Behaviour ConsultantsJanuary 14, 2017
A few years ago, I think it may have been around 2010, I worked at a school where a behaviour consultant came in for our INSET. He explained to us that if we were just nicer to the kids then they would behave better. Back in 2012, I wrote about observing a behaviour panel at an education conference where a well established behaviour consultant argued that we could improve behaviour by avoiding punishment and being nicer to the kids, perhaps just having “a quiet word” where necessary. Another post back in 2008 quoted multiple behaviour consultants who thought that teachers who were angered by poor behaviour were the problem, and if we didn’t react negatively to the disruption and abuse everything would be much better. More recently, I read this blogpost by another behaviour consultant, who claimed:
Behaviour, good or bad, is not an entity in itself. It is a dynamic construct created by environment and interaction. Have high expectations by all means, but if the required behaviour is not immediately there, it is a core function of a teachers role to create it. It is the adults responsibility to set the emotional tone of the classroom, to instruct, model, coach, adapt, seek help and support until it is established.
A philosophy which meant they could then claim that it was wrong to use disciplinary procedures to protect one’s self or one’s class from bad behaviour:
Excluding by sending out of the classroom, passing the problem on to someone else, suggesting another placement is rarely a solution. Understanding the core problem and applying individual solutions with care and consistency usually is.
Understanding the core problem and applying individual solutions with care and consistency usually is. I absolutely support the concept of ‘tough love’ and would never advocate ‘turning a blind eye’. Noticing, understanding, offering solutions to problems rather than passing the buck are infinitely preferable. My starting point is usually what would I want for my own child in this situation? It is more difficult for those who are not parents, have very young children or children who find learning easy to walk in others’ shoes. If a child close to you was struggling and expressing their despair in challenging ways what would you want for them? Apply this standard to the situation, behaviour is a form of communication – what are they telling you? (After the surface F**K Off that is).
So there you go, if a teenager tells you to “fuck off” in front of a class of 31 other teenagers when you ask them to do some work, it would be really nasty to actually have them removed from the classroom, rather than solving their personal problems.
Now you may think I have cherry picked cranks here, but all of these people are reasonably prominent. There are, no doubt, plenty of more sensible people giving behaviour advice. I seem to recall Tom Bennett doing some behaviour consultancy, and I’ve also had excellent INSET on physical restraint from Team Teach. However, there is a significant industry out there of people who managers hire to come into schools to tell teachers that behaviour, rather than being primarily a product of the systems and expectations school leaders put in place, is a result of whether teachers are nice/nasty. You can imagine why such a message appeals to incompetent managers, but morally, this form of consultancy is a way of financially exploiting both teachers and students in need of genuine help not lectures on why teachers are to be blamed.
I expressed this view on Twitter a few weeks back and also asked people what bad advice they have had from behaviour consultants. Here are some of the responses.