World-class archer Kristin Braun practices six hours a day trying to do the impossible.
Standing 230 feet from her target, she takes a deep breath and, while simultaneously lifting her bow into place, draws a steel-tipped carbon arrow.
She peers over her left hand, taking aim by lining up the target’s bulls eye with the tiny pin sight attached to her bow.
Her goal is to place each of six arrows into a 5-inch diameter gold ring in the target’s center.
Physically, the task isn’t difficult. Anyone with reasonable strength can draw Kristin’s bow into shooting position.
Mentally, however, it is another story entirely.
What separates elite archers from everyone else is their ability to care without caring. Put another way, Kristin must care enough about her sport to dedicate thousands of hours of practice time, but then not give a rip about the results.
The reason is because frustration and discouragement over a bad shot can interfere with one’s ability to focus on the next one, and the one after that, which renders success a near impossibility.
To Care Without Caring
In this one important way, classroom management is like target archery. To be most effective in the classroom, you have to care about your students’ behavior… without caring.
Let me explain.
There is no doubt that you care about your students and want to see them succeed. This is good. But if it bothers you when they misbehave, if it gets under your skin, it will negatively affect your classroom management effectiveness.
Consider this common thought process:
Oh no! Karla is out of her seat again. I’m so sick of her disrupting my classroom (sigh). She is driving me crazy! Maybe I should just let it go this time. If I ignore her, maybe it will stop. No, I’m not going to let her do this to me. I don’t care if I have to interrupt the lesson again. I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m in charge of this classroom, and I’m not going to let her control it!
“Karla! Meet me outside the door right now!”
Is this you? Do ever you think like this when a student misbehaves?
This frame of mind—taking behavior personally, letting it affect you emotionally—will sabotage your ability to build relationships with your students and make classroom management infinitely more difficult.
A Better Way Of Thinking
So Karla broke a rule.
So what? It’s not your issue. Other than enforcing a consequence, it has little to do with you. You didn’t break a rule, so why should you be burdened by it? Karla made the choice to venture beyond your classroom boundaries, so she alone must accept the consequences for doing so.
You are not responsible for the choices your students make.
Every time a student breaks a rule, one way or another, someone pays. Either you dispassionately enforce a consequence and the student pays. Or you pay in the form of stress, frustration, and disappointment and more frequent and severe behavior from your students.
Far too many teachers—and parents—lighten the responsibility on kids and take it upon themselves. They end up discouraged and angry, and the students are running around without a care in the world.
Not only is this unfair to you, but it’s bad for them.
By enforcing a consequence for every rule violation, you’re helping your students understand the cost of their actions. And by not “caring”, you can do this without causing resentment—in you or in your students—allowing you to build influential relationships with them.
So the next time a student breaks a rule, enforce whatever consequence your classroom management plan calls for, and then move on without giving it a second thought.
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