Teachers who struggle with classroom management tend to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
They’re burdened with the need to walk, talk, correct, cajole, and remind their students through every this and every that. They’re saddled with having to remain on tense alert from morning bell to dismissal.
They’ve been conditioned to believe that their hovering presence and near-constant input is the only way to keep a lid on their classroom and their students even nominally on task. Every day is a grind. Stress and exhaustion are an ever-present reality.
The joy of teaching is a distant dream.
The students, on the other hand, go about their day without a care in the world beyond their own wants and needs. They flop along silly and unfettered. They swivel their heads with distraction. They side-talk and argue and slide deeper into their seats as if nothing is at stake.
To an observer, they do appear to need non-stop attention. They appear to need continual guidance and encouragement. They appear to need ten teachers, not one.
But it’s all an illusion.
You see, the students in the above scenario behave the way they do because they receive too much attention. They’re immature and impulsive and me-focused because they have too little responsibility of their own. They don’t care because they don’t have to care.
Left bored and unchallenged and annoyed at their teacher’s smothering, ever-present shadow, they predictably turn to, ahem, other pursuits.
The most effective teachers turn this script on its head.
They focus their energy not on micromanaging students, but on good instruction. They focus on teaching and modeling highly detailed expectations. They focus on showing precisely, step-by-step, what they want their students to do.
Then they take their hands off the wheel.
They shift the responsibility for carrying out their expectations in toto to their students. They take a step back and allow their students to succeed (or fail) all on their own. They stand steady and observant with an attitude that says, “Now show me.”
They free their students to indulge the desire and satisfaction that resides inside each one of them to take on responsibility, to overcome challenges, and to rely triumphantly upon themselves. They leave a void that well-taught, well-prepared students will naturally and eagerly fill.
Their expectations are backed both by individual and group consequences, but never by micromanagement. Never by frequent reminders or warnings. Never by stepping in to offer help or guidance where none is needed.
The students, in turn, thrive in such an environment.
They crave challenge and responsibility, and they blossom as a result of having it heaped upon their shoulders. They turn from needy and unmotivated to responsible and fiercely independent. They walk and move and attend with purpose.
By focusing on providing world-class instruction—the very essence of what it means to be a teacher—and then allowing your students to do their job, you can completely change the character of your classroom.
You can experience teaching the way it ought to be—joyful, transformational, masterful.
The way you always wanted it.
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