Getting philosophical about behaviour.

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Few professions that have ever existed would claim to be more idealistic than teaching? As teachers we have to believe strongly in what we do and how we do things because, apart from anything else, if we did not believe in what we did then how could we expect to convince anyone else to learn from us?

But what if that conviction is actually holding us back?  Could particular attitudes be closing our minds to more productive ways of doing things?  

But what if that conviction is actually holding us back?  Could particular attitudes be closing our minds to more productive ways of doing things?  

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a philosopher in the early 19th century and, among his many achievements, is the idea of ‘sublation‘, in which seemingly opposing ideas are brought together.  In this series, we will try to take this approach with some issues facing the teaching profession, to not only explore them but to suggest practical ways to help.

 

In our first look at these enigmas we are going to go straight for the big one.  Behaviour.  The topic that can bring teachers out in fits of smugness or into the foetal position in almost the blink of an eye.

 

There are so many factors in terms of behaviour but in the fast-moving environment of the classroom it ends up being more of an instinct.  Many teachers will find themselves trying to ‘tune’ themselves to the room but what emotional set will have the trick?

Here we explore some of the most popular caricatures adopted by teachers and some of the issues they can experience.

The Disciplinarian

The stern character with the steely gaze who applies the rules vigorously.  Their classrooms are silent and the books laid out with military precision.

Arguments for – Discipline creates a calmer atmosphere which allows to focus and rules are there to maximise every student’s chances of fulfilling their potential.

Arguments against – Quiet is not the same as motivated.

The Traditionalist

With a penchant for all things tweed these types of teachers have seen it all and done it all (well everything that is pre 1985).

Arguments for – Talking and chalking can work really well if you have a teacher that can hold the rooms interest.  Also, that forward momentum can be massively important in raising a student’s confidence and providing motivation.

Arguments against – Both techniques are incredibly challenging to include everyone in the class.  That means that without differentiation, for example, that you can have students switching off.  It is also human nature to take advantage, and so there are students that might exploit too much leniency by winding a teacher up to just short of a nervous breakdown and then play nice for the last ten minutes.  This leaves them free to repeat the performance in their very next lesson.

The Young Hipster

Closer to the students age that most of the teaching staff the hipster part friend and part confidant.

Arguments for – Relationships create trust, and this can be vital in turning around the narratives in the student’s mind from ‘I hate this, and I don’t see the point’ to ‘I can do this, and it’s OK to enjoy that fact’.

Arguments against – Getting too friendly can make it extremely difficult to deal with the student if they start to misbehave as well as opening up the nightmare scenario of your actions being misinterpreted.

The Mouse

Doesn’t believe in raising their voice and aims to support every one of their charges.  Their student’s diagnoses’ mean that they can do no wrong (even when they are doing something very not right).

Arguments for – Students reflect what is in front of them.  If the teacher can remain calm and collected then more and more of the students will begin to follow suit.  Also, a diagnosis is an opportunity, not a set of excuses.  So much of behaviour can stem from a student feeling disenfranchised because they think they can not join in.  Help to remove those barriers, and you can be amazed at the changes you can create.

Arguments against – Support is not the same as spoon feeding.  Get this part wrong, and you can create a passenger for life.  As a guide, always remember that every time you do something for the student, you take away the opportunity for them to do it for themselves.

The Rebel

This inspirational character leads from the front, thumbing their nose at many of the rules and probably burning a copy of the curriculum in a small ceremony at the beginning of term.

Arguments for – Inspiration can be a fantastic motivator for students.  It can create interest in a subject and can allow you to follow what is current both on your subject and what is in the student’s mind at the time.

Arguments against – Going too far off subject too often can create a real problem identifying how well the students are doing (that is why they call them standardised tests).  There is also the issue of sustainability.  If you are the main source of inspiration, what happens when you are not there (I mean that if they change teachers not that you… never mind).

So there is our merry band.  We hope you enjoyed our little exploration.  The aim of these is really to both reassure people that there are lots of approaches but to also suggest that we all look at some of the possible consequences.  Hopefully, that way, we will always be looking to improve.  To find more ‘different perspectives’ as well as a range of tools, techniques and tricks, please enter your email address below to join the Thinkers Club.  Thanks again!