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Inside Teaching : June 2011
Inside Teaching | June 2011 TEACHING TIPS 32 It would be nice if human behaviour was as predictable as the laws of physics governing rocket science. The fact is it’s not, but it’s still possible to identify a formula for the effective behaviour management of students, says PETER MILES. Teaching isn’t rocket science. I bet you’ve heard that at least once before, and maybe it’s raised your hackles, but far from being a derogatory statement, it pretty effectively sums up why teaching is so difficult. Rocket science is bound by the unchanging laws of physics – the rocket scientist utilises a series of specific formulas applicable in explicit conditions, factoring in the known dependent and independent variables to determine a predictable outcome. Teaching, on the other hand, operates entirely within the realms of human behaviour, which is anything but predictable. A factor that causes occasional disaster in the field of rocket science, human error, is the daily burden of the classroom teacher. It’s the reason why the behaviour management of students is such an important element of the teaching profession. In my experience, the best practical definition of behaviour and the closest behaviour equivalent of a rocket science formula comes from William Glasser. ‘Behaviour is one’s best attempt, at any given time, given the skills one currently has, to meet one’s needs.’ Its strength as a practical formula is that it identifies four distinct areas of focus for reflection and change on the part of the teacher. ‘Behaviour is one’s best attempt’ This implies that behaviour requires effort, through conscious thought and action. Generally speaking, if you as a teacher can engage a student’s thoughts and actions in the curriculum, then the student’s efforts are productive and conducive to teaching and learning. Failure to engage the student leads to other less-productive activities. The disengaged student becomes a spectator in the classroom and the spectator will, by nature,