“The more innovative I have become, the less classroom management I have to deal with.”

Someone who was reading “The Innovator’s Mindset”, approached me and talked about the impact it had on their teaching and learning. I was honoured by their kind words, but this statement that she made has stuck in my head:

“The more innovative I have become, the less classroom management I have to deal with.”

Simple yet mind blowing.

Is this not true? Giving student ownership of their learning and thinking about the question, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?”, would create an environment where students are more likely to be a part of their learning, as to separate themselves from the classroom. This question has never meant to be a “yes or no” answer, but something to have educators reflect on their work every single day. Thinking about this question daily would only lead to more success in our profession.

In another conversation, an educator talked about their school trying to figure out what to do with student absences in their classrooms. While a group was looking at types of consequences to “deter” absences, this principal was wondering why students didn’t want to come to school in the first place? We often want to fix others, as opposed to explore our own actions and try to understand what those are leading to. We should always look first at changing the environment, not the student.

Sheila Vick recently wrote a blog exploring this statement, and providing, “4 Ways in Which Innovative Education Simplifies Classroom Management”. They are the following:

  1. Innovative education naturally gives students more choice and autonomy. They take ownership of their learning. This inevitably means that students are more excited and interested in their learning and thus, more engaged and focused on their work. Students are too immersed in their learning to have time for misbehavior.
  2. Innovative education is a naturally inclusive approach that respects diversity within the classroom. It is a collaborative approach that allows for varying abilities, strengths and intelligences (think Howard Gardner). A good teacher will work to unearth and develop every student’s strengths and passions and help them to find their purpose within the group. No student is left out. This is also all an important part of their social and emotional learning and it creates a sense of community within the classroom — a community that values everyone.
  3. When we give students a voice, choice and autonomy, it also gives the message to our students that we trust them, which helps build the teacher-student relationship. What I have learned about attachment theory over the years, is that people (including students) obey out of a function of attachment. Essentially, we want to do good by those we like and feel connected to. A strong teacher-student connection, therefore usually leads to more positive student behaviour.
  4. In an innovative classroom, the teacher becomes a leader and facilitator (versus boss of the classroom and feeder of content). The teacher learns alongside the students. They guide their students in identifying problems and in solving them, including as it pertains to classroom management issues. This more level playing field of sorts, has students less interested in “bucking the system, ” if you will, and more interested in working in collaboration with the teacher on the classroom climate and culture.

Vick goes on to make this important connection:

To summarize, an innovative approach to education results in all students being more included and engaged in their learning. Relationships between the teacher and students, as well as between students are strengthened, which results in the classroom community naturally working better together. Classroom management becomes a whole group endeavour and not just the teacher’s job.

This is not to say that student’s shouldn’t have any responsibility on their own behaviour in the classroom. I believe that we need to teach students that ultimately they create their own future and that there are some times in school, work, and learning, where things will be boring and we have to plow through. But this applies to ourselves as educators as well. We create our own realities. A teacher’s job isn’t to “entertain”, but showing value and meaning in learning, can often help connect the seemingly most menial tasks to a larger purpose. When we focus on what we control and constantly work towards creating deeper and more meaningful learning opportunities for our students, the impact on our students will be that much more profound.