“I love those who can smile in trouble.” 
Leonardo da Vinci

I believe that one of the reasons I became a middle school art teacher was so that I could learn how to laugh when things don't quite work according to the plan! Winston Churchhill once said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

This page outlines some of the things I have found about how to have the attitude of a strong leader; one who is strict, yet compassionate. A successful leader/teacher is also decisive, calm, confident, joyful, and proactive instead of reactive. 

To begin with, there is so much outside of our control when it comes to students' ability to achieve. No matter how hard we work, the ultimate responsibility for students' success belongs to the students themselves:
"Nonschool factors do influence student achievement, but they are largely outside a school's control. Some research suggests that, compared with teachers, individual and family characteristics may have four to eight times the impact on student achievement. But policy discussions focus on teachers because it is arguably easier for public policy to improve teaching than to change students' personal characteristics or family circumstances. Effective teaching has the potential to help level the playing field."

If we can focus our energies on that which is under our control and not worry about all the things we can't control, our lives will be infinitely more peaceful! 

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey says: 
  • "Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. 
  • "The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase. 
  • "Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. 
  • "They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. 
  • "Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. 
  • "The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink."


I believe this small thing is what all else depends upon. The support and foundation for everything else that the teacher can do (instruction, motivation, and discipline) to create an environment for student success is "TEACHER ATTITUDE."









First, a discussion on authority........because no management strategy will be effective unless the teacher is comfortable with his/her position of authority in the classroom – it is not a democracy! 


“When I let go of my authority ….., I am abdicating my responsibility to protect the environment in which the rest of the students live and learn - and thus their right to a quality education.” Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion

Teachers exercise authority in order to help the kids; we do not exercise authority because we are power-hungry.

Rules exist to protect the students and their right to learn. In a chaotic environment little to no learning can happen.

Since the 1950’s, culture in the United States has changed a LOT. We have become child-centered. Psychologists have had an enormous influence, convincing parents to be more “democratic” with their children. Today’s students do not have the same amount of respect for authority as they did in the past. (Sources: John Rosemond, A Family of Value, Fred Jones, Tools For Teaching, Dr. Irvin King, University of Hawaii)

All teachers have legitimate authority, but not all understand how to maintain control of the classroom.

 Fred Jones, author of a myriad of books on classroom management and education, started his career by observing many teachers. At one school, he spent the morning in a state of shock at the chaotic and disrespectful behavior of the students. When he followed these same students to their afternoon classes, he was surprised to find the kids behaving and working hard. What was the teachers' secret? They couldn't describe it except to say, "You better mean business!"
Teachers are told over and over that if we want to be able to teach we have to "control our classroom."
No one ever tells us how to do that! 

What is the real meaning of authority, and how do you exercise it?

According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, “AUTHORITY” means;
1. "the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct  or control someone or  something

2. the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people

3. a quality that makes something seem true or real"


Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion
"We're socialized to believe that warmth and strictness are opposites: if you're more of one, it means being less of the other. I don't know where this false conception comes from, but if you choose to believe in it, it will undercut your teaching. When you are clear, consistent, firm, and unrelenting and at the same time positive, enthusiastic, caring, and thoughtful, you start to send the message to students that having high expectations is part of caring for and respecting someone. This is a very powerful message. Not only should you seek to be both (warm and strict), you should often seek to be both at exactly the same time."

 I once overheard one of my students saying, "She's too soft," regarding one of her 7th grade teachers. This student knew (even though she couldn't describe it)  that some teachers just feel sorry for the students and do not expect kids to comply 100%. In both Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov, and Crazy Like a Fox, by Ben Chavis, these experts regard this as destructive not just to the student in question but to the other kids in the class. This is NOT being warm-strict.


An interesting perspective about authority comes from Cesar Millan, author of Cesar's Way, a dog behavior expert, and star of the television show, "The Dog Whisperer." (Michael Linsin writes about his techniques in How To Command Respect From Students. )

In his book, Mr. Millan describes something he calls, "calm-assertive energy:"
"Right or wrong, we in America expect our leaders to project a charismatic energy that infects and energizes everyone around them - consider Tony Robbins. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr .projected an energy that was what I call 'calm-assertive' - the ideal energy for a leader....... In our human landscape, (calm-assertive personalities) are few and far between, but they are almost always the most powerful, impressive, and successful people on the block. Oprah Winfrey ..... is the epitome of calm-assertive energy. She is relaxed, even-tempered, but undeniably powerful, and always in charge."

One of Mr. Millan's missions is to rehabilitate dogs (and their owners). He tells a story of one fearful, anxious dog and his owner, an actress. The actress would take her dog out for a walk, but the dog was so frightened of his own shadow and his owner would become more and more anxious that the walk would end dreadfully:


Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
    "When Sharon told me she was an actress, however, I realized that she had a powerful tool at her disposal that she wasn't taking advantage of. The best actors learn to dig deep inside themselves, to use the power of thought, feeling, and imagination to transform themselves into different characters..... I asked Sharon to ....concentrate on a simple exercise: to think of a character she identified as being calm and assertive. Because of her training, Sharon immediately understood what I was asking her to do. Without hesitation she answered, 'Cleopatra.' I then suggested she 'become' Cleopatra every time she walked (the dog).....Right before my eyes, her posture became straighter and her chest higher. She raised her head and     gazed imperiously around her, as if she were the queen of all she surveyed. ....Of course, the dog had never gone to acting class but because he picked up on her energy shift, he had no choice but to become Sharon's 'scene partner.'.....he instantly became more relaxed and less fearful."


                            "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

¡John Rosemond, author of a myriad of parenting books, states that a good leader is decisive and gives the impression that s/he knows what s/he is doing all the time.
¡In other words, leaders act like (pretend) they know what they’re doing! You don’t have to be perfect, just decisive!


Giotto; Christ washing the feet of the disciples
I have found that kids need leadership desperately. I have also found that to be a good leader and exercise authority, you have to have a "servant" attitude as well. I tell my students that they need to find ways to serve others in order to know how to lead. Finally, to be in authority is an enormous responsibility. It takes a LOT of courage, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and strength to hold kids accountable, to enforce consequences, and to love them while you do it. It also takes a lot of time to build the trust of students, so they know you are not just pushing them around, that you care about them and want them to be successful.




Teach students the 3 R's (respectful, responsible, resourceful) by using the 3 C's: CALM, CONSISTENT, CONCISE

The best teachers understand that their first priority is to teach students to be responsible, respectful, and resourceful. These teachers, because they are consistent and unwavering in their expectation for students to be polite, have their classrooms under control and thus can actually teach.
¡Send the message to students that caring for them and respecting them includes holding them accountable for their actions – be positive, affirming, and calm while disciplining/correcting students – “warm-strict.”
Who would you rather teach? A student with an IQ of 90 who is respectful, responsible, and resourceful, or a student with an IQ of 165 who is none of these? (John Rosemond)


                                                  (under construction)

I believe that one of the secrets to truly enjoying what we do lies in having an ordered, peaceful classroom where the kids feel safe, secure, are challenged to work hard, and where both the students and the teacher have the freedom to simply have fun.

¡Michael Linsin’s philosophy basically says the teacher needs to balance strictness with a joyful attitude, creating a class the kids love to be a part of. 

Our articles about "Teacher Attitude:"
  • (Here is a terrific article by blogger Amy Zschaber, author of 

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."Thomas Jefferson

Luke 6:43-45 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Jesus Christ

Editor's note: Managing student behavior involves far more than discipline techniques. In order to create an environment for student success, the teacher needs to provide quality instruction as well as appropriate motivation. Most importantly, the teacher needs to have the right attitude for leadership in the classroom. Finally, having a solid classroom management plan with rules and procedures set up from the beginning of the year is also extremely important - students need to be very clear about what the teacher's expectations are.

disclaimer: These are a set of ideas about being proactive in teaching based on classroom experience as well as various education authors. Many times there are circumstances in the classroom that are beyond any teacher's control, especially when serving at-risk populations or in environments where those in administration fail to provide effective leadership in a school. Sometimes, regardless of the prevailing theories about teacher responsibility, the teacher is not to be blamed for out of control students. Finally, we do NOT recommend that you put any of these strategies into practice if your administration disagrees with them. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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