We now know that creating great learning outcomes for students is no accident. The research tells us that 1. the learning needs to be made ‘visible’ and that 2. specific strategies need to be used to make that happen. I wrote about that in detail here.
But fortunately, we don’t teach in a vacuum. A classroom is a complex and dynamic environment full of
humans people from different backgrounds and with specific emotional needs. Managing that environment effectively helps achieve the desired learning outcomes that we seek. Of course, effective management is built on a strong emotional relationship between the teacher and the student.
Over the years I have made some major changes in the way I manage behaviour. First of all, I have made myself more knowledgeable in the study of human behaviour. That knowledge has led me to reflect on how I create an environment that caters for the needs of all the children in the classroom (including myself), the parents and society as a whole. As a result, my teaching practice has changed dramatically. You can see that summarised in, 10 Easy Pieces.
I have looked closely at the NZ Curriculum document and been encouraged to see that helping children to become confident, resilient and connected citizens are highly valued goals. So in effect, I have presented those skills to the children as being highly desirable and made the learning of those skills ‘visible’. It may come as no surprise to many that a classroom culture that celebrates those core values and opens up the definition of what good learning outcomes look like, will also be an environment that achieves good academic learning outcomes. The reality is, when you get the emotional quotient right, the rest will follow. I think this is what the resistance to National Standards has always been about. Have we as a community, as teachers, lost sight of this? Or maybe it never really existed in the first place.
The obvious problem with the narrowing down of the curriculum, in terms of managing behaviour, is the need for compliance. “Take this medicine, it is good for you”. It is a system/environment like this, that tends to bring out the undesirable behaviours. This environment will not be conducive to allow great learning to happen; learning that is natural and meaningful, that is. What the teacher is asking the student to do, may in fact be boring or not developmentally appropriate. (I will write more about this in a future post). This is not ‘putting the child at the centre of the learning experience’.
Experience tells me that you will be hard pressed to find a child who does not arrive at school in their first year, enthusiastic for learning. That’s why the ‘provoke, listen, respond’ philosophy is so effective. It allows the teacher to harness that enthusiasm and to be flexible and make adjustments when appropriate. Trust your children to be keen and enthusiastic learners. Children are our greatest resource in the classroom. They are full of knowledge, wonderment and joy. Tap into that. Let them be your ‘guide on the side’.
In my next post, I am going to share some specific behaviour strategies that are recognised as being effective at creating a positive and sustainable learning environment. Stay tuned. They’re effective. And can be applied to any age group or setting.
Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.