There exists a cadre of teachers who are able to command effortless respect and polite behavior from their students.
There is something about them, something unique in the way they carry themselves that causes students to behave differently around them.
It’s as if they possess an innate energy or vibe that calms, matures, and sweeps unruliness from the classroom.
Both they and their students can feel this vibe palpably.
And both know the other feels it too. It’s an unspoken reality—accepted and readily acknowledged.
“Mrs. Decker? Oh, yes, we behave in her classroom.”
Notice that it isn’t “we have to behave in her classroom.” It is simply that they do, matter-of-factly. Just the way it is.
Now this vibe, which is more tangibly described as a presence, doesn’t come from anything these teachers do on the outside. It’s not in the way they dress, the way they look, or the way they move in particular that gives them their superior influence.
Rather, it comes from a deep-seated belief they carry with them on the inside, which gives them a level of confidence, calmness, and freedom that eludes most of their colleagues. It’s a secret of sorts that has an almost supernatural effect on students.
But it is very real.
So real, in fact, that you’ll know right away when you have it. It’s a feeling of empowerment, a knowing that you hold the upper hand in the relationship.
That isn’t to say that the teacher-student relationship is a battle for control. It’s not—or shouldn’t be. It’s just that in classrooms where the teacher struggles with classroom management, the students carry the balance of power in the relationship.
Having presence, however, shifts this power—and the leverage to effectively manage your classroom—to you, automatically and without effort.
So how do you acquire this presence?
The answer is remarkably simple and can be broken down into two distinct but seemingly opposite attitudes.
The first is that you have to care deeply about your students. So deeply, in fact, that you’re willing to forego all short-term strategies—those that so many teachers rely on daily, even hourly—in favor of classroom management principles that are best for students and proven to work for the long haul.
Most teachers can readily grasp this first attitude. Caring deeply about students comes naturally to those who have dedicated their careers to helping children. It’s the second attitude that gives them pause.
The second attitude can be harder at first to wrap your head around, but once it becomes part of who you are, it will change everything. It is this: From the moment your students arrive in the morning until they leave for the day, you mustn’t care if they misbehave.
To put another way, when your students misbehave, you can’t let it affect you emotionally. You can’t let it bother you, get under your skin, or disrupt your enjoyment of the day.
Not one iota.
Now the only way to get to this point is to recall the first attitude: caring enough for your students long-term success and well being that you only rely on principles, strategies, and solutions that are best for them.
Thus, you must no longer rely on false praise, yelling, scolding, lecturing, questioning, glaring, pleading, eye-rolling, bribery, intimidation, or any other temporary or reactionary method that harms, manipulates, or creates friction with students.
Instead, you must consistently follow your classroom management plan—which allows you to hold students accountable for misbehavior while keeping your ever-growing influential and trusting relationship with them intact.
To care without caring will fill you with a gentle but strong leadership presence your students will respect and love you for. They’ll appreciate that your promise to protect their right to learn and enjoy school (by following your classroom management plan) isn’t personal.
But rather, it’s an act of compassion and responsibility, of growth and reflection, and of imparting life lessons.
This rare combination of deep care with seemingly no care at all will transform your class from one that is extrinsically motivated to behave—which is weak and temporary—to one that is intrinsically motivated . . .
Which is real and lasting and unstoppable.
Note: I’ll be taking next week off for spring break, but will be back with a new article on April 13th. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and receive free articles like this one in your email box every week.