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Student Teacher Contracts
(Also called Teacher Student Contracts)

A critical view

A Sample Contract

My Comments, Criticisms of the Sample Contract

More Examples From a Contract

One Teacher's Comments and My Reply

Note From Steve Hein, Author of This Page


A Sample Contract

This is a copy of a "contract" which was a handout at a presentation about teaching in Quito, Ecuador in March, 2004. The presentation was put on by a company called Richmond Publishing, which I am pretty sure is based in the USA. The speaker suggested the teacher use something like this in their classrooms in Ecuador. First you can see the contract, then you can read my comments about it.

Teacher Student Contract

Rules For the Students

1. Students will listen when the teacher says "be quiet."

2. Students will do their homework.

3. Students will keep their handouts in a file. All their handouts!

4. Students will ask to go to the bathroom.

5. Students will try to do their best even when they don't like an activity or excercise.

6 Students will understand that teachers make mistakes.

7. Teacher will underline the words they don't know and write the Korean beside them.

Rules for Teachers

1) Teachers will prepare for classes.

2) Teachers will not give too much homework.

3) Teachers will listen to students.

4) Teachers will try to prepare interesting classes (but some classes may not be interesting)




This was originally found at http://bogglesworld.com/files/rules.jpg. Notice that the word "for" was capitalized in the "Rules For Students" but not in the "Rules for Teachers." I copied this exactly as it was written.)

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My comments, criticisms of the sample contract (S. Hein)


  • Real contracts aren't a list of "rules."
  • Saying "Be Quiet." is an order. It is a command. If you respect someone, you don't order them to do things.
  • Telling people to "do their homework" is another command.
  • Who decides what the homework is?
  • Who decides how much homework is "too much"?
  • Telling them to keep all their handouts in a file seems like micromanagement. It seems like telling them to bring a pencil and paper. It underestimates them, assumes they are not capable of organizing things on their own. And why do they need to say "All their handouts!"? This sounds like a teacher lecturing to their "naughty" class.
  • Why is it so important that students ask to go to the bathroom? This is humiliating and degrading. It also shows a lack of trust by the teachers.
  • "Exercise" was spelled wrong in rule number 5 by whichever teacher wrote this! The teacher wrote "excercise," but it should be "exercise." I don't feel very understanding! I am wondering why they didn't use a spell checker! And wondering how they could be teachers and not know how to spell a word they probably use and see very frequently! Since I don't understand I guess I would be in violation of the contract!
  • What does it mean to "try to do their best"? Who decides what their best is? This reminds me of teachers who say, "You can do better."
  • Why is it necessary to say "Students will understand that teachers make mistakes."? To me this implies that the teacher who wrote this was so insecure he or she was afraid of students laughing at his/her mistakes or mocking them or something. Teachers who are secure won't be bothered by this and teachers who have earned the respect of the students won't be laughed at or ridiculed anyhow. Also, how can some agree to "understand" something? And how can you know if they "understand" it? This would require getting inside their minds. And what does it mean to "understand" that teachers make mistakes? Isn't the teacher really looking for some kind of specific behavior, or lack of it? Like aren't they really looking for a lack of ridicule or something? But if something is funny to the students how can the teacher expect them not to laugh? This would be trying to dictate to them how they "should" or "must" feel.
  • Telling students to "underline the words they don't know" is another example of micromanagement and underestimating students. And I would guess that the teacher who copied this for her presentation didn't notice that this was a contract for someone teaching English in Korea! By the way, from what I have heard of schools in Korea, it makes sense to me they would want to use this kind of contract. I was told by a former English teacher there that Korea is a "concentration camp" for English teachers. He said the students don't want to learn English partly because they don't like Americans, but they are forced to take English classes.
  • Why are there 7 rules for students and only 4 for teachers?
  • Who decides what it means to "prepare" for the class? If a teacher spends five minutes "preparing" does that qualify? What about thirty seconds?
  • When rule 3 says, "Teachers will listen to students," does this mean teachers will obey students? The teachers seem to want the students to obey them when they tell the students to "listen" when the say "Be quiet." Can the students tell the teacher to "Be quiet" when the teacher is lecturing them or telling them to do something they don't want to do? For example, if the teacher says, "Your homework is..." can the students say "Be quiet"?
  • When it says, "Teachers will try to prepare interesting classes (but some classes may not be interesting)" this reminds me of George Orwell's book "Animal Farm" where the animals in power said, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
  • And who decides what it means to "try"?
  • Also, what is the punishment for a violation of the rules? And who decides on what the punishment is? And is there an appeal process? Can the students punish the teachers?

To me, these contracts could lead to a lot of time wasted in the interpretation and enforcement of the rules. It makes much more sense to me to create a flexible environment based on mutual respect.

A teenager's comments on the above contract

"Seems superficial."

"It's really just rules, not a contract at all. Like, it's all 'students will do...' etc. It's straightforwards. But the teacher part is kinda vague. 'Teachers will not give too much homework.' Who decides what's 'too much'? The teacher? Ha."

Examples from a blank "contract"

The teacher and students of this classroom do hereby agree to abide by the following rules as outlined on this contract.

My thoughts:

First -- "Do hereby agree" -- Do we really want to teach young people to talk like this?

Then later on this sample contract form they suggest these "hints" in making a contract. They suggest words like these:

Hints:  shouldn't,  have to,   are/is allowed to, can't,  must,   are/is permitted, aren't allowed to,  are required to, is supposed to , need to

To me, these are exactly the kinds of words I am strongly opposed to. They can, and will, be used in arbitrary, subjective ways. They represent a very power-based relationship, not a model of any kind of equallity or respect for individual needs and talents. They are also exactly the kinds of words which are typical of people who have a strong need to control others.

(This came from http://bogglesworld.com/files/RulesfortheClassroom.doc)

Here is a copy of an email I received

<sbrooks ---- clayton.k12.ga.us>

DATE:   Tue, 4 Jan 2005 23:20:52 -0500
TO:   <steve>
Dear Steve,
   I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell you how invaluable your website is to me. I am a new teacher struggling to teach students who are failing their regular math class.  I am teaching a "connections" class which means they come to my class in addition to their regular class.  Let me tell you how LOW motivation is!  They are failing one class and now they have to take it TWICE!  
My goal is to provide them with opportunities to take ownership of their grade and their ability to learn math. In order to do so,  I was planning on writing "contracts" between myself and the students to allow them freedom and ownership.  Of course being new, I wanted some resources to guide my thinking in order to keep from doing what your sample contract demostrates- a set of rules, and no obligation from the teacher.  Your website has helped me tremendously.  However,  I thoroughly enjoyed reading and virtually laughing at the poor attempt at a contract, I would LOVE to see examples of appropriate skeletons of contracts. I visited a few other websites and attempted to create a contract.  I would love any feedback, comments (and even ridicule if needed haha) on my attempt.  THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!

Sharon Brooks
Jonesboro Middle School

UNIT CONTRACT.doc (Binary attachment)

Here is my reply to Sharon

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for your email. It came at a moment when I was questioning myself and what I was doing. Your mail reminded me I have to follow my own feelings, follow my own heart in whatever I do. I cried because... well, I can't describe it exactly right now. It is something like your mail gave me some reassurance I was on the right path, reassurance I never received from my own family perhaps.

Anyhow, I am going to assume that I can use your name and email on my site till you tell me otherwise. And I do have some comments for you.

First, I don't believe you need any kind of contract at all. Kids need understanding, love, respect, something to do and learn which is of interest to them. They need an inspired teacher. A teacher who loves children, but doesn't patronize them. They don't need contracts. I teach English here in South America and the students want to come to my classes, and I don't use any contracts. I also learned Spanish well-enough in highschool using an independent study book to now live here in Peru. And my Spanish teacher never had me sign a "contract." In fact, I never signed any of these stupid "contracts" at any point in my "education."

They are probably failing math because it is not interesting to them. It wasn't interesting to me either. I was hit with a board when I was around 11 years old because I didn't want to waste my time doing long division. Even at age 11 I knew it was a waste of time, though I never knew there would be calculators and computers just a few years after I was hit. Hitting me with a board was euphemistically called "paddling", by the way, but as my friend from Canada told me, paddling is what you do in a canoe.

It still hurts me when I think of what was done to me as a child and teenager. I am still suffering from the "educational" system in the United States. And I would say it has only gotten worse. Now at least in one state, Wisconsin, a teenager can be sent to jail for not going to school.

When I was in primary school my sister would have to literally drag me to go to school. And even then I would often turn around and go home. Then when I was a teenager I skipped as much school as I possibly could. I wish I would have skipped more. But I was never threatened with jail for not going. Yet now, in the land of the free, teenagers are being threatened with jail time for trying to stay out of a building they don't want to be in. At the same time, there are laws against involuntary confinement. So why is it legal to force someone to go to school and stay there till someone else decides you can leave?

The other day here in Peru I saw two family members yelling at and almost hitting a young boy because he didn't show enough interest or ability in adding fractions.

I started thinking about this and thought about how much needless pain is caused in homes around the world over math homework.

Please tell your students that there is a person who has traveled to over 30 countries, has written his own book, has the number one site on emotional intellgence in the world on google, who started his own business at age 27 and retired at the age of 35, and who now helps poor children in South America who are hit by their parents at home. And he has never once in his life outside of school had to add fractions or do long division. Nor have I ever had to solve for x, as we used to have to do in equations like this:

2x+6=10, and ones much more complicated.

I can only wonder what my life would have been like if they had taught me something really important, like how to listen to the females I needed and loved, how to show them respect, how to give children hugs when they are crying, how to forgive someone, how to like myself, how to walk away from people who were hurting me, as so many of my so called teachers did, how to identify my own needs, how to get to know myself, how to follow my own heart, how to love myself, how to know when people were invalidating me and how to stay away from them. These are all things I never learned in school and soon I will make a page on this since it hurts me so much to think of what was done to me and how badly I was "educated."

I can tell from your mail your are a person full of energy and life. A person who really cares about kids. Please tell these kids that their grade in math doesn't matter at all. What matters is that they are happy with themselves. What matters is what kind of person they are. There are so many other things that matter more than what their math grades are. Please tell them that the adults in the United States who make the rules and who set the priorities are people with a lot of problems who don't know what is really important in life. Please tell them not to take it personally when people yell at them about their math scores. Please tell them that the people yelling at them and pressuring them are the ones with the problem. Please tell them I feel sorry that they are being forced to go to schools in the USA right now. Please tell them that I hope they will speak up and tell people who will listen that they don't want to study math and be made to feel bad about themselves when they don't have the grades that the adults want them to have.

Sharon, maybe you were trained to be a math teacher and you really believe that math is important. But I have lived 47 years now and I have met people from all around the world.and have had all kinds of experiences. And I can tell you that a young person's grade in math is one of the least important things in life. High scores on math tests will not solve the worlds problems. They won't even keep a person from getting one or more painful divorces. They won't help a person who feels suicidal.

The world needs children and teenagers who are doing what they want to do. Learning what they want to learn. These will be the happy adults. The adults who won't want to start wars, who won't want to use drugs and so do so many other unhealthy things.

You are struggling to do something which is impossible. I am afraid you will find yourself feeling frustrated and taking your frustration out on the children. Please don't do this, as so many teachers and parents do. You are forced to teach math because someone in some office who doesn't know you or the children involved have been misguided and now have written laws which don't serve the needs of the children and teens.

I was born in the USA but I have no plans to ever live there again. Too many people there think that math grades are important. Too many people think money is important and you have to go to school to get a job to make money so you will be happy. But I have learned life isn't really like that. I was lied to as I was growing up in the USA. At the very least, I was misled.

Please use your energy to do everything you can to change the educational system and protect your children from the people who think that math grades are important.

Very sincerly,


January 6, 2005
Chiclayo, Peru

PS Please tell your students that they can always get a job teaching English in countries like Peru and Indonesia and Thailand. All they need to do is speak English. So they are already qualified. If your students can add 27 +45, can multiply 7*8 and know what 50 percent of 850 is, then I think they have all the math they will ever really need.

PPS Now since you can't change the system overnight, probably not in your lifetime even, here is something I can suggest to make the whole experience less painful for everyone.

Accept that the students don't want to learn math. Tell them that you understand it is boring to them. Tell them you don't agree with the laws. Tell them they can change the laws when they are older. Talk to the parents and tell them the same things. Tell them you feel bad for the kids. Tell the parents to speak up (although I doubt many would do that, especially the parents of the kids in your classes.

Get the kids to love you. To feel understood by you. Then try to get them to help you. Ask them if they will help you. Most students will help a teacher who they feel respected and cared about by. And the ones who are not helping will be kept under control by the others. At least this has been my experience most of the time.

Explain to them that you want to keep being their teacher. And if you don't follow the stupid rules then you will be fired and they won't have you as a teacher. This is the reality. It is ugly, but it is the reality.

I did something like this once when some students didn't want to learn English in a highschool class that was forced on them in Ecuador. They responded with much more cooperation. Some of the students who the teacher would call "troublemakers" even invited me to go out with them after classes.

By the way, how old are they? Are these "contracts" required by your school principal or school district?

As for your draft of a contract. It is still much too formal, contractual. It looks like something written by a large business to be signed by a small business owner who is not trusted by the large business. It is clear who has the power. The person or people writing the contract.

If I were to be forced to sign a contract like this I would feel forced and not at all inspired. There is nothing inspiring in the contract. And I would say inspiration will never come from a contract. It comes from the heart. Also, each student is unique. A contract tries to make them all interchangeable.

There is nothing I like about any contract between any teacher and any student. What I would like to see though, is a contract written entirely by students which would have the power of firing a teacher who breaks the contract. This would be an inspiring contract! But still, contracts are no way to manage human relationships. That is the bottom line. There is a relationship between students and teachers. And with each student it will be a different kind of relationship. This is one reason contracts are another bad idea coming from the dysfunctional American educational system.

My advice to the rest of the world, by the way, is very simple:

Don't follow the American system.

A note from Steve Hein

When I wrote the page on teacher student contracts I never even thought that one day it would be ranked number one in google for searches on "teacher student contracts." But as of Jan 2005, that is exactly what has happened. I am not sure when it became number one. But in less than a year it has risen to number one. This tells me a lot of teachers in the world, probably especially in the USA, are reading this page and passing it along to other teachers. I feel encouraged by this and I encourage all teachers to fight against this new method of pressuring young humans into doing things they don't want to do willingly. (see also page on obedience vs cooperation)

S. Hein
January 2005


march 2005 #1 for teacher student contracts, #12 for student teacher contracts (before adding new term student teacher)

Nov 2011 #1 for both searches