Loving the little b****rs!

Sue Cowley’s influential book, ‘Getting The B*****s to Behave’ was a hit in teaching circles a number of years ago. When I began writing about discipline and coaching teachers on discipline issues, I delved into sports psychology for inspiration and discovered the concept of ‘cultural architects’.

As a sports coach you create a culture or a frame for your players, but because you cannot be with them on the pitch, you need to enlist senior players, those with the most credibility and experience to communicate the way of playing to their team mates. As a teacher, you also have cultural architects in your class. The only difference is - unlike the sports coach - you did not choose them and they often have a completely opposite frame to yours, which often involves preventing you from teaching, rather than helping you!

So your job as a teacher is to re-frame those cultural architects that you do have towards your positive learning frame. Once you can do this, the ‘followers’ in the class will be swept along.

I have coached teachers who began by being totally dominated by their cultural architects and ran ragged by their classes but learned how to transform the culture of their lessons, to a point where their ‘worst’ classes could sometimes become their ‘favourite’.

How did they do this? By loving the little b****rs. Catch them being good. Create rapport with them against their will. When they come in and sit down, make a point of publicly praising them - they will hate it at first. Eventually however, they will invariably be prepared to transfer the negative attention and social currency they used to receive for poor behaviour to the new system - and so will everyone else. 

The point relates back to that phrase ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’. When you have created rapport with a pupil, they are far less likely to misbehave because they feel as if they have something to lose. In addition, you are far more likely to be able ‘lead’ people, if you have ‘paced’ them (created rapport) first. 

In my experience, many teachers never learn this principle and spend many of their lessons in continual conflict. That is not to say that you do not have to use ‘the stick’ as well as ‘the carrot’ - it’s mainly to do with the order in which you do things.

Learning to create rapport can change your teaching practice and all of your relationships.

At InspirED 2019, we will be exploring this critical principle of behaviour management and locating  it amongst a wealth of other techniques to help you create harmony in your classroom

Rob Salter - Teacher Coach and InspirED facilitator

Philip Collett