Changing Classroom Management to Classroom Relationships

by 4:47 PM 4 comments
This post was written throughout the school day - as time permitted - and at the beginning of our trimester conference that started at 4pm. 

A little background: I feel the relationship between a teacher and student is the premier goal and vital in the success to the student's growth. With that, it doesn't mean a teacher has to be the friend, but there has to be a mutual respect and understanding in order to facilitate that learning process.

Hopefully, I'm able to get my students to push themselves in a way that has nothing to do with pure journalism, but as a learner in general because of the relationship I've built as a teacher. The negative connotation that "management" seems to bring is that I should make kids do what I want, make them learn, if they don't then I need to manage them by modifying behavior.

A good foundation keeps a building standing longer.

Side note (again, often in this blog): right at this very moment, one of my foreign exchange students is using Face-Time to talk with her dad about school and classes in general. 

Guten tag Herr Thron!

It's through our relationship that I know talking to her dad means more to her at this moment than helping to edit the yearbook page for corrections (get this: English spelling and punctuation). It's been three weeks since she's talked to him (let alone Face-Time).

This is where the old term "Classroom Management" may come into question. Isn't that a distraction to the classroom? Yes and no. This particular class is an elective, yearbook. Because of this, students are working at different places and times. I often refer to my journalism classes not as "regular school" but jobs. Students have something specific to do; it's all (attention: buzzwords coming) authentic and differentiated. So the opportunity arose, and my yearbook students took a photo of my student and her father on Face-Time to go into the yearbook (opportunity seized): photo titled, "Reconnecting."

She is very happy to "see" her father.
As educators, we know that Abraham Maslow (1968) suggested that in order for students to become productive learners, they must have their basic needs met first (the hierarchy of learning) through five steps leading to self-actualization. *If you didn't know that, you will. I'd say my student's 20 minutes with her father counts in the "Belonging" category.

In 2007, as I was getting my Post-Baccalaureate teaching certification, one of my tasks was to write a 10-page paper. *I truly despise requiring a superficial number of pages for papers I assign. So I don't assign number of pages, we just use the rubric to makes sure content requirements are fulfilled. I suggested that, "to build a relationship is to build trust and confidence while pushing the student to become more successful than they may think possible." *Yes, it's weird citing my own paper. Also, After re-reading the whole paper, I was very naive  I have learned more in the past year of being a teacher than I ever did going through pedagogy classes.

If we get to know our students, as more than just test scores or seating charts, we can then know how to push them to get their best. And don't forget, it's not just you knowing them - it's getting the students to know you. My students in particular, are very adept to technology. As a 1:1 school, I don't take a lot of time to teach the tool any more, and that is a great benefit because that allows me more time to get to know my students, and vice versa.

Today was also one of my favorite lessons for my Introduction to Journalism students, a personal profile story about me. I'm not (completely) narcissistic, but this task allows me to assess information gathering from students, and I know the background information they find without needing to double check it. And, for the most part, I know if kids are misquoting their source.

But in reality, it gives the students a chance to ask me any question they want, find personal information on me (through my wife's blog or this one), and see photos of me when I was their age. I'm not afraid or ashamed of anything that's online of me (I leave a relatively good digital footprint). And it's the first step of the kids seeing that I am more than just a teacher. It's the first step of building a relationship. Now that I've been teaching for five years, and I've had my kids throughout Intro and into the advanced classes, I'm able to connect with them, and they with me.

My students are more able to connect technologically as well, and I believe this is why we need to change the term classroom management to classroom relationships. Students can contact me through school-based accounts via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and school email. In fact, when I'm at home sick (i.e. yesterday), I'm still able to give tasks, answer questions, and help with different aspects of the classroom as if I haven't left (although, I don't always prefer it).

It's important to be able to connect enough to have a student walk in to conferences, after being away from high school for four years, and tell you how good he's doing with his new job at a theater and how he remembers your class in particular because you were "so hard because you made me do work." This literally just happened (I feel very lucky as I'm writing this post to have all of these things just happen).

Oh, and apparently I am currently the profile photo for four of my senior's twitter pages. The narcissist in me is okay with that.



I do a lot of things. The best thing I do is fathering (I think). I'm the ol' "Jack of all trades, Master of none." I teach aspiring journalists. I run. I play guitar(s). I also host a running podcast. Oh, and I dabble in drawing. And I dabble in authoring... children's books no less. I just dabble. Sometimes I ramble.


  1. 3 R's are vital 1) Relationships 2) Relationships 3) Relationships...

    1. Absolutely! That's a great way to put it.

  2. Loved the last line in this post! However, the whole thing, building relationships is so huge in what we do! And the more connected students become, the more they will seek us out, viewing us as more than just a teacher. It's all we can do to show that human side of what we do!

    1. That brings up a thought: how do teachers become more aware of their online presence? Should their personal posts be reflective of their professional persona? Being a teacher is more than just a job - it really is a lifestyle.