1. Sue King

    This is a very timely post for me to have read. We have been having discussions about some students whose behaviors are creating challenges – for teachers and other students. The immediate reaction is to put a "behavior plan" in place to change the child's behavior. As the building principal, I asked that first I go in and get a better sense of what is going on with one particular student; in discussing what I saw, I tended to use the phrase "Classroom management." However, I believe I really was seeing differences in "classroom leadership' – the atmosphere in each classroom and the interactions among all of the people in the classroom varied greatly. I strongly believe the words we choose matter greatly in how we view things and how we respond to things. Thank you for allowing me to clarify/refine my thinking – and now I can share a clearer perspective with others.

  2. We have been talking a lot about this at our school. In most traditional classrooms, students are either micromanaged to the point that they never make their own choices about their actions, or the "management" is inconsistent, and kids never understand consequences (positive and negative) for their actions.

    I've told my students, as well as their parents, that I am not going to stand over my kids to ensure they are making good choices about behavior, staying on task, etc. That is the responsibility of each student. My job is to help lead them in the direction to make those good choices. It's sometimes challenging, but consistency has made a huge difference in keeping the kids accountable. Honestly, I think they're enjoying the fact that they, even as 3rd and 4th graders, are given the opportunity to think for themselves. They make a lot of choices about how and what they're learning, too, which I feel has really empowered them as learners. It's been a great 10 weeks so far!

  3. This a really interesting post.
    I agree that there is a difference between mangement and leadership.
    I've often heard the phrase 'Management makes it happen but leadership makes it possible.' The best classroom management plan in the world will not work unless it is seen as a vehicle to achieve something purposeful whose impact will reach beyond just contol or punishment , rather than a mechanistic response to a particular set of circumstances or behaviours.

    Classroom leadership is based on vision and principles but the overriding factor is the belief that the teacher can influence what happens in the classroom and in this context classroom leadership starts with teachers taking responsibility for their own actions.

    This doesn't mean that teachers need to try to be superhuman – real-life leadership happens everyday with ordinary people in ordinary situations. Nor does it mean they have to do it all by themselves. Leadership means seeing the 'big picture' first before focusing on the details, being proactive rather than reactive and, above all, being consistent, persistent and, when necessary, insistent about helping students to both manage and lead themselves in and out of class.

  4. It's a difficult topic. I agree wholeheartedly with this post, but I often despair that most of our teachers are equipped to lead their rooms this way. And even many principals would not understand what you are talking about.

    Teachers and administrators seek out "techniques," thinking that there is a set of responses/protocols/tricks that magically make children behave. There are techniques, to be certain…anyone can benefit from knowing the basics of how to work with children effectively. But for too many people the thought process stops there…"If only we could get every teacher doing Plan X…I know…we'll have a building-wide Plan X. Then everyone just has to unthinkingly follow the steps."

    The few other teachers I know that have great classroom management just shake our heads as we go through these cycles. Meanwhile, the teachers who have never had success in this area are just as unsuccessful under the new plan, except that now they can quickly work through the steps and kick the kids down to the office. So perhaps they are happier…but the principal pays the price.

    Humans are pack animals who naturally look for a leader. Teachers who figure out that they run the pack get it right. Those who shrink from that obligation never do.

    Betsy Weigle

  5. I'm in the process of reading Good to Great by Jim Collins (recommended reading by district admin about 5 years ago….just now catching up!! — though I cringe at the example of Fannie Mae as one of the "great"). He makes a clear distinction between management and leadership — though in terms of business, there are parallels in education as well. Nice post!

  6. I am a classroom teacher and I consider myself a teacher leader in regards to my colleagues, not necessarily my students. This new direction of thinking from "classroom management" to "classroom leadership" makes good sense. I greatly appreciate your view of teachers in the classroom as leaders, beyond the role of guide and facilitator. Leaders need vision, enthusiasm, and passion to inspire those being led and that's just what I strive to do as a classroom teacher. Thank you for the validation and inspiration to reframe my thinking!

  7. Thank you for the post and the comments! I am a student teacher right now (graduating in December) and I am seeing lots of management in the classroom which I do not agree with. Yet, I am afraid that I will fall back to those “techniques” once I have my own classroom (I am a music and German ed major), because that’s what I saw and that’s how I have been taught. How can my generation make the change to what makes so much more sense?

  8. Chris

    "Classroom management" is not a negative connotation; there is a need for it. A teacher can only demonstrate "classroom leadership" when there is effective classroom management. It is not an either or.

  9. Maureen Schlemko

    I enjoyed reading this post and the conversation that came from it.

    I think that many times good teachers are natural leaders and they are unconsiously skilled at the classroom management piece. This makes leadership & management seemless. For some educators they have to work harder at one more than the other. I think the key is to be an adaptive leader/teacher/coach and to be able to recognize what leadership/management balance is needed for the situation and/or goal.

    I was in the middle of preparing a post that talks about the leadership/management balance when I read this one. I think is connects so I posted it early: http://inspireconnections.wordpress.com/. I hope you have a chance to read it. Comments are appreciated. 🙂

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