Knowing your own emotional make-up

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1 Knowing your own emotional make-up As prospective teachers, the starting-point in dealing with pupils behaviour is to come to terms with your own values, needs and aspirations. To become a qualified teacher you are required to demonstrate, as role models, the positive attitudes, values and behaviour that you expect from learners. Teachers who are successful at behaviour management recognise the fundamental importance of setting the lead in how they conduct themselves before learners and other colleagues. There is no shortage of self-help materials designed to raise awareness of one s own emotional make-up. Positive psychology is a relatively new movement which explores the science of happiness (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Social scientists have found that it is not power, wealth, success at work, or fame that guarantees a blissful life. Rather, happiness is associated with factors such as a supportive family, strong relationships, pleasant surroundings and developing a spiritual outlook on life. Having opportunities to talk, exercise, laugh and smile are central to a manifesto for happiness (Hoggard, 2005). Facts about happiness 1. genes and upbringing account for about 50 per cent of personal happiness 2. If you do 20 minutes of exercise three times a week for six months, your general feeling of happiness will improve by per cent. 3. Several studies have shown that the presence of a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress, promoting health and happiness 4. Immigrants tend to acquire the happiness characteristics of the nation to which they move, rather than the nation in which they were born. 5. People who follow a religion are generally more satisfied and have positive emotions about their lives.

2 6. Smiling helps to change perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. Even a fake smile can lead to feeling happier. Moment to reflect Consider the above facts about happiness. What are the implications for teachers in terms of the curriculum, classroom organisation and management? Before exploring how to develop behaviour management techniques, learning to manage one s own feelings is essential. The style that you develop will have a bearing on the kind of climate that you create. Teachers who exert a demanding and autocratic style favour words such as make, control and must, but these language patterns are not conducive to an emotionally positive classroom (Hook and Vass, 2000). Ultimately, teachers can only control their behaviour in the classroom and this is recognised by outstanding practitioners. Children watch how teachers behave, especially when faced with difficult situations. They know when teachers lose their cool or act unjustly. Glasser (1984) points out that control is essential for the psychological balance in one's life. Occasionally even the best trainees will experience a loss of self-control and regret saying something or reacting in a particular way. This is inevitable given their limited experience and knowledge, coupled with the considerable variety of circumstances they are likely to face. The challenge for trainees is to convince pupils that they are, as Hayes (2006: 87) puts it, the real thing. One teacher s view of what constitutes naughty behaviour may be seen by another as healthy mischief. Similarly, what some trainees would regard as a hard class others would see as relatively straightforward because tolerance levels and expectations can

3 vary. For the record, Rogers (1997:14) considers a hard class to be when the frequency and intensity of the disruptive behaviour of a number of its members are significantly affecting the welfare of one or more of their teachers. The reality of life is that teachers find it harder to maintain positive relationships with some children than with others. The key issue, however, is whether teachers label children and allow this to hinder their professional values. Outstanding trainee teachers do not over-react to minor slips in behaviour. They are also very mindful of the dangers in pursuing secondary behaviour when the primary problem has been addressed. For example, when a pupil does respond to a request to sit quietly and get on with his work but does so with obvious reluctance, perhaps a shrug of the shoulders. Whatever the level of misbehaviour that you encounter, you need to provide children with a way forward. Cultivating hope and a sense of optimism is particularly important for young learners who are developing socially and emotionally. The power of positive thinking should not be underestimated. If you think that you will be able to maintain good classroom discipline then you are more likely to do so. MacGrath (2000) refers to the importance of focus, keeping one point in mind by picturing a peaceful class, hearing a phrase associated with good order or imagining the feeling you may have say when children behave well during a lesson. Research indicates that the use of I statements can have a powerful impact on pupils behaviour in that it helps them see the impact of their behaviour on others - I am upset about what you have done because it is wasting my time. In the most serious cases of misbehaviour, trainees are well advised to avoid confrontations. Sometimes what was a fairly minor matter can

4 escalate if you fail to heed the warning signs. Rogers (1997) refers to secondary behaviours that can follow on from something as simple as a child being out of his seat, leading to a full-on argument with the teacher and the child storming out of the school. Children feel more comfortable with teachers who are willing to admit mistakes, display humility and treat them with respect and kindness. Metcalfe and Game (2006:75-76) discuss teachers who change lives and describe them as exercising authority with love. In the first school term one such teacher sets about establishing routines that give physical and emotional security: Once you ve established this feeling of safety, you can vary your teaching mode. The class hums along. So I m not advocating running a militant classroom where children can t breathe without putting their hand up. On the contrary, I think those routines in a sense free them. I say to the children at the beginning of the year. We don t have rules but we have a question: Is that safe? It s not safe if it hurts your body or someone else s body, your feelings or someone else s feelings, or our school property. A five year old knows straightaway whether something is safe or not. There is considerable talk in education about teachers promoting emotional literacy, which has been defined as the attempt to take responsibility for understanding our personal emotions (Orbach, 2001). The concept was popularised by Goleman (1996: 279) who points out To begin with, teachers need to be comfortable talking about feelings; not every teacher is at ease doing so or wants to be. There is little or nothing in the standard education of teachers that prepares them for this kind of teaching. Anger management is a key component of emotional literacy. The best teachers are always conscious that they are modelling the kinds of behaviour that they want from

5 children. By setting a calm and measured example, you can reduce the likelihood of tensions building up and getting out of hand. Focus on Practice A group of trainees was asked to recall incidents that had occurred on their school placements for a seminar discussion about how these were handled: This boy shouted Pass Paki during a football game on the yard no-one seemed bothered. Kim. A Year 4 pupil often swung on his chair and in this lesson he fell off, making quite a scene Paul I started to read the story to the children gathered on the carpet area and this girl began to play with her friend s hair, a bit like a hairdresser. Alice This boy spat on his chair but didn t see me standing by the doorway. Lucy I was on playground duty and these girls wouldn t allow this other girl to play with them I could actually see them exclude her from their game Tom This little lad pushed this other boy and he fell off his bicycle Marc These boys were laughing at this lad s haircut and called him Friar Tuck Susan Moment to reflect How would you respond to the incidents featured in the Focus on Practice box?

6 You should consider carefully what you would expect generally in terms of behaviour from children. It is not uncommon for novice teachers to equate a successful lesson with the extent to which children behaved or played up especially when being observed. The height of some trainees aspirations seems to be whether they can keep children quiet for the lesson. The respective noise levels of the class are, naturally, a concern but the importance of generating productive talk is sometimes lost on trainee teachers. The outstanding ones know that children are naturally curious, talkative and sociable, thus making every effort to build on these strengths as the basis of learning. Task Consider how you would respond to the following: Questions to reflect upon Do I think it is acceptable to shout at children to get them to behave? Do I shout a lot? Why? What could I do instead of shouting? How well do I listen to children? How do I know? Have I ever considered what the world might appear to look, feel, and sound like from the perspective of a child who gets into trouble? What can I do to make every child feel special in my class? Do I see the management of behaviour as separate from the management of learning? What kind of a model do I set children in terms of demonstrating good manners?

7 References Glasser, W. (1989), Control theory in the practice of reality therapy. New York: Harper & Row. Hoggard, L. (2005), How To be Happy, London: BBC Books. Hook, P. and Vass, A. (2000), Confident Classroom Leadership, London: David Fulton. Hoggard, L. (2005), How To be Happy, London: BBC Books. MacGrath, M. (2000), The Art of Peaceful Teaching in the Primary School, London: David Fulton. Metcalf, A. and Game, A. (2006), Teachers Who Change Lives, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Rogers, B. (1997), Cracking the Hard Class, London: Scholastic. Seligman, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An Introduction, in American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.

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