Teachers who struggle with classroom management—and teaching in general—tend to be overly invested in the job.
They view the profession as who they are rather than what they do.
They live and die with every success or failure.
They’ve bought into the lie—hook, line, and sinker—that good teachers give more, do more, help more, and talk more than less committed colleagues.
This approach inevitably draws them into a micro-level relationship with students.
It pulls them away from the front of the room and into frequent one-on-one instruction and micromanagement.
They spend their days rushing about, putting out fires, and trying to convince students to behave.
It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s stressful. And it’s grossly ineffective.
It steals from students the gift of responsibility, causing learned helplessness, boredom, dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, more misbehavior.
Furthermore, it narrows the teacher’s vision so much that they can’t see the big picture. They lose self-awareness, as well as spacial and physical awareness. They become stuck so far in the weeds that they’re not even aware there is a way out.
The most effective teachers, on the other hand, maintain a level of detachment from the job.
They’re still able to build strong, influential relationships with students, but those relationships are built on a foundation of trust, likability, and consistency.
Students are drawn to them not because they necessarily know each student well in a personal sense, but because they’re friendly and pleasant, day after day, and they do what they say they’re going to do.
They know that if they care too much, if they allow themselves to be pulled in too deep, then it will cloud their judgment.
It will cause them to take their students’ behavior personally, which will raise their stress level, skew their objectivity, and bring about feelings of frustration, irritability, and disappointment.
Furthermore, being overly invested makes leaving school at school at the end of every day (so you can return refreshed the next morning) all but impossible.
But it isn’t just healthy emotional distance that makes these teachers more effective.
It’s also physical distance. They tend to position themselves farther away than those who struggle. They frequently move back and away to look around and capture the big picture.
They recede into the background during independent and group work while handing greater and greater responsibility over to students.
Not only is this approach highly motivational, and a critical key to achievement, maturity, and accelerating academic progress, but it allows the teacher to observe and really learn about their students and their strengths and weaknesses.
It gives them perspective, impartiality, and wisdom along with strong leadership presence.
It allows them to see more, supervise better, and witness misbehavior when it actually happens. It also causes students to become fiercely independent and steerers of their own ship.
Again, though, it’s a modicum of detachment, particularly in the emotional sense. It’s not standoffish or impersonal. It isn’t cold or robotic or unfeeling.
It’s a subtle step back.
However, if you were to observe two teachers in action, one as described in the beginning of the article and the other with a sensible level of detachment, the difference in classroom behavior, maturity, and independence would be alarming.
For many teachers, this one change, this small tweak in emotional and physical distance, can be monumental, both in enjoyment of the job and effectiveness.
But it takes a thoughtful reevaluation of what it takes to be a good teacher. A shift in thinking.
A modern mindset.
A happy embrace of what really works in the classroom.
PS – There is a lot to this topic. To learn more, please check out the Learning & Independence category of the archive.
If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.