Rules for the Exception

Rules for the exception

A lifetime ago, I worked at a Starbucks outside of the city of Alpharetta, Georgia.  We had this customer, real smooth type.  He’d pull in in his sports car out front, leave his wife in the car and come in for their coffee. 

His order: Iced Venti Sugar-Free Vanilla Latte, no ice.  That’s 4 ounces of espresso, and 20 ounces of milk.  As we labored over his and other drinks, he’d meander to the end of the line where the drinks come up and nonchalantly ask the barista “Could I get a Venti cup of ice and a small paper cup?”  He would then proceed to turn one drink into two, topping them off with milk from the creamer area.  

If you’ve worked in customer service, you feel it: eye-rolling, mind-blowing, what-the-heck, cheap-skate…it’s a vibe.  Why did his wife stay in the car?  Did she not know and he was duping her too.  Or she was so embarrassed at his efforts to save $4.75 that she just couldn’t come in and watch.

We just made his drink and smiled.

Here’s where I’m going.  As a teacher, it can be very tempting to set the rules or structures in place for the exception.  

“If I give students a choice…” 

“If I let them work together…”

“If I let one student…”

We can’t set up the rules or structures for the exceptions.  What is best for each student?  And in certain instances, what are the consequences, really, of letting something go?

Photo by Adrian Vocalan on

4 thoughts on “Rules for the Exception

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  1. As a plain black coffee drinker, I’m not a Starbucks fan. So as I reread the “iced with no ice” my picture included a WTH puzzlement. How is it iced with no ice? Cold coffee. A second cup of ice and an empty cup. And then more liquid to split between two cups.

    The classroom connection. What if students give it a try? YES, YES, YES!
    Great post that definitely had me thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A latte is just espresso and a lot of milk. Iced is cold milk. :). I had co workers who wanted to make a rule against this guy.

    Sometimes in school we want to create a rule because of one student…I’ve done it myself. It’s easy to fall into. It’s the classroom equivalent of the all staff email about the break room refrigerator or the parking issue.


  3. I was just talking about this with my son and daughter-in-law this weekend. As a sub, I undoubtedly see the less-creative side of a classroom, and NO CRITICISM AT ALL, but I can tell when kids are given the opportunity to develop their own interests and approaches. I am always so heartened by that—even if they give me a hard time. Love your post: one rule does not fit all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the expression: We can’t set up the rules or structures for the exceptions. A nice thought experiment would be to play out this: we can set up the rules or structures for the exceptions. Where might that go in a school or a Starbucks or a…whatevs…

    Liked by 1 person

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