trying to say, let's just say it, not hide it in some sort of witty statement. While I agree with your point around rules (too many rules), I think we simply need to provide a high level of clarity around expectations – and this does not mean specificity.

  12. Liz

    I am a teacher who has "The One Rule" in my classroom taken from a Colorado-based organization called Love and Logic. It states, "Feel free to do anything that does not cause a problem for anyone else." I have never had a kid be able to figure out a way around it but also spend a lot of time with my students really evaluating it's meaning. It is one of the most successful decisions I have ever made as a teacher and I think it could be a "rule" that more people apply to life and to the greater world. It is general and specific at the same time and students usually feel really positively towards it. The more "rules" we make, the more "rules" we have to enforce and in the meantime, learning and the autonomy to make behavioral choices that support the community get lost. Having "The One Rule" doesn't mean that we aren't clear about expectations, rituals, and routines, but allows for flexibility and adaptability to new situations. After seeing how well it has worked in a classroom and on a whole middle school team, I can see why Nordstrom's "rule" might be deemed highly effective.

  13. Perfect timing! @putmanschool is looking at our rather outdated school policies in our agenda. The notion of giving more autonomy to class room teachers will create conditions where innovation and understanding can be fostered (I am thinking about electronic devices policy that does not necessarily reflect the capacity of our staff and students to use technology in meaningful ways and even homework policy…do we really need to tell our community that there is an expectation that students complete assigned work?)…

    Great stuff!

  14. cleoanddaisy23

    Great post and this is the exact approach I take with our staff/students. In Mike Krzyzewski's, Duke Men's Basketball Coach, book "Leading With The Heart, he talks about building teams and creating 'rules'. The one rule he gives his team, "With every decision, do what's in the best interest of your teammates and Duke University." He discusses how too many rules put leaders in boxes and being in that box can sometimes force leaders into being equal rather than fair. I really enjoyed his perspective on leadership and building teams and would highly recommend the book. Thanks for the post!

  15. George, you know I LOVE this post. I think the One Rule for classroom teachers, students, and principals would be a wonderful model to see practiced by more educators. This might also be a great discussion for #cpchat or #elemchat. The comments have been very supportive, but I would like to say “Amen” to Liz’s Love and Logic entry. “You have the right stuff Liz.” Remember the 1955 Frank Sinatra song Love and Marriage, they just go together like …., well so do relationships and trust! George, you are right on also.

  16. Tom Schimmer

    I love the idea of 'one rule'. Keep it simple and given people a sense of what is expected and what they can/should do is more powerful than a list of 1,000 things they can't/shouldn't do. It's all about the culture you create. I once heard Stephen Covey say, "When mores (social norms) are low, 'laws' are unenforceable; when mores are high, 'laws' are unnecessary." Knowing you are trusted, that support is available, and that the best interest of everyone is always at the center is a great way to build that supportive culture every employee needs.

  17. Jordan Wolfe

    In professions such as teaching that require a great deal of personal discretion, creativity and innovation, operating with "one rule" is absolutely necessary. You can see that some of the most successful companies employ this policy, such as Zappos, GROUPON, and Facebook, granting each of their employees creative license to accomplish their work.

    Rules restrict. Openness to input allows individuals to take ownership of their work, often going above and beyond what is normally expected of them.


  18. This idea of one rule and trusting people to do their job resonates with a presentation that John Abbott did on Monday in my district. When talking about the Finnish educational system, he said that rather tan a huge list of learning outcomes, they train the teachers so well that the system can step back and allow teachers to do what they do best. There's a good rule.

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