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Linking Your Own Experiences and Behaviour Management

Darren thinks back on a guitar lesson he has when was 11 years old and how it has influenced his behaviour management strategy. 

How a guitar lesson from 15 years ago improved my behaviour management

I started learning to play guitar when I was 11 years old. I still play it today and it's still one of my great passions in life. Throughout the years, I've had plenty of different guitar teachers – all of whom I'm very grateful to and who I have enormous respect for. But recently, a piece of advice given by one of them when I was about 14 came back to me with relevance to something I've begun to believe about teaching and, in particular, about behaviour management.

Back then, my favourite guitarists were the rock and metal gods of the 70s and 80s, to whom the epitome of musical mastery was playing a minimum of 1,000 notes for every second. These were the guys I listened to daily and the ones I wanted to emulate. I remember having a lesson with my guitar teacher at the time and asking him how I could learn to play such endless strings of notes without my hand falling off. His advice? Don't! No matter how impressive the perpetual “shredding” might sound, when you've been doing it continuously for about 15 minutes it starts to lose effect. If you spend your time, instead, making your playing musical and throwing in the odd face-melting line it will sound far better. Then, when you do play fast, the contrast will make its effect 100 times more powerful.

So how does this relate to behaviour management? In my earlier days as a teacher, if someone had asked me about my definitive guide to managing student behaviour, I would have said that a teacher needs to be strict... very strict. The soft touch gets no respect. As years went on, my opinions mellowed out a little. I learned that, the things I had meant by “strict” were, on reflection, more subtle notions such as consistency and sweating-the-little-things. Important concepts but ones that, I think, are superseded in importance by some others that I've recently come to believe.

I'm always trying my best to improve in teaching, whether that be by reading, self-reflection or talking to other teachers. While watching one of my colleagues, not so long ago, I noticed that she never seems to have to deal with behaviour issues, regardless of what class she's teaching. She never has to raise her voice and rarely has to give the all-too-familiar teacher stare. The more I watched, I started to realise that this wasn't because she had already browbeaten them into submission or because she had taken all of their favourite toys and refused to give them back unless they had a 100% behaviour record for the day. It was because, no matter what was happening in her class, her attitude was always relentlessly positive. Always smiling, always friendly and usually engaged in some kind of banter with her students. Don't get me wrong! The rules, routines and expectations were still in place and when a pupils needed to be pulled up on something it was done, but it was always done with genuine positivity. No frustration, no disappointment, no annoyance, just positive vibes.

It's a very difficult thing for a teacher to do. We work long hours with an endless stream of paperwork, we have kids with PhDs in pushing adults' buttons and we seem to pick up every cold, flu and bug in existence. But it's important! Teacher-student relationships have been shown to have significant effect on pupil achievement and, in my own experience, there is no better way to improve relations with your students than to have an incessantly positive, almost happy-go-lucky attitude in class. To make things better, it gets much easier over time. The more positive you are, the more positive your students become towards you and towards each other and the less they are inclined to misbehave. The less they are misbehaving, the more your stress levels fall and the more positive you become. It's a vicious cycle...

... What's more, on the rare occassions you do need to break out the old teacher stare, the contrast will make its effect 100 times more powerful.

Do you have an experience that has influenced you approach behaviour management? Would you like to share it with us? Email Megan ( for more information.

Tags: DarrenC, Ireland, behaviour

Category: Australian Teachers

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