3 Reasons the Tribe Does Not Follow: Why you are not succeeding with classroom management

A classroom without management is a classroom without learning.  It is literally impossible for the majority of the class to learn anything if there is an unstable environment.  This must be understood as the foundation of all education.  Ridiculously enough, they focus little on this aspect of education in most formal primary and secondary education programs.  Methods of teaching are taught and some
management tactics are explored, but rarely do they teach why a classroom wouldn’t be managed in the first place. The why of classroom management is both an art and a science, but the science must be fully understood to allow the art to prosper.


Classrooms must be understood as its own civilization or at least its own tribe.  This tribe may not be together all the time, but what tribe is truly together all the time? Tribes thrive on three things: rituals, legitimacy and mindfulness.

  1. RITUALS – All tribes have rituals and your class should as well.  When they gather in your classroom, this is a ritual.  Rituals can either be monotonous or they can be energizing.  What is the first action students take when they enter your room?

The fundamentals of rituals do not change and neither should their entering ritual.  When all of the members of the classroom tribe know what to expect there will be a sense of unity associated with entering the classroom.

  1. LEGITIMACY – In Malcolm Gladwell’s  David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,  the author discusses many topics.  One that should be remembered well by teachers is the following:

“…legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice–that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.”

Malcolm GladwellDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

In this case, the teacher is the authority.  Therefore, the teacher needs to recognize the three things legitimacy is based on.  If you are not a legitimate authority, the students will know very quickly.  Remember: Voice, predictable, and fairness.  This means that although you may have a favorite student, you must never allow any of the students to know you do.  (More on Legitimacy in the classroom in another post)

  1. MINDFULNESS- Similar to meditation, a teacher needs to live in the moment of the classroom.  What does this mean?  It means that on occasion, teachers tend to get in their own way. They worry too much about what they were “supposed” to get accomplished and when it doesn’t go their way. They freak out.

A teacher must remain fluid in the classroom. Thorough planning is necessary, but teachers should make sure that their ego does not get in the way of connecting with students. Activities and lesson plans never turn out the exact same way that you planned. Make sure that you are reacting to what is going on in the classroom and not what is going on in your head.

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