Over time, my rules has evolved into the following:
1. Respect the teacher
2. Respect students
3. Respect property
These have worked well for me in band and orchestra rehearsals, general music classes, and in the traditional classroom.
When you think about it, most other traditional rules are covered by the concept of respect. Interrupting shows disrespect for the teacher and/or students. Tardiness does as well. Gum, food, or drinks are generally not allowed because they can make messes and/or damage school property. Grabbing other people’s belongings such as backpacks or instruments shows disrespect for property.
If time permits, it can be to your advantage to have the students come up with their own classroom rules. They are much more likely to buy into the concept of having rules in the first place if they feel they’ve contributed or created the list. Here’s my dirty little secret: I usually allow the kids to rattle off all their ideas, write them on the board, validate everyone’s thoughts, and then show them how all their ideas fit into the concept of respect. But of course I don’t tell them I already had the list to begin with! The rules are now “their rules.”
In summer school I had a pretty wild group of students (not music students!), and I really tried to reinforce the concept of respect. I think it worked. Several times during the summer when a few students would get out of control, others would chime in and holler, “Hey! Respect!” The students probably forgot most of the content we discussed, but the word respect would probably come to mind when they remember my class.
And remember that the concept of respect works both ways. I try to show respect to even the most difficult students when disciplining them. My conscious always gets me when I do otherwise. More on that issue here.