The trunk, the support, and the strength of the tree is the teacher's inner authority and positive attitude. It is WHO the teacher is; the underlying attitude. Here is the paradox because great teachers are simultaneously calm yet assertive, warm yet strict, and soft yet firm. We are flexible, and can sway slightly in a strong wind, but we are not made of jello! The trunk is planted, it is firm, and it is unrelenting. However, the trunk is not where the focus lies; it is merely the support for all the growth, beauty, and life that takes place up in the branches. The trunk is the backbone, it is the foundation, it is the armature, it is the support.
We want all of our hard work to bear the fruits of student engagement, learning, and success! Symbolically speaking, the "tree" that bears the fruit is the teacher. The branches are WHAT the teacher does and they grow out of WHO the teacher is.
There are three primary branches that grow on this "tree" before any of the "good stuff" happens up top, and I will be writing about each of them in much more detail in my next posts, giving as many practical examples as I can find:
1. RELATIONSHIPS - assuming the best in our students, motivation, providing incentives, "leverage"
2. PROFESSIONALISM - effective instruction, organization, curriculum
3. DISCIPLINE - teaching, modeling, and re-teaching the classroom management plan (rules, procedures, and consequences); holding students accountable
As teachers, we want what is best for our students. We dream of having a classroom where the students are kind, respectful, hard-working, enthusiastic, responsible, and problem-solvers. We want them to be successful! I believe that this success would be impossible without structure. Unfortunately, teachers sometimes (unintentionally) use some destructive "hatchets" to hack at the supportive trunk; I wrote about these in the post, "Power Stealers" below. No fruit can grow when the tree gets chopped down.
What is it that you value in your kids? Are you paying attention to that, acknowledging and encouraging kind acts, innovative ideas, and hard work by praising your students? Or are you too distracted by misbehavior? There have been many times in my career that I have been! It took a tremendous act of will (& a lot of prayer!) to stay positive in the midst of the hurricane!
I think one of the keys is in the classroom management plan (consistency and holding students accountable) becoming automatic and unobtrusive. If this is the case, then the focus of the teacher can be on relationship building and effective instruction instead of on disciplining all the time.
As I mentioned previously, this website is an exploration of effective methods of classroom management. There are no two trees exactly alike! However, with all the research I have done there are definitely some consistent ideas that have floated to the top of all the flotsam and jetsam. I am working hard to refine my own practice, and I appreciate any and all feedback!