I’ve been in education for almost two decades now. I’ve been trained in many different areas, theories, and best practices. I know how to teach holistic writing, facilitate guided math, and implement a balanced literacy program. More recently, I’ve learned all about social-emotional learning, conscious discipline, and even know a thing or two about mindfulness. With all of this added on top of my content knowledge, familiarity with state standards, testing blueprints, and the basics of summative and formative assessment, you’d think I’d have been taught or trained in most areas that a teacher would need to know to be successful.
But no one ever taught me how to get kids to behave.
In my current role as an instructional coach, I should theoretically deal with content and instructional strategies. My wealth of knowledge and experience in and out of the classroom, however, haven’t yet prepared me to coach classroom management. I can go into most any classroom and get kids to respond to me in a positive way. Many exemplary educators in my department also have the ability to walk into any classroom and immediately take charge. Yet how is that done? How can I teach that to new and/or struggling teachers? Using the acronym of CHARGE, my experience and research has shown me that everything starts with confidence. (Top)
What we believe about ourselves often becomes reality. Teachers can greatly affect the behavior of their students by first believing in their own abilities. Many teachers are finished before they even start because of self-doubt. To paint a vivid picture, classrooms can sometimes be like a shark-infested area. When there’s blood in the water, or in this case a lack of confidence, children can smell it miles away.
The importance of confidence stems from two related ideas in psychological research. The first, self-efficacy, was first introduced by Albert Bandura in the 1970s. It refers the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet challenges. Positive self-talk powerfully influences our behaviors and affects learning, helps us adopt healthy behaviors, and to maintain productive habits. In a nutshell, beliefs are powerful. In addition to self-efficacy, Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets has become an international phenomenon. People with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They’ve been shown to have higher motivation, enhanced brain development across wider ranges of tasks, lower stress, anxiety and depression, and higher performance levels.
How can teachers develop confidence? They should begin with an examination of their beliefs. Do they think they can take charge of their classroom or are they already defeated? A foundation of confidence doesn’t mean that they have to have everything already worked out. Instead, it’s a commitment to knowing the power of “yet.” Instead of saying, “I can’t take charge of my classroom,” say “I haven’t taken charge of my classroom…yet.” Adding the word “yet” changes the perspective from defeat to future success. The last four parts of the acronym CHARGE discuss specific principles for improving classroom management. (Top)
In addition to being confident, teachers should be human, a term used here to convey two very specific ideas. First, teachers need to be fully present. Education is not a backup plan or a career for those who can’t hack it in other fields. In fact, I believe that teaching is a calling that requires passion and commitment. It isn’t something that happens for 187 days from 8:00 to 3:00. Teachers need to come fully into the classroom, bringing their personalities, hobbies, quirks, and everything unique about them. Students need flesh-and-blood heroes, not cardboard cutouts.
When teachers are fully alive in the classroom, students can connect with them. That relational connection underlies everything that’s done at school, including learning. It’s not only documented in decades of research, it also correlates strongly with common sense. Take a moment and think back to your own childhood education. Think of your favorite teacher, the one that made a deep impact on your childhood, the one you tried to find on Facebook after you grew up. That teacher represents the best of humanity in the classroom.
Being present is a necessary condition for relationships to flourish. To feel safe enough to learn, to take academic risks and try new things, students need to feel connected. They must be known, seen, and valued. They are not statistics or interchangeable parts. Instead, students are unique and need to feel individually special. By emphasizing positive relationships, teachers can build creative cultures of curiosity that nourish young lives through mutual respect and empathy. (Top)
This post highlights the two traits that teachers need to cultivate to take charge of their classrooms – confidence and humanity. To read about the first two actions they can take, anticipate and reflect, click here.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256.
Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2001). Early teacher-child relationships and the trajectory of children’s school outcomes through eighth grade. Child Development, 72(2), 625-638.
Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2009). Self-efficacy theory. Handbook of motivation at school, 35-53.
Snyder, C.R. & S.J. Lopez. (2005). Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Wentzel, K. R., & Wigfield, A. (1998). Academic and social motivational influences on students’ academic performance. Educational Psychology Review, 10(2), 155-175.