Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Don't Get Marooned with Failing Strategies: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Don't Get Marooned with Failing Strategies: News

Article excerpt

Teachers tend to erect 'keep off' signs around their approach to discipline - but no man is an island, so learn from others.

Strategies for managing student behaviour are often a teacher's own private island, which they strenuously defend against intruding philosophies and maintain is optimum for "their" students, even if some of those very same young people are proving the declaration false as they speak.

And there always will be students who prove it false - and do so frequently. While teachers may find a strategy that solves most of the problems most of the time, the paradise of a 100 per cent success rate does not exist.

This is because the needs of certain students will never, for whatever reason, be met by our own peculiar style of behaviour management. To these students - to quote an old Caribbean saying - "spirit don't reach".

The fact that "spirit don't reach" between you and a particular student (let's call him Leo) is often thrown into sharp relief by evidence that another teacher, one whom you regard as being much your inferior in terms of philosophy, skills and dress sense (well, everything), seems to manage their relationship with him in a perfectly friendly, functional manner.

The matter is made worse by your disapproval of the other teacher's methods. Your approach emphasises compassion, love and understanding, whereas she is of the sergeant-major variety: strict to the point of seeming inhuman, apparently vibrating on a string of permanent, barely suppressed rage and without any obvious love of children. You have often thought she would be better suited to the armed forces - or central government - but the sad truth is that she manages Leo's behaviour well and you, patently, do not.

Here, as in all things, your ego is your enemy: the bigger it is, the less confident you are. Throw it away and ask your colleague for help.

In the initial stages, immediately after you and Leo have had an argument that you have singularly failed to manage, you do this with a technique known in behaviour management circles as "swapping out". Simply ask your colleague to look after Leo for the rest of the lesson as you cannot handle him at this moment; your current skill set doesn't allow it.

The crucial part lies in admitting to your colleague that she is better than you at dealing with Leo. At the end of the lesson, after you have dismissed your own class, head for your colleague's classroom and see if it is possible to have a discussion with both her and Leo about how best to manage his behaviour.

This conversation should be led by your colleague so that you can observe what it is she does that makes her successful with the student. …

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