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Inside Teaching : June 2011
Inside Teaching | June 2011 TEACHING TIPS 34 professional standards attached to parenthood, or ‘siblinghood,’ so the quality and content of initial social skills teaching is highly variable. It’s also the case that, within specific social settings, the general skills of safety, respect, effort and self-responsibility are manifested in different forms. Many school-specific practices like, say, putting your hand up to speak, don’t translate to other social settings encountered in life. A student’s behaviour in the classroom and school will therefore be dependent not only on their level of skill development but also on whether the skills they do have are relevant to the particular setting and on whether they’re able to recognise the differences between social settings and the resultant need to adjust behaviour accordingly. It’s our responsibility as teachers to teach the students within our care the specific social skills required within our setting. Because the end of the lesson or school day temporarily but regularly ends the students’ contact with that setting, we must always be prepared to revisit and reteach those specific skills. We also need to be aware that the rate of skill development and skill mastery differs with individuals. Some students need more time, teacher input and external support than do others to progress to competency. Behaviour is one’s best attempt, at any given time, given the skills one currently has, to meet one’s needs This implies that all behaviour is needs-driven. Glasser summarised these needs as survival, love and belonging, personal power, fun and enjoyment, and freedom. Initially, the dominant needs for a young child starting school will be survival in terms of security and protection, and love and belonging, and the key source of needs-fulfilment in these areas will be the teacher. Complying with the teacher guarantees these needs are met, so compliance by the young child is generally forthcoming. By high school, however, the need for love and belonging is satisfied primarily by peers, which is why it can be so difficult to communicate with some teenagers, and the need for freedom, to be in control of one’s life, becomes dominant. Teachers driven by a strong need for love and belonging find it difficult when students reject them (and won’t give them attention) in favour of peer attention. Teachers with a strong need for personal power experience conflict when encountering students who reject their subject, on the basis that it doesn’t meet their need for fun and enjoyment – ‘This subject is boring’ – or reject the teacher’s authority because they want to control their own lives – ‘You can’t make me.’ The effective classroom teacher enters the school with their own basic needs already met externally. They then ensure that many of the basic student needs are addressed within the context of the classroom or lesson. The classroom is a safe and comfortable physical environment. Systems are in place to allow students to meet basic biological needs (toileting, drinks, sick bay) and to access essential educational resources. Rules, promoted and enforced, encourage positive classroom relationships and, within the curriculum, there are structured educational opportunities for students to interact with each other. Student strengths are recognised, acknowledged and highlighted where appropriate. Curriculum activities are enjoyable and there is opportunity for ‘downtime’ where students can relax. Students are also given opportunities within the day or lesson to select curriculum or free-time activities, or work towards personal goals. ‘Behaviour is one’s best attempt, at any given time, given the skills one currently has, to meet one’s needs.’ As a behavioural formula, Glasser’s definition provides us with a clear but general direction for intervention and correction in the field of behaviour management. Unlike the rocket scientist, we can’t program this formula into an inertial navigation computer to accurately plot the passage and outcome of every lesson;