As I have been doing all this research to try and figure out this hugely complex thing called classroom management, a picture of a tree came to mind. Bear with me here - this is simply the best way I have to illustrate and organize all the information I have found so far. This idea has settled in my mind after studying the theories of many different experts: Michael Linsin (Dream Class), Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion), Rick Smith (Conscious Classroom Management), Fred Jones (Tools For Teaching), John Rosemond (A Family of Value), and many others. There is a mountain of information out there about classroom management, and I am making an effort to distill the best of it down to something I can use as an art teacher. This post, along with the next related posts, will be my attempt to understand and describe this information.

If I may compare classroom management to a tree:
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

The tree would die if not for the invisible sap, the blood, seeping into every branch, twig, and leaf, carrying nourishment. This is how I think of the teacher's prevailing attitude of joy, peace, and love for the students. You can't see the sap, but you can see immediately if the tree is healthy and vibrant. This vital energy flows throughout the entire tree, up through the trunk and branches to nourish the leaves. Up here, the fruits of student learning, engagement, and growth in skills and knowledge can only happen if the trunk stays strong and the sap of joy, peace, and love continues to flow. The teacher does not argue, is confident, calm, unemotional when disciplining, positive, pleasant to be around, self- controlled, forgiving, and quick to notice good things.

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!

No comments: