“The Rules: Lessons of a Learning Teacher”

The Rules: Lessons from a Learning Teacher, by Malcolm Gauld

Forty years ago, having completed month #1 of my very first teaching assignment at a New York boarding school, the head of school called me into his office for a chat. Dispensing with niceties, he got right to the point: “Malcolm, I just received a phone call from a mother who complained that her son has gotten stuck with all the rookie teachers, the ones who just stay one chapter ahead of the kids. So, I ask you, Malcolm, are you staying one chapter ahead of the kids?”

My first reaction: They’re on to me! I then pondered the question, trying to appear pensive and scholarly, paused a few seconds for emphasis, and then replied, “No sir.”

You see, the truth was that I was not actually a full chapter ahead of the kids.

That’s where things stood at the start of my career in the mid-70s.  In the early years, I was fairly self-conscious about just how much I did not know.  I was terrified that my students would ask me questions in class that I couldn’t answer intelligently.  After I got over this fear, I then went through a phase where I was trying to appear smarter than I actually was by pontificating scholarly theories to both students and colleagues.  Similarly, my basketball and lacrosse teams were palettes for the latest plays and strategies.  To tell you the truth, I would have to say that I may well have been more into being cute than effective.

Eventually, I got into a flow. Maybe it was nothing more than experience, but after a while, some things just seemed obvious.  For example, in the classroom, some of the most elementary and simplistic techniques taught more history than the more sophisticated methodologies did.  On the playing fields, the most basic plays produced many more baskets and goals than the fancy ones did.  (e.g., I fondly recall one very basic lacrosse play that would consistently produce goals even after the opposing teams knew what we were going to do.)  Some things just plain worked.

After two or three decades of seeing the same things over and over again – the same attitudes and behaviors leading to progress, the same attitudes/behaviors resulting in lack thereof – it dawned on me that there are, in fact…..Rules.

They’re not MY rules. Nobody owns them.  They’re just….THE rules.

So, I’ve rounded up twenty-five of them that have demonstrated a timeless quality (at least on my watch) and have offered a brief explanation of each one.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld

The Rules

#1:   Don’t Lie. Don’t Quit.
#2:   Fleming’s Law: You Can’t Hit People; You Can’t Have it Both Ways.
#3:   Play the Hand You’re Dealt
#4:   You Can’t Soar with the Eagles if You’re Hanging with the Turkeys.
#5:   The Harder I Work, the Luckier I Get.
#6:   The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree. (Neither do the Nuts.)
#7:   Life is Hard
#8:   Baby a Loser; Beat on a Winner
#9:   Be Serene
#10: If You Can’t Get Out of It, Get into It
#11: Take Your Job Seriously, Not Yourself

#12: Work Hard; Then Persist
#13: It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It
#14: Seek to Understand, But Accept Being Misunderstood
#15: If You Stand for Nothing You’ll Fall for Anything
#16: Got Humility?
#17: Act Your Way Into Feeling (Not vice-versa)
#18: Leave It Better Than You Found It
#19: Don’t Take It Personally
#20: Don’t Play Small
#21: Find Someone Who Will Make You Do What You Can
#22: Raise Yourself In Your Own Eyes
#23: You Don’t Get Something for Nothing
#24: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
#25: Drop Charlie Everybody Like a Bad Habit

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