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Essential 55

“The Essential 55” 
by Ron Clark 
Rule 1 
When responding to any adult, you must answer by saying 
“Yes ma’am” or “No sir.” Just nodding your head or saying 
any other form of yes or no is not acceptable. 
Rule 2 
Make eye contact. When someone is speaking, keep your 
eyes on him or her at all times. If someone makes a 
comment, turn and face that person. 
Rule 3 
If someone in the class wins a game or does something well, 
we will congratulate that person. Claps should be at least 
three seconds in length with the full part of both hands 
meeting in a manner that will give the appropriate clap 
Rule 4 
During discussions, respect other students’ comments, 
opinions, and ideas. When possible, make statements like, “I 
agree with John, and I also feel that…” or “I disagree with 
Sarah. She made a good point I feel that…” or “I think Victor 
made an excellent observation, and it made me realize…” 
Rule 5 
If you win or do well at something, do not brag. If you lose, do 
not show anger. Instead, say something like, “I really enjoyed 
the competition, and I look forward to playing you again,” or 
“good game,” or don’t say anything at all. To show anger or 
sarcasm, such as “I wasn’t playing hard anyway” or “You 
really aren’t that good,” shows weakness. 
 Rule 6 
If you are asked a question in conversation, you should ask a 
question in return. 
Me: “Did you have a nice weekend?” 
You: “Yes, I had a great time. My family and I went shopping. 
What about you? Did you have a nice weekend?” 
It is only polite to show others that you are just as interested in 
them as they are in you. 
Rule 7 
“When you cough or sneeze or burp, it is appropriate to turn 
your head away from others and cover your mouth with the 
full part of your hand. Using a fist is not acceptable. 
Afterward, you should say, “Excuse me.” 
Rule 8 
“Do not smack your lips, tsk, roll your eyes, or show 
disrespect with gestures.” 
Rule 9 
“Always say thank you when I give you something. If you do 
not say it within 3 seconds after receiving the item, I will take it 
back. There is no excuse for not showing appreciation.” 
Rule 10 
“When you are given something from someone, never insult 
that person by making negative comments about the gift or by 
insinuating that it wasn’t appreciated” 
Rule 11 
“Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness. Go 
our of your way to do something surprisingly kind and 
generous for someone at least once a month.” 
 Rule 12 
“Occasionally we may grade each other’s papers as a group. 
When grading other students’ papers, if you give someone an 
incorrect grade, whether it is higher or lower than they 
deserve, the amount the grade differs from the actual grade 
will be deducted from your paper. The only marks you are 
allowed to make on others’ papers are an “X” and the number 
they got incorrect.” 
Rule 13 
“When we read together in class, you must follow along. If I 
call on you to read, you must know exactly where we are and 
begin to read immediately” 
Rule 14 
“Answer all questions with a complete sentence. For 
example, if the question asks, “What is the capital of Russia?” 
you should respond by writing, “The capital of Russia is 
Moscow.” Also, in conversation with others, it is important to 
use complete sentences out of respect for the person’s 
question. For example, if a person asks, “How are you?” 
instead of just responding by saying, “Fine,” you should say, 
“I’m doing fine, thank you. How about yourself?” 
Rule 15 
“At times throughout the year, I will give rewards for good 
behavior, academic performances and other acts worthy of 
praise. If you ever ask me for a reward, however, it will not be 
given. It is rude to ask if you are getting something for good 
behavior. You should be good and try your best because you 
are trying to better yourself, not because you are anticipating 
a reward. I usually give some sort of reward to everyone who 
scores 100 on unit tests. If you make 100 and ask if you are 
getting something, no one who made 100 will be given 
Rule 16 
“Homework will be turned in each day for each subject by 
every student with no exceptions.”  
Rule 17 
“When we are in transition from one subject to the other, the 
change will be swift, quiet and orderly. We should be 
consistently able to turn from one book to another, complete 
with all homework and necessary materials, as quickly as 
possible. The opportune amount of time to spend in transition 
should be less than ten seconds, and we will work toward a 
goal of seven seconds.” 
Rule 18 
“You will make every effort to be as organized as possible.” 
Rule 19 
“When I assign homework, there is to be no moaning or 
complaining. This will result in a doubled assignment.” 
Rule 20 
“While you are with a substitute teacher, you will obey the 
same rules that you follow when I am with you. (I know this is 
hard, but it is important.)” 
Rule 21 
“We will follow certain classroom protocols. We will be 
organized, efficient, and on task. In order to do so, we will 
follow these rules: 
1. Do not get out of your seat without permission. Exception: 
If you are sick, leave immediately. 
2. Do not speak unless: 
You raise your hand, and I call on you. 
I ask you a question and you are responding. 
It is a recess of lunch. 
I instruct you otherwise (for example, during group work).” 
Rule 22 
“You may bring a bottle of water and leave it on your desk. Do 
not ask me f you can get water while I am teaching a lesson. 
You can even have food at your desk as long as others don’t see it and I don’t hear you eat it.” 
Rule 23 
"Quickly learn the name of other teachers in the 
school and greet them by saying things like, "Good 
morning Mrs. Graham," or "Good afternoon Ms. Ortiz. 
That is a very pretty dress." (Note: If you are in 
line with the rest of class, you are not allowed to 
speak to the teachers at that time because the 
no-talking rule is in effect. You should speak to 
other teachers if you are entering or leaving the 
school, on recess, on an errand, or changing classes.) 
Rule 24 
"Flush the toilet and wash your hands after using the rest 
room. When in a public rest room, get a paper towel before 
washing your hands. After washing your hands, use the paper 
towel to turn off the faucets and to press the dispenser to get 
another paper towel to dry your hands. (Or use the towel to 
press the button to start the dryer.) The last thing you want to 
do is touch areas with clean hands that others have touched 
with dirty hands." 
Rule 25 
"We will often have visitors to our school. If someone is 
coming to visit our class, I will send two students to the front 
door of the building. You will have a sign welcoming the 
person. When our visitor arrives, you will shake hands, tell 
him or her who you are, and welcome the person to our 
school. You will then take the visitor on a small tour of the 
building before bringing him or her to the classroom." 
Rule 26 
“Do not save seats in the lunchroom. If someone wants to sit 
down, let him or her. Do not try to exclude anyone. We are a 
family, and we must treat one another with respect and 
 Rule 27 
“If I or any other teacher in school is speaking to or 
disciplining a student, do not look at that student. You 
wouldn’t want others looking at you if you were in trouble or 
being reprimanded, so don’t look at others in that situation. If 
you are the student I am talking to, do not get angry or fuss at 
students who are looking at you. Let me know and I will 
handle the situation.” 
Rule 28 
"If you have a question about your homework, you may call 
me. If I am not there to answer the phone, please leave a 
message in the following manner: "Hi, Mr. Clark, this is 
_______________. I need help with the _______________ 
homework. You can call me back until ___:00. Thank you." 
There is no need to leave this message fourteen times." 
Rule 29 
“There are several manners dealing with food that you must 
follow: I call these my ABC’s of Etiquette. 
A. When you first sit down for a meal, immediately place you 
napkin in your lap. If you silverware is wrapped in a napkin, 
unwrap it as soon as you sit down and place the napkin in 
your lap. 
B. When you are finished eating, place you napkin on the table 
to the left of your plate. Place it loosely beside the plate. Don’t 
crumple it, because you don’t want to seem untidy. Don’t fold 
it too neatly, because you don’t want the restaurant to think 
you assume they are going to use it again. Never leave your 
napkin on your chair. This implies that the napkin is too dirty 
to be left on the table. Also, in some cultures, leaving the 
napkin on the chair is known as a way to say that you don’t 
intend to return to the restaurant again. 
C. Never place you elbows on the table. 
D. Use one hand to eat, unless you are cutting or buttering food. 
Never have your fork in one hand and a glass in the other. 
E. Do not lick your fingers. There is a napkin provided for the 
purpose of cleaning your fingers. There is no need to lick 
yourself clean. F. Do not smack you lips or chew noisily. 
G. Do not chew with your mouth open. 
H. Do not talk with your mouth full. Sometimes people will place 
a hand over their mouth and talk anyway. Don’t do that. Wait 
until you have swallowed your food to speak. 
I. If something is caught in your teeth, don’t go in after it; wait 
until you are in the rest room to remove it. 
J. D not slurp. 
K. Do not play with your food. 
L. If you drop your fork, napkin, or anything else on the floor, DO 
NOT pick it up. It is very rude and unsanitary to place 
something on the table that has been on the floor. If you pick 
up something that has dropped and hand it to a waiter, then 
you will need to excuse yourself and wash your hands before 
continuing with your meal. The best way to handle a situation 
when something has dropped on the floor is to ask a waiter for 
a replacement; leave the old one on the floor. 
M. You are to use your utensils for eating almost everything. 
Here are ten types of food you may use your hands to eat: 
1. Pizza 
2. Bacon 
3. Cookies 
4. Bread (Always tear off a bite-sized piece to eat. If you 
are going to use butter, never butter the whole piece of bread; 
butter the piece you tore off, and eat that before tearing 
another piece.) 
5. Corn on the cob (It is appropriate to eat across instead 
of eating around.) 
6. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches (including 
breakfast biscuits) 
7. French fries and chips 
8. Fried chicken 
9. Asparagus (yes, asparagus) 
10. Small fruits (like grapes on a stem), apples, oranges, 
carrots, etc. 
N. Never reach over someone’s plate to get something. You 
should say, “Will you please pass the salt?” 
O. Never start eating off of your tray until you are at your seat. 
P. When we are eating at a restaurant, you are not to begin 
eating until everyone at the table has received food. Q. You should never complain if the line is too long, the food isn’t 
good, or if there is a wait. You don’t want to be negative to the 
point where you spoil the enjoyment of the event for others. 
R. If you are unsure which silverware to use, simply start with the 
fork, knife or spoon that is the farthest from your plate. On the 
left, you will have your salad fork on the outside and your 
dinner fork on the inside. On the far right, you will have your 
soupspoon. Beside it you will have the spoon you will use to 
stir your coffee or tea, then your salad knife, and then your 
dinner knife. The utensils above your plate are to be used for 
S. When you are finished eating, do not push your plate away 
from you. Leave it where it is in the setting. If you want to 
show you have finished eating, you should lay your fork and 
knife together diagonally across the plate. You should place 
the fork with the tines down, and you should have the sharp 
side of the knife facing down. Of the two utensils, the fork 
should be closest to you. 
T. Never place a piece of silverware that you have used back on 
the table. Leave it on a plate or saucer. 
U. If you didn’t use a utensil, do not place it on a plate or saucer 
when you are finished. Just leave it where it is. 
V. Always look a waiter in the eyes when you are ordering, 
asking a question, or saying thank you. 
W. Make a point to remember the waiter’s name when he 
introduces himself to you. Use his name as often as possible 
throughout the course of the meal. 
X. If you have to go to the rest room, you should stand up and 
say, “Excuse me,” as you leave the table. 
Y. When you are offered desserts or asked a question such as 
“What sides would you like?” or “What dressing would you like 
for your salad?” it is best to ask, “What are my options?” That 
way, you aren’t going through a process of naming things the 
restaurant might not have. 
Z. Never talk to waiters or waitresses as if they are servants. 
Treat them with respect and kindness, and remember, they 
are the ones who are fixing food and bringing it to you. You do 
not want to be on the bad side of a waiter.” 
 Rule 30 
“After we eat, we will clean up after ourselves. This includes 
cleaning off the tables and making sure we haven’t left any 
trash on the floor or around the eating area. It is important to 
be responsible for your trash no matter where you are and to 
be sure not to litter.” 
Rule 31 
"When we stay in a hotel room, it is appropriate to leave a tip 
on the pillow for the hotel workers who are responsible for 
cleaning the room after our stay. Two to three dollars per night 
is an appropriate amount, depending on the cost of the room." 
Rule 32 
“When we ride on a bus, we will always sit facing forward. We 
will never turn around to talk to other students, stick anything 
out of the windows, or get out of our seats. When we exit the 
bus, we will always thank the bus driver and tell him to have a 
good day.” 
Rule 33 
"When we go on field trips, we will meet different people. 
When I introduce you to people, make sure that you 
remember their names. Then, when we are leaving, make 
sure to shake their hands and thank them, mentioning their 
names as you do so." 
Rule 34 
"Whenever you are offered food, whether it be on a buffet or 
treats in class, never take more than your fair share. You 
never want to be greedy and try to get more than you should, 
not only because it is wasteful, but also because it is 
disrespectful to others when you do not leave enough for 
Rule 35 
"Whether we are in school or on a field trip, if someone drops 
something, pick it up and hand it back to them. Even if they 
are closer to the object, it is only polite to make the gesture of bending down to retrieve the item." 
Rule 36 
“If you approach a door and someone is following you, hold 
the door. If the door opens by pulling, pull it open, stand to the 
side, and allow the other person to pass through it first, then 
you can walk through. If the door opens by pushing, hold the 
door open after you push through." 
Rule 37 
"If we are on a field trip, it is a good idea to compliment 
something about the place where you are visiting. For 
example, if we visit someone's home, it would be a nice 
gesture to tell them that you think they have nice curtains. 
People are always self-conscious when they have guests visit 
their home, so you want to make them feel at ease. Also, if we 
are visiting other places, such as a museum or theater, it 
would be nice to comment on how beautiful the architecture is 
or to tell the guide that you think the facility is very nice." 
Rule 38 
"During an assembly do not speak and do not look around 
and try to get the attention of your friends in other classes. We 
must uphold an image that shows we have our act together." 
Rule 39 
“If we are on a field trip, it is a good idea to compliment 
something about the place where we are visiting. For 
example, if we visit someone’s home, it would be a nice 
gesture to tell them that you think they have nice curtains. 
People are always self-conscious when they have guests visit 
their home, so you want to make them feel at ease. Also, if we 
are visiting other places, such as a museum or theater, it 
would be nice to comment on how beautiful the architecture is 
or to tell the guide that you think the facility is very nice.” 
 Rule 40 
“During an assembly, do not speak and DO NOT look around 
and try to get the attention of your friends in other classes. We 
must uphold an image that shows we have out act together!” 
Rule 41 
“When you answer the phone at your house, you must do so 
in an appropriate manner.” 
Rule 42 
“When we return from a trip, you will shake my hand as well 
as the hands of every chaperone. You will thank us for taking 
the time to take you on the trip, and you will let us know that 
you appreciate having the opportunity to go. I am not 
concerned with being thanked; I am concerned with teaching 
you that is it appropriate to show appreciation when someone 
has gone out of his or her way to help you. 
Rule 43 
“When we are on field trips and we have to go up escalators, 
we will stand to the right. That will give other individuals who 
are in a hurry the option of walking up the left-hand side of the 
escalator. When we are going to enter an elevator, the 
subway, or a doorway, we will wait for others to exit before we 
Rule 44 
"When in a line; walk single file, two to three feet behind the 
person in front of you with your arms at your sides. You 
should face forward at all times. There will be absolutely no 
Rule 45 
“Never cut line. If someone cuts in front of you, do not say or 
do anything about it. Let it happen, but let me know about it. I 
will handle the situation. If you fuss with someone who has cut 
in line, you could get in trouble as well. It’s not worth it; just let 
me know what happened. Please handle all disputes with other classmates in the same manner, by coming to me with 
any problems before you take matters into your own hands." 
Rule 46 
“When we go to a movie theater 
Rule 47 
"Do not bring Doritos in the school building." 
Rule 48 
"If any child in this school is bothering you, let me know. I am 
your teacher, and I am here to look after you and protect you. 
I am not going to let anyone in this school bully you or make 
you feel uncomfortable. In return, I ask that you not take 
matters into your own hands; let me deal with the student." 
Rule 49 
"Stand up for what you believe in. You shouldn't take no for an 
answer if your heart and mind are leading you in a direction 
that you feel strongly about." 
Rule 50 
"Be positive and enjoy life. Some things just aren't worth 
getting upset over. Keep everything in perspective and focus 
on the good in your life." 
Rule 51 
"Live so that you will never have regrets. If there is something 
you want to do, do it! Never let fear, doubt, or other obstacles 
stand in your way. If there is something you want, fight for it 
with all of your heart. If there is something you want to do, go 
for it and don's stop until you make it happen. If there is 
something you want to be, do whatever is necessary in order 
to live that dream." 
Rule 52 
“Accept that you are going to make mistakes. Learn from 
them and move on.” Rule 53 
“No matter what the circumstances, always be honest. Even if 
you have done something wrong, it is best to admit it to me, 
because I will respect that, and oftentimes I will forget any 
disciplinary measures because of your honesty.” 
Rule 54 
“Carpe Diem. You only live today once, so don’t waste it. Life 
is made up of special moments, many of which happen when 
caution is thrown to the wind and people take action and seize 
the day.” 
Rule 55 
“Be the best person you can be.”