Classroom Culture

The Truth about Losing Control in Your Arts Classroom

I have a hard truth to speak about today: Control. 

When we’re uncovering our own values and motivations, sometimes we stumble upon something… icky. But when we know the truth about ourselves, that is when we can begin to make real change. And for me, that means admitting to myself that my default reaction to chaos, messiness, or any uncertainty is to try to control it. 

Let’s admit something unpleasant: There’s something enjoyable about feeling powerful in front of a room of students. I am in charge. They have to do what I say, just because I say it. If I want, I can make my classroom be quiet… focused… controlled. I want my classroom MANAGED!

Well, then we get into the classroom and realize we have lost control. There’s no focus, no quiet, no listening. And that is insanely frustrating! Classroom management is often the most draining part of being a teacher.

But the problem with thinking we’ve lost control as a teacher is… we never had control in the first place. 

Connection is what we need as teachers, not control. Students want and need to feel that someone cares about them as a person, not like they are being policed. There are no fast and easy ways to make meaningful connections with your students. It is a constant process that begins with:⁠⁠

– Self-reflection⁠⁠

– Unburdening yourself from stereotyping⁠⁠

– Starting a culture shift in your classroom⁠⁠


Before you can really know your students, you have to understand yourself. What identities are most important to you? What drives you in your work? What are your key values? Then you can know how you relate (or don’t) to your students.


When you’re getting to know your students, get to know them as individuals. Unburden yourself and your students from the expectations you have about them based on their demographic information.


Demonstrate how you want your students to listen and react to each other. Students learn these skills from you whether you do so explicitly or not– so be aware of how you show your willingness to connect and care.

Classroom culture is complex— but it doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m here to help your school or nonprofit organization make positive change in your arts programming. Don’t just “do good”— do The Critical Good.

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