Prevention is indeed better than cure. It avoids waste of energy, time and resources. Prevention allows teachers to nurture positive working relationships with students. Students respect teachers who take necessary steps to prevent misbehavior rather than waiting to react toward them when they do surface. Reacting to misbehavior is risky as it could lead to loss of control and encourage impulsive actions. Nasty battles between teachers and students could be averted if the former were more proactive in their approaches to dealing with classroom issues.
Teachers could set up preventive measures that would effectively guard both themselves and their learners. These strategies are not difficult to follow. With practice, they would become an integral part of teaching-learning processes. If applied consistently, these strategies would yield positive outcomes and nurture internally driven behavior in students.
The most useful of these preventive measures is proximity. Teachers who use the principle of proximity to their advantage experience fewer disruptions. Proximity requires little time and effort to implement. It accomplishes what shouting and screaming at students do without having to make a scene or leaving deep psychological scars. It is a soft, but powerful way of telling students that you are aware of what is happening. It is a diplomatic way communicating that you are watching their behavior and do not tolerate any misconduct.
Moving toward a student who does not pay attention during a lesson and quickly moving away from him is an example of using proximity to one’s advantage in teaching. The key is not to be present near a student until everyone realizes that he is in trouble. As long as the concerned student is aware that the teacher is responding to his misbehavior, the goal of proximity has been successful.
Another technique that works almost all the time with all levels of learners is interest boosting. I still remember when in Year 10, I skipped school and locked myself in the study to complete the chemistry textbook in one day. I did it with ease and understood the contents therein without any problem. I topped the class in the subject for the next two years until graduating from high school. However, I was not excelling in other subjects.
The difference was caused by the level of interest in the subjects taught. Our hemistry teacher inspired interest in the subject by holding high expectation, relating lessons to real-life experiences, believing in every student and their potential to succeed, and treating everyone kindly and fairly. Once interest in a subject increases, there is no time to waste in misbehavior. Most disruptions correlate directly to students’ feeling of boredom with subjects and/or teachers.
Students display inappropriate behavior when they feel a lack control over what happens in the classroom. They do so to express frustrations. This is particularly true if the perceived lack of control springs from one’s inability to cope with lessons. Hurdle helping technique could be employed when students feel overwhelmed by an academic task. Assisting students with a particularly difficult task redirects their attention to the task itself. Instead of giving up and engaging in unnecessary behavior, students try harder and smarter, recognizing that they are not facing the difficulty alone.
When someone does a stand-up comedy, he has to constantly gauge his live audience and be flexible in effectively sharing jokes to amuse people. The same applies to teachers. If one is not careful to continually gauge students’ responses, they may run the risk of losing their attention and willingness to learn – which spirals into uncontrollable behavior. In teaching, being flexible simply implies a teacher’s willingness to change anything that does not appeal to young learners; and creatively replacing what does not work with what does!