This is a blog post long in the writing. I have sat down several times to try and write about behaviour management but so far the swirling mass of what I want to say doesn’t seem to have a starting point or an end point or a structured and coherent body. Sometimes I wonder if I am too much a slave to academic conventions to be cut out for blogging. But since this really is just for me, I’m going to try this, the only way I know how.
I will start with what I feel is the most important thing I have discovered during my time teaching in FE: disruption is usually caused by boredom, passivity, negativity and not quite seeing the relevance. Being a progressive, I had always held this self-evident. It appealed to me because it emphasised the positive philosophical choice: that all students can and will try to achieve if given the right set of circumstances.
But then I had a wobble, right about the same time I began to deliver library inductions. You know the type: thirty beauty therapy students sitting in rows chewing gum and yawning wildly whilst you maximise the distance between you and them, and read out a Powerpoint presentation.*
When our Principal articulated the idea that disruption was caused by boredom during debates on behaviour management, I felt uneasy. Something inside me said “Yep, it’s a lovely theory but in reality nothing is going to capture these kids’ attention that doesn’t involve their teenage preoccupations.”
Then I changed the way I taught. Gone were the endless densely typed Powerpoint presentations with dodgy late 1990s clipart that a colleague had put together five years ago on what time the library opened. In came actual real teaching that demanded I make a connection with my students and interact and engage with them. As soon as class discussions, group activities and experimental use of available resources came in, disruption and behaviour management stopped being the greatest challenge I faced. And with that, my confidence grew.
Increasingly my goal became not to stop my students being disruptive but to create what I now understand to be called a pro-social classroom environment. I will discuss where I am with that in my next blogpost.
*I have nothing at all against Powerpoint or in fact any presentation software. It is a very useful tool to complement learning activities when executed correctly. Just because a session involves a presentation does not mean “death by Powerpoint” – it’s just there always has to be something more! Presentation software seems to allow less confident teachers or speakers to melt into the presentation and remove any connection between the educator and their audience.