Dear Mrs. Farmer,
Thank you so much for improving my language and writing. You are an awesome teacher, and I hope I can be like you one day. You are so nice, and I love that you help me and push me to do my hardest! You help me use my grammar, and you tell me if my writing is good or bad. You are the best teacher ever!!!
I found this letter in my purse yesterday. I hadn’t spent much time looking at it before, but there was one sentence that stood out to me.
I loved the line that is highlighted in yellow. “You are so nice, and I love that you help me and push me to do my hardest.” I believe that students want us as teachers to be, what John Rosemond calls in the book, The Six Point Plan for Raising Healthy Happy Children, a “benevolent dictator”.
“Authority strengthens parental love. Without the strengthening agent, love becomes indulgent and possessive, overly protective. Likewise, without the tempering effect of love, parental love becomes overbearing. Love provides meaning and a sense of belonging to a child. Love gives a child a reason to strive. Authority provides direction to a child’s strivings. Love and authority are not opposite poles, but two sides of the same coin. To be authoritatively loving and lovingly authoritative–that’s the balancing act parents must master. Achieving that balance is not only essential to a child’s sense of security and self-esteem, it’s also the key to the parent’s sense of self confidence. That’s what being a benevolent dictator is all about.” ~ Rosemond
Over the years, as a parent, I have studied Rosemund’s work a good bit. I love the term benevolent dictator and I believe that it fits for classroom management as well as parenting. First, students want teachers to lead and guide them. Students want us to be fair and weed out the miscreants in the classroom. Students want to learn, and they want to be pushed to their hardest. Finally, students want us, as their teachers, to believe in their abilities. I believe that this can be accomplished through benevolent (well meaning or kind) dictatorship (the class is ruled by the teacher).
I know dictator can seem like a harsh term, so let me illustrate it further. I love a student centered classroom. I love team building exercises such as “student contracts”, but that does not mean that students run the show. I work to be at the center of everything that goes on in my classroom, and I am diligent that my students stay on task. Students must know that we, as their teachers, are in charge. But, we can accomplish this with a warm smile, and a kind voice. That is when benevolence takes place. Also, students know that I have control of the classroom. I keep them safe, and as a result they learn.
Warning to New Teachers: So– new teachers–don’t fall into the trap of thinking that being the “nice teacher” means that you don’t have to give students any rules, or that you should allow free time in class, or begin delving into casual conversations about what you are doing the upcoming weekend or disclosing inappropriate parts of your personal life because somehow that makes you cool. It is not cool, and the students, for the most part, will not think so either.
So, for classroom management think–benevolent dictator– it’s the way to go!