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.
Hmmm, as a teacher, I’ve never been tempted to be friends with my students? I don’t have any teacher friends who seem to think that way either? I just see it more as a mentor situation, how could an adult be friends with a teenager in that setting? Didn’t even know that some teachers see it that way.
I think it can easily happen when you genuinely like students or one is close in age to the students. In the former category, it’s easy to think of the student as someone with whom you have things in common and crossing lines between what is “mentor” appropriate gets really easy…again, because you genuinely LIKE the kid and share some of the same interests.
But I think those lines get more clearly defined as teachers age and students don’t (if that makes sense).
I think it’s probably just a personality difference… I’m an ESFJ, and I want to “friends” with everyone even if it means I sacrifice some of my authority. I’m sure that isn’t a struggle for everyone at all, but it definitely has been at points for me.
Don’t be confused though in thinking that being a student’s friend somehow implies an inappropriate or unethical relationship. I think that can happen even with the best of intentions. For example, spending too much time talking about who is asking who to Homecoming or talking about your upcoming wedding isn’t inappropriate necessarily, but it does set you up as “one of them” instead of setting you apart as the adult in the classroom. Especially in my early career, I definitely had a tendency to lean more towards that side of things because I wanted my students to LIKE and respect me; but, in reality, it probably had the opposite effect. The friend vs. mentor distinction has helped me with that. Does that make more sense?
I think you’re right about the unethical/inappropriate relationship comment. I think every person who hears about a teacher who has developed a lack of authority with his/her students automatically thinks the relationships was somehow illicit. Like I said above, some kids are easy to like–some are old souls. It’s easy to forget they are 16 or 17 due to commonalities. And when that happens, we (as teachers) find ourselves wanting to be friends because isn’t that the nature of friendship anyway?
Sono curioso di sapere come hanno misurato la distanza. Spero non sulla superficie! :)Domanda da &q;9&ut#3o;gnoranto", il percorso dei neutrini Ã¨ influenzato dalla forza di gravitÃ ?
Hey, E? I think there’s a small posting error here causing the post to repeat itself? It may be an internet error on my end, but I’m not sure so I thought I’d let you know.
I’m going to share this with my faculty, though. Thanks!
Thank you SO much. I had a total mess up there! It should be fixed now. 🙂