What’s Your Unum Necessarium?
The number one concern of any teacher is likely to be related to behaviour management.
Certainly for newly qualified teachers it is.
Even experienced teachers will be up-ended by discipline issues and teaching can suddenly go from being the best job in the world to the worst.
Take a look at this perceptive quote from A.C. Benson:
The power of maintaining discipline is the unum necessarium for a teacher; if he has not got it and cannot acquire it, he had better sweep a crossing. It insults the soul, it is destructive of all self-respect and dignity to be incessantly at the mercy of boys. They are merciless, and the pathos of the situation never touches them.
This was written in 1902 and is still as true as ever although we can include girls in this too.
This quote is something you will find in the book by Jonathan Smith called The Learning Game.
And it is a game. Classroom dynamics are a game of psychology and tricks that you edit according to context. You will get advice from behaviour gurus who like to tell us there is a formula but really there isn’t. I’ve tried lots of their suggestions and what works for them didn’t always won’t work for me.
This is all about personality, who you are as a person and whether you have the relationship knack. Some can manage with merely their presence, others with humour, some with just a smile or a stare but what it amounts to is pupil perception and their incredible powers of reading us.
If you are confident then you can manage any class because children respect confidence. They soon spot our weaknesses and within 2 seconds of seeing you they will know whether to mess around or not. Shouting doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time and teachers who shout are wasting time and energy – they seldom have any respect.
Jonathan Smith makes the observation as follows:
Children and pupils see much more of us and in us and about us than we would like to imagine. They study us as they study their books, and often with considerably more interest. They read us. They see our body language and see through it; they spot where we scratch ourselves; they pick up the give-away expressions in our eyes; they work out our values and smile at our evasions; they perceive our natures and assess our flash-points. No actor on the stage is more carefully studied.
Being in charge, balanced and supremely confident is what students want to see and it’s what they deserve to get.
Teachers have to walk around the school as if they own the place because if they don’t then the students soon will.