Classroom Management versus Classroom Leadership

Classroom Management versus Classroom Leadership

As schools are reopening and teachers head back into their classrooms, they will be faced with the question, “How do I deal with disruptive behavior in my classroom?” In fact, classroom management will be one of the biggest concerns for our teachers, rivaled only by how to motivate underachieving students.

There are many reasons why even good and conscientious teachers will struggle with behavior problems in their classroom. The first has to do with the fact that many of their students will have increased or severe social, emotional, and behavioral needs because of events over the past year. Most educators agree: Creating a classroom characterized by high achievement and positive discipline has always been difficult and will be even more so in the near future.

I’d like to propose another factor contributing to our classroom behavior management woes: A focus on “management” at the expense of “leadership.”

Most educators received large doses of Skinnerian behavior management theory as they complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees. In essence, they are taught to manage student behavior through the careful application of immediate rewards and consequences. Of course, this requires that we have a “behavior management system.”

This approach works well with some students but it can backfire horribly with many others.  Is it true that many of the students who display the most disrespect and defiance are the very same students who couldn’t care less about the types of rewards or consequences we have in our hip pockets?

What might happen if we placed a greater emphasis on classroom leadership, on getting to know students on deeper levels, and on building solid teacher-student relationships? What might happen if we created school and classroom cultures that fostered the development of problem-solving skills and self-control rather a reliance on adults to manage the system?

What might happen if our school climate met the deeper, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students better than the social media site or app du jour? Would we inspire students toward a higher ideal?

As our teachers make the transition back into the classroom, they will need all of the resources and tools possible to help them take control of the classroom and create a positive, healthy learning environment. Find more classroom management and leadership strategies in my book for teachers, Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

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