Sister Corita Kent’s Some Rules for Students and Teachers

Yesterday I directed a student to look at Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, which lead to me rummaging through my ‘rules and manifestos’ file. I was reminded for Sister Corita Kent’s ‘Some Rules of Students and Teachers’. The rules particularly emphasise a disciplined work ethic, as “if you work it will lead to something”, and the important of experimenting and making mistakes.

The rules below are transcribed from the 10 Rules for Students and Teachers as they were displayed in the Merce Cunningham dance studio (and as found in my file). Kent’s rules are often attribute to John Cage, which the rules in Cunningham’s studio do. (Cunningham was Cage’s partner.)

Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.

Rule 2: (General duties of a student) Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.

Rule 3: (General duties of a teacher) Pull everything out of your students.

Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.

Rule 5: Be Self-Disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There is only make.

Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things. You can fool the fans – but not the players.

Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

Rule 10: “We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules, and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for “x” quantities.

Helpful Hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully and often. SAVE EVERYTHING. It might come in handy later.


Reading about the rules on Brain Pickings this morning also highlighted that the rules can be read in Sister Corita Kent’s “Learning by heart: Teachings to free the creative spirit” and also discussed an interesting book about John Cage. More interestingly in my continual gathering of rules and manifestos, the Brain Pickings article mentioned Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments for Teaching, which aren’t in my file and which I need to save for tomorrow morning’s reading session…. Back to work.


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