Monday Metaphor: Driving a Car

On three separate occasions, my mom attempted to teach me how to drive. At first it seemed to work. However, she would quickly micromanage, offer too much feedback, give some seemingly phony praise and I would grow nervous. I would over-correct to one side and then the other. My stops were too abrupt. When my dad taught me how to drive, he offered a few practical ideas and then sat calmly with me, saying very little. Over time, I stopped overcorrecting myself.

I mention this because I think that’s a little bit how classroom management works. When I began as a first year teacher, I was excited but also nervous. I would overcorrect by the minute. Sometimes turned to the left, in an “I want to be your friend,” mentality and then I shifted to the right in an authoritarian scream. I would stop class abruptly and go too slowly through certain things that should move quickly. I had to learn how to pace a lesson, how to stay calm and how to stay in the center.

My mentor teacher was much like my dad. She would offer some reflective questioning and give a few practical ideas. But she never stepped in eagerly to take over the wheel and regain control (I hate how often that term control is used in referring to classroom leadership) of the class. Instead, she knew that I would gain confidence slowly by learning from mistakes. At the same time, I knew that, if there was a chance of a real car accident, she would step in.

Many new teachers say that they want more support and more ideas. On some level, I’m sure they are right. Mentoring programs can be great. However, I wonder how much of learning clasroom leadership is simply an issue of time and experience and the confidence created as a result of empowering the teacher with the authority to learn the skills on one’s own.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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2 responses

  1. Just figuring out how to do things yourself with just a little guidance works wonders. When I am observed, I get nervous and don't do nearly as well as I do when I know that I am the one in charge of the class. Too much supervision inhibits one's ability to take control and find out what works.

  2. I like your metaphor, but I think there still needs to be a mentor involved. Your dad didn't just hand you the keys and say, "Here, drive it." He sat with you and watched and gave you feedback. Could that be how it is with teaching, too?

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