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The Great Behaviour Debate

By 30th May 2018August 28th, 2018Blog

Is anyone else tired of Zombie debates?

There is a raging debate on Twitter as I write about behaviour. Remarkably, it contains a fair bit of wisdom while being utterly pointless. As ever, there are clearly a lot of people who don’t believe common sense should get in the way of an argument.

The central debate seems to be about whether “behaviour”, generally, in this case, disruptive behaviour is a form of communication or, perhaps, just disruptive behaviour. There is another strand about whether behaviour should be more understood than controlled or more controlled than understood. There is advice on how to manage behaviour, which has merits, but will not be unfamiliar to aficionados of Pavlov or the work of Barbara Wodehouse, who was an enormously popular dog trainer some time back. There are heartfelt pleas for empathy and the protagonists are “full of passionate intensity” so, as Yeats would have it, “surely some revelation is at hand” –
– but, sadly, not. The lust for caricature and oversimplification appears to overwhelm the simple realities.
Here is my stab at some of the common sense simplicities –

No matter what motivates a student’s behaviour, we need to minimise the impact of that behaviour on other learners.

We should use all the opportunities that we have to know our students and use that knowledge to avoid behaviour becoming an issue as often as possible.

We should offer demanding, engaging and interesting experiences to learners and plan from, and for, the students that we have. Curriculum is a map; it is not a dictatorial GPS. It needs to be respected. It is not sacrosanct.

– The curriculum, regardless of its importance and beauty, is not delivered if children have failed to learn.

It helps if we don’t only see behaviour from our standpoint – “challenging behaviour” – but sometimes see it from the standpoint of the student – “distressed behaviour”.

– Understanding and indulgence are not synonyms.

– Routines and boundaries are helpful.

– Learners deserve to know what is expected of them.

– We need to recognise that some learners will need more help and support to meet these expectations.

I know that stating simplicities is also stating the obvious and that there is no “how to” here. I am just hoping that toning down the conflict, the posturing and the point scoring, might just help us get to the “how to”.