Positively influencing behaviour for learning…
Where to start?! Well, I firmly believe that every aspect of a teacher’s presence within both the classroom, and the wider school, can potentially provide either a positive or negative influence for pupils. After all, a teacher is inherently a role model, and if one or more aspect of their persona falls short of this ideal, it can be to the overall detriment of students who look to their teacher as an example and instructor.
Taking the headings advised as starting points, anything down to the clothes a teacher chooses to wear can contribute to a healthy learning environment. As frequently mentioned already in our PGCE course sessions, teaching is essentially a conservative profession, requiring modest and inoffensive dress. I know I for one would be unable to wear most of my everyday clothes in the classroom if respect was what I sought from my class – not because I routinely dress provocatively, but because my usual clothes are invariably casual. If we as teachers expect our pupils to adhere to their school dress codes and uniforms, then we should clearly avoid setting double standards, and dress respectably and smartly ourselves.
Teacher language is a central medium through which learning can be encouraged. In many ways this is obvious: lesson delivery needs to be clear, informative, interesting, and any number of Teaching Standard-jargon phrases that come together as ingredients of a great lesson. However, it can also be used in more subtle ways – appropriate wording (P.C to the max…but also just sensible, polite, respectful…), and a general level of formality, which creates the tone needed for learning to be taken seriously, as well as maintaining a professional working relationship with the students at all times.
Non-verbal communication is equally important. As with verbal, formality and professionalism are at the core. This is not to say teachers cannot present themselves as friendly and approachable…however it does entail that teacher is careful to be aware of both pupils’ personal space and their own (this forms part of the ‘spatial awareness’ aspect); body language is instructive and appropriate, and eye contact is utilized as a basic technique to foster a sense of inclusion and engagement for all pupils. Obviously it is worth bearing in mind that different levels of gesture and body language are demanded by different subject teachers: for instance, a drama teacher could get away with being openly flamboyant in mannerisms as encouragement for their pupils, whereas I – as a history teacher – would be expected to reign in the dramatics a little as it simply isn’t necessary (…usually. I fully intend to have a reenactment of Hastings in class…)
Similarly, verbal inflection is one of the most innate skills used to inspire learning in a class – simply sounding enthusiastic about your subject is often enough to motivate children into wanting to know what it’s all about!
Spatial awareness covers more than a teacher’s personal body language in class. It can also infer their use of classroom space itself as the most effective learning environment possible (evidently this is a tad limited if one’s classroom for thirty is the size of cupboard!), and even the teacher’s physical positioning within the classroom – for ease of communication, monitoring purposes, and simply to keep the kids on their toes.
Relationships in school are, lastly, a behaviour pattern that can deeply impact upon the potential for learning that a teacher creates. As mentioned, on the whole, young people respond to being treated in a professional, adult manner by behaving appropriately and constructively in return (or at least have no excuse for not doing so, providing teacher is first). Yet they also react to the adult relationships they observe around them. If they perceive a teacher to lack respect for their inferiors, equals, or superiors, they would have every right – consciously or unconsciously – to follow suit, on the grounds of blatant hypocrisy. Clearly you’d hope they’d have the integrity not to copy any negative behaviours a teacher accidently displays in school, but at the end of the day they are simply not emotionally mature enough to make these judgments, and nor should they expected to be.
In short, if a teacher wants to positively influence behaviour for learning, they need to lead by example and uphold the standards they expect from their pupils, and then some!
Rights of a teacher:
· To be allowed to teach with a minimum of interruption, either from pupils or other staff members
· To be allowed to teach with a suitable degree of independence (as desired and agreed) from the strictures of curriculum and management
· To feel safe at all times
· To be supported by colleagues – ideally professionally and personally
· To be listened to, by pupils and staff alike
Rights of a pupil:
· To be treated with respect, by peers and by teachers
· To be safe at all times
· To be able to learn and receive the best education possible
· To be listened to, by each other and by teachers
Responsibilities of a teacher:
· To strive to enable learning for all pupils
· To seek and encourage improvements in education, both in terms of classroom learning and as an overarching field
· To treat all pupils with respect, free from bias/prejudice/personal feeling
· To create a positive learning environment within the classroom, allowing pupils to feel safe
Responsibilities of a pupil:
· To be willing to learn, or at least try to engage with learning
· To allow their peers to learn, and encourage it where possible
· To co-operate with everyone within the school environment, including each other, their teachers, other staff
· To do their best and make an effort to uphold their own/their teachers’/their school’s standards at all times