Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting the Behaviour You Expect

In the Olden Days, when I started my teaching practice in a really soulless and unpleasant secondary school near Cardiff, there was a teacher whose classes were always silent.

"We don't know why, Miss," said one of the students to me. "We think she's a witch. She puts spells on us, Miss."

Actually I thought a class that was completely silent all the time was not really conducive to a friendly learning environment: however, in those days I would have welcomed the formula for some of the witch's spells. My classes were noisy and badly behaved. The worst thing they did was take the middles out of their pens and use the pens as little tubes to blow nasty soggy bits of chewed paper at each other.

After a while I gradually noticed that I had somehow acquired at least some of the magic formula. "You get the behaviour that you expect," I read in a book about teaching. This made sense to me. If you expect them to run riot, they most certainly will. If you believe that the power of your personality alone is enough to quell them, then they generally believe it too.

So one day, a couple of years later, in the next classroom, I heard a class running riot with a student teacher.

I stood at the door and did nothing at all but stare at them and wait for them to shut up.

Gradually, they all became silent and looked at me.

"And that's the way I want it to stay for the rest of this lesson," I said, in a distinctly Schoolmarmy way. "SILENT. And if I hear one more peep from you lot, there will be trouble." I turned to go and heard a small peep. It may well have come from the quivering student standing at the front.

"That," I said to the class, "is your last chance. One more sound and that's it."

Of course, I didn't have the foggiest clue what the Trouble I would bring upon them was going to be. The key to stopping bad behaviour is to stop it before even the teenagers know it's going to start.

There was SILENCE from next door for the rest of the lesson. Whatever it is, I had learned to do it.

Now I work with student doctors. Yesterday I had a wonderful day with some very hard-working and good-humoured third years. I think I appreciate it more because of the tough times I had when I started.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I didn't realise that you were an expert kidologist Daphne. Where did you train? At the School of Hard Knocks? Seriously though - some of that kidology is vital in maintaining order. Teenage children seem very willing to go along with it. It's rather like horse-whispering.

8:53 pm  

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