Teaching with HEART
Prevention trumps cure. It avoids a waste of energy, time and resources. Prevention allows teachers to nurture positive working relationships with students. Students respect teachers who take the necessary steps to prevent misbehaviour rather than wait to react to it when it does surface.
Reacting to misbehaviour is risky as it could lead to loss of control and encourage impulsive actions. Nasty battles between teachers and students could be averted if the former were more proactive in their approaches to dealing with potential classroom issues.
Teachers could set up preventive measures that would effectively guard both themselves and their learners. These strategies are not difficult to follow. With practice, they would become an integral part of teaching-learning processes. If applied consistently, these strategies would yield positive outcomes and nurture favourable behaviour in students.
Principle of proximity
The most useful of these preventive measures is proximity. Teachers who use the principle of proximity to their advantage experience fewer disruptions. Proximity requires little time and effort to implement. It accomplishes what shouting and screaming at students do without having to make a scene or leaving deep psychological scars. It is a soft, but powerful, approach to telling students that you are aware of what is happening. It is a diplomatic way of communicating that you are watching their behaviour and will not tolerate any misconduct.
Moving towards a student who does not pay attention during a lesson and quickly moving away from him is an example of using proximity to one's advantage in teaching. The key is not to be near a student until everyone realises that he is in trouble. As long as the misbehaving student is aware that the teacher is responding to his bad conduct, the teacher has succeeded.
Another useful technique available for all levels of learners is boosting interest. I still remember when I was in Year 10, I skipped school and locked myself in the study to complete the chemistry textbook in one day. I did it with ease and understood the contents therein without any problems. I topped the class in the subject for the next two years until I graduated from high school. However, I was not excelling in other subjects.
The difference was caused by the level of interest in the subjects taught. Our chemistry teacher inspired interest in the subject by holding high expectations, relating lessons to real-life experiences, believing in every student and their potential to succeed, and treating everyone kindly and fairly. Once interest in a subject increases, there is no time to waste on misbehaving. Most disruptions correlate directly to students' feeling of boredom with subjects and/or teachers.
Students display inappropriate behaviour when they feel that there is a lack of control over what happens in the classroom. They do so to express frustrations. This is particularly true if the perceived lack of control springs from one's inability to cope with lessons. The hurdle-helping technique could be employed when students feel overwhelmed by an academic task. Assisting students with a particularly difficult task redirects their attention to the task itself. Instead of giving up and engaging in unnecessary behaviour, students try harder and smarter as they recognise that they are not facing the difficulty alone.
When someone does a stand-up comedy, he or she has to constantly gauge the live audience and has to be flexible in effectively sharing jokes to amuse people. The same applies to teachers. If they are not careful to continually gauge students' responses, they may run the risk of losing their attention and willingness to learn - which would most likely spiral into uncontrollable behaviour.
When teaching, being flexible simply implies a teacher's willingness to change anything that does not appeal to young learners and creatively replacing what does not work with what does!
Dr Edward Roy Krishnan is the director of strategic planning at Wells International School (http://www.wells-school.com). He also lectures in the Graduate School of Psychology, Assumption University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To access additional articles by him, visit http://www.affectiveteaching.com.
About the author
Writer: Edward Roy Krishnan, PHD