Rules, rules, rules: They keep a school humming along

WILLMAR--The first week of school is a busy one for teachers and students alike. New shoes, new clothes, new teachers, names to learn--and then there's the rules, always plenty of rules. Without them, it would be difficult to keep a school runnin...

Jim Mitteness, dean of students, and Emily Streich, first grade teacher, talk to students about playground manners during the STARS student behavior program on Friday at Roosevelt Elementary School. Mitteness told the kids that they are all friends on the playground and they should all play with one another. Briana Sanchez / Tribune

WILLMAR-The first week of school is a busy one for teachers and students alike.

New shoes, new clothes, new teachers, names to learn-and then there's the rules, always plenty of rules.

Without them, it would be difficult to keep a school running smoothly. That's especially true in Willmar, where its two elementary schools are among the largest in the state. A new elementary school opening in a year will ease the situation.

Thursday and Friday, the students of Roosevelt Elementary School, all 937 of them, were ushered from one station to another to learn restroom, cafeteria, playground and bus rules.

Following the rules is part of being Cardinal STARS. The school district's elementary schools use the program to reinforce positive behavior. The acronym stands for Successful learners practicing Teamwork, Acceptance, Respect and Safety.


"We pre-teach how we want kids to behave in all parts of the building," said Principal Lori Lockhart on Friday morning.

It's all about behavior and making good choices, she added. The use of "inside voices" was a popular topic during the sessions. Children were often reminded to keep their hands and feet to themselves. It was a review for some, but those new to the district are still catching on. The annual exercise ensures that everyone has heard the rules at least once, Lockhart said.

Jim Mitteness, the school's dean of students, talked to the first-graders in Jean Dunham's class about how to behave on the playground. "Being a kind person is so, so important," he said.

Dunham reminded them that, "You can't say you can't play." How should they respond if someone asks to play with them? "Yes," came the chorus from the students. Mitteness said it was also important to include students who were by themselves.

As Dunham's class moved down the hall, they were met by school psychologist Sarah Baukol, who talked about restrooms. "We kinda know some of the rules, but we're going to talk about it so we all know the rules," she said.

She reminded them of the rules about locking stalls and flushing toilets. Then she asked them what to do when they wash their hands. Several student held up one finger and said, "One squirt of soap." Others said, "One piece of paper towel."

Baukol smiled and asked where the paper towel goes. "In the trash," came the answer.

Other rules? Don't splash your friends with water, don't scream or play.


Then they went to the cafeteria, where Assistant Principal Melissa Wilson talked to them about how to get breakfast, already packed in individual bags, and how to get a lunch tray. She reminded them of their manners and to say "please" and "thank you."

Then Wilson asked, "Does it matter who you sit next to?" The children answered, "No."

Wilson continued, "because you're all friends in your classroom." And the children nodded.

Wilson said students learn all the rules from their teachers, but it seems to help when they hear them from another adult, too.

Outside Roosevelt, representatives of the Palmer and Willmar bus services spoke to students about bus safety, including how to stand where their bus drivers can see them.

Karen Douglass' class of second-graders stood dutifully along a line while Jenny Dahlberg, manager of Palmer Bus Service, talked to them about standing back when buses are pulling up to the school and waiting for the OK from their driver before going to the bus.

"Arms, legs and belongings to yourself" was the advice from Dahlberg. "There's going to be a lot of kids on the bus, so let's all get along."

Dahlberg said she hoped the sessions with the kids were helpful. "Some never have ridden a bus, so at least they know the rules," she said.


The children aren't really the issue for bus drivers, she said. "The big thing is to get the cars to stop."

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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