Today I’ve invited Linda of Teach 4 the Heart to share some of her best advice for classroom management. Linda is a former English teacher with a heart for Jesus and her students. She is currently staying home with her two young children full time (read about that decision in her last guest post here), but stays active in her professional life through her blog, podcast, book, and online course* (whew). When I first heard her talk about the concept she’s sharing today, it was like a lightbulb moment for me. This perspective change in the way that I pursue and maintain relationships with my students has been a slow process of maturing throughout my career; but, it has made a noticeable difference in my classroom, and it was so nice to have the words to explain the change. I hope you will find her message equally helpful and powerful!
When you care deeply for your students, it’s easy to fall into a dangerous trap – the trap of trying to be their friends.
The logic goes like this: I really care about these students and want to help them make good decisions. So I want them to feel like they can come talk to me. In order to make them feel comfortable, I need to befriend them.
But there’s a big problem with that logic: Teachers aren’t supposed to be their students’ friends. It just doesn’t work.
Imagine if your friend tried to assign you homework to do over the weekend. Or if the only fair grade they could give you on your essay was a D. Or if they had to hand you a detention. It wouldn’t go over so well, would it? After all, they’re your friend….
When teachers try to be their students’ friends, it gets really messy. These teachers often end up avoiding things they need to do because they’re worried about preserving the friendship. And, worse, the students who are supposedly their friends don’t respect them and end up taking advantage of the “friendship.”
Too often, these teachers who had the best of intentions end up with a class that is out of control.
So, if we shouldn’t be friends, what should we be?
Are we supposed to just remain aloof and no-nonsense?
Not at all.
What we need is a change of perspective.
Instead of trying to be your students’ friend, strive to be their mentor.
The difference is this: Friends are on the same level. They’re buddy-buddy, and they act similarly. So when you try to be your student’s friend, you have to act like a teenager to get down to that level. And, ultimately, you’re giving up your authority to level the playing field.
A mentor, on the other hand, is not on the same level as his men-tee. There’s a clear distinction between who the mentor is and who is the men-tee. As a mentor, you guide your students, help your students, counsel your students, and care about your students. But your authority and respect remains intact.
When you see yourself as a mentor, you’re not afraid to make tough choices or to tell the students what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear. As a result, you’re more effective in all areas and able to make a deeper impact in the lives of your students.
So what do you think? Have you been trying to be a friend or a mentor? What needs to change in the way you view your relationship with your students?
Don’t you love this concept?!? Linda is offering a FREE Classroom Management Webinar* Monday (2/29) at 8:45PM where she’ll talk about this in detail and so much more! I really whole-heartedly recommend her training and invite you to join me there next week. It costs you absolutely nothing but an hour (or so) of you time, and I promise it will be worth it! Sign up today* and mark your calendar!
P.S. If you can’t make it Monday night – or the date has already passed by the time you’re seeing this – you can still sign up for the free 3 day Classroom Management Minicourse here and complete it when it works for you!!
*These links are affiliate links, but since the training is completely free, I only make a commission if you go on to purchase the full course from there. Regardless, I genuinely love the work Linda is doing and would recommend it with or without any money. (You could read my full affiliate disclosure in the sidebar if you want.)
P.S. Have you noticed that my new blog design has a whole section under “Teaching” completely devoted to classroom management? Check it out if you want more on the topic while you’re waiting for the webinar.