Recently, a teacher asked me to observe her in action.
It didn’t go well.
Her classroom was chaotic. Her students played and goofed off. They yelled and roughhoused.
They wrestled, guffawed, and used language that would make a sailor blush.
They dismissed her and her instruction and did, for the most part, whatever they wanted.
Some even left the room without permission.
I was taken aback—both by the behavior I saw and because I had assumed that if she wanted my opinion, then it couldn’t possibly be that bad.
It was that bad. And then some.
But here’s the kicker: We had talked about classroom management before.
A couple of months ago, she pulled me aside and asked me how to set up a classroom management plan.
I also taught her how to teach her plan and put it into practice. I provided the details, the strategies, and the knowledge she needed to do her job well.
But she couldn’t bring herself to actually doing it.
Because, you see, she was paralyzed by fear. She was afraid that if she held her students to a standard of behavior that was required for success in school, then they would rebel.
They would hate her and resent coming to her classroom. They would turn the chaos her room had become into sheer bedlam.
But if you’ve been a regular reader of SCM, then you know that the opposite is true. Consistent accountability is the foundation upon which trust, likability, and influence are built.
It brings peace and respect to the classroom, freeing you to teach and inspire your students to learn and love school.
It also forms a protective hedge against losing your cool and gives you the leverage in the relationship.
Classroom management is knowledge-based. Anyone with the right tools can create the teaching and learning experience they desire. It doesn’t matter where you teach, what grade level, or who shows up on your roster.
We provide these tools for you through our books, guides, and weekly articles. But there is one thing we can’t provide but is critical to your initial success.
It’s a trait that all people possess. It may be dormant. It may be underused. But it’s there waiting to be awakened.
By definition, fortitude is the mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, and temptation courageously.
Applied to the classroom, it’s the spirit to overcome your fears and be the leader your students need.
My advice to the teacher I observed that day is to take ‘you’ out of the equation. Turn down the volume on how you feel—your thoughts, worries, anxieties, and what ifs—and turn up the volume on how urgently your students need you.
When you take a moment to consider just how much they’re depending on you—even though they may not realize it until years, even decades, later—finding the fortitude to push through your fears becomes easy.
Your students don’t know what they don’t know.
They don’t know how cruel the world can be to those unprepared for it. They don’t know how skilled and competent and hardworking and disciplined they must be just to make a decent living, let alone pursue their dreams.
They don’t know the competition they’ll face or the overwhelming challenges and obstacles awaiting them. They don’t know that by goofing off and wasting time they’re throwing away one of the greatest gifts they’ll ever receive.
So when you freeze up, when you look the other way, when you bribe and appease and give up and give in, you set them up for failure and crushing disappointment.
Your students need a rescuer, a defender, a role model, a lion, and a champion. They need a hero who will make a stand for them and their future.
They need you to be the leader they don’t know they need.
You are not powerless, nor are you at your students’ mercy. These are lies we tell ourselves to avoid facing our fears.
By shifting your attention to the future men and women who are counting on you to ready them for what lies ahead, it radically changes your perspective.
It aligns you with the truth. It saddles you with the gravity of your role and turns you into the calm but fierce and fearless warrior who will make a difference.
This is your chosen career, after all, and you have but one chance to make an impact on each student that comes into your life.
Don’t waste it.
PS – I’ll be taking next week off to celebrate Thanksgiving, but will be back on December 3rd with a brand new article.
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