Rarely when we act do we have the luxury of taking into account just one variable as we decide what to do. Most of what we do involves balancing several variables and aiming for an optimum outcome that satisfies most of them. Just consider the process most of us go through when we buy a new car. Should it be petrol (less noisy but uses more fuel) or diesel (more noisy, usually, but uses less fuel)? Should it be a hatchback, estate or saloon? What size engine would be best? I know a small engine makes sense in the city, but wouldn't a more powerful car be more exciting? And on goes the list of variables that need to be considered. Sometimes it would be easier if there were only one car to choose. Take it or leave it. In school, much of our work involves juggling a number of variables, taking them all into account to reach an effective outcome, and we all do it whether we are teaching in class, managing a department or running the school. The following two examples happen to be from senior managers, but teachers at all levels will recognise the process.
During research I was conducting in a particular secondary school, I was deeply involved in discussion with the head, 'Alan', when suddenly his door was thrown open to reveal a teacher, quite red in the face, accompanied by a 15-year-old boy who had been insolent. At the end of her tether, she described the incident to Alan and asked him to 'deal' with it. Alan asked her to leave the boy outside the door until he had time to deal with it. When, in a few minutes, he brought the boy in, it was clear he knew him: he had been a problem before and had been sent home before. He admonished the boy for being rude and hinted that 'your mother will be pleased if I send you home again, won't she?' He then told the boy to apologise to the teacher at break, and said that he would check on this. Alan's approach then moved on to stressing positive behaviour, and that if the boy did behave in this way, then Alan would write it down in the boy's journal 'in letters six inches high' so his mother could see it. The boy then left the room on a positive note.