Rule-Breakers & Risk-Takers

Sanam EdwardsBlog, Manage Better


  • We’ve noticed recently how often adults don’t follow the rules.
  • Treat students with compassion when they break rules.
  • We ought to produce a generation of ‘risk-takers’ who understand how to analyze their decisions and understand consequences.

Uncharted Territory

School has just moved back on-campus for us despite a bloom of COVID cases. It feels like we’re entering unchartered territory again. I find myself feeling uneasy watching groups of teachers cramming themselves into lifts or chatting with masks lowered in the corridor.

I’ve been told that I take a firmer stance than average when it comes to rules. But it’s been hard for me to bounce back into my social circle because it meant I had to part ways with laws that kept me safe for almost two years. A coffee with friends now means that I need to uncover my mouth and nose in public. A visit to a restaurant involves proximity to people I don’t know. The greatest challenge for me has been witnessing how human beings enjoy relaxing norms whenever possible.

Unless a law is in place and actively policed for personal safety, most people settle down into an atmosphere of oblivion. Sometimes we feel strongly about a particular issue and don’t believe that breaking a rule would impact anyone else. Sometimes we’re compelled to do something, well, because we feel we must! Others may blatantly flout rules for the thrill of it. So, where do we draw the line between right and wrong? How do we determine why it’s ok to break some rules and not others?

We may dream of a utopian society where laws are adhered to, but it's imperative to understand that we will all mess up some time or the other. Kids need to know that too. Click To Tweet

What propels adults to break the rules?

When we observe our students breaking the rules, our tendency leans towards viewing the situation in black and white. Therefore, we implement practices and dole out punishments when they are broken. However, as I was driving down the ramp leading to my school basement, I observed a long line of cars waiting for their drivers to get their thermal check. As I watched the clock, I spotted a few cars breaking the line, zooming past us down the ramp and screeching in front of the guard who was conducting the check. For some reason, this infuriated me. To make matters worse, a few others who saw the triumph of this unruly driver decided to follow suit, break the line and pass others who have been waiting longer.

I gave these ladies and gentlemen the stink eye as they drove past, to no avail, of course. But, it gave me pause to consider how willing we are to break the rules when it is convenient for us. Why is it worth it? Maybe we’re inherently made to transgress to survive. 

If we don’t clock in on time, we know there will be repercussions. It’s easier to take the wrath of onlookers at the moment when we’re trying to escape the long-term consequences of our actions. It’s human instinct to try to evade immediate danger and think about the rest later. Furthermore, this leads me to question why we allow ourselves to give in to our base instinct of rule-breaking but do not allow students the same liberty.

Rule-breaking for students

Don’t get me wrong; students do break the rules. They don’t hand in their homework and they report to school late. However, these rules are broken with some responsibility placed on their parents’ shoulders. Routines at home significantly influence the young mind’s decision-making abilities and choices. The rule-breaking I’m talking about is within a classroom. As educators, we constantly try to mirror real-life in our classrooms. We give learners experiences and opportunities to fail. We want to ensure that they build qualities of resilience and hard work. 

Can you imagine a classroom without boundaries or rules? Moreover, the freedom to break those rules? I’m venturing that most educators would have essential agreements or do’s and don’ts that enable lessons to flow smoothly. How do we teach students when and how to break the rules? The truth is we don’t. We expect them to toe the line and those who do shine as upstanding students while those who don’t are admonished and counseled to promote good behavior. Does this mirror life? When adults break a few rules, we don’t send them to the corner and make their lives miserable by branding them for the next year. So why do children get put in those boxes?

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Risk-Takers Instead of Rule-Breakers 

It pains me to say it, but rule-breaking is part of growing up and is certainly part of human existence. We may dream of a utopian society where laws are adhered to, but it’s imperative to understand that we will all mess up some time or the other. Kids need to know that too.

Children shouldn’t get the impression that they will succeed in life if they’re ardent rule-followers because that’s a fallacy. Most children who break glass roofs are making waves in this generation and we need to find a way of teaching that encourages students to know when to break the rules.

I’m not advocating for delinquency or disruption, but a mere awareness that we shouldn’t be so harsh with children when they break the rules. Instead, we need to analyze the situations where adults break the rules to understand better why a student may do the same. We ought to produce a generation of ‘risk-takers’ rather than ‘rule-breakers’ who understand how to analyze their decisions and understand consequences. Risk-taking is an art, one which needs to be backed up by informed choices.


As a species, if we’re doomed to infringe upon the rules, let’s do so smartly and remember to consider others before ourselves. Try to remember why we are breaking the rules in the first place and whether it will be worth it if we achieve the end goal. And lastly, maybe we can all be good role models for each other to do better every day. Remember that you’re in the same boat as the students, and as they traverse the dangerous world of transgressions, learn and grow from each other in every situation.

About Sanam Edwards

Sanam Edwards is a teacher in Gurgaon (India). She enjoys building the student’s voice and choice within the classroom environment while infusing her quirky sense of humour into daily activities. She’s an advocate for technology in the classroom and is constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage the students mentally and emotionally. She regularly blogs about her forays in the education sector at