On Wednesday I wrote this.
In it I wondered when and how we ended up steeped in a rhetoric of need: ‘Children are needy, and all their needs must be met.’
People rattle off the words today without a thought as to what they mean. Try asking the next person who uses those words what they mean by them. I’ve done it a few times and the rambling conversations that ensue are remarkable, and often remarkably unhelpful.
Today, I chanced across this (Why Sir Alan Steer Should Stick his Stupid Lying Report up his Arse,) from Old Andrew’s back catalogue.
I remember reading the Steer Report as a part of my training. I remember being taught to believe that if only my lessons were good enough, well-planned enough, engaging enough, then good behaviour would materialise. The inverse was of course implied: that if poor behaviour manifests, it is because my lesson wasn’t good enough, well-planned enough, engaging enough.*
Rob Peal trained alongside me back in 2011, two years after the report was launched. He describes pretty well what it felt like to have this as a part of your teacher training in Lies my teacher training taught me.
I saw this for the first time though (Unruly Pupils Need Support), and I started to get a hint as to how we got here; an upper bound, 2009, at least. It’s a short video, 3 minutes, worth a watch.
Skip to 1:45 and you’ll get to here the old Behaviour Tsar utter the immortal words
“…so that children’s needs can be met…”
‘Unruly pupils need social workers.’
This morning was a funny old trawl through some writing from before my time, and the early days of my teacher training. There were references to the DCSF, an acronym that I’m so grateful I’ve never had to use myself, and even a reminder that the old Steer Report misquoted Plato (Old Andrew makes the point here, but Daisy Christodoulou really goes to town on it almost exactly three years later, here.)
And so flicking through Andrew’s old posts, and Daisy’s, and Rob’s, I was reminded of how much seems to have changed, in so short a time. That Sir Alan is no longer the Behaviour Tsar, but Tom Bennett (long may he reign.) That I don’t hear people denying poor behaviour in schools so much anymore, but wanting genuine systems to help teachers tackle it.
But I say seems, because, maybe I just got lucky. For three years I’ve worked in a school that, despite challenging circumstances, has an excellent system for handling behaviour, with support from SLT. Teachers still have a responsibility to use the system effectively, yes of course good lessons and relationships are considered important, but teachers are not left to feel disempowered as they are in schools where SLT refuse to take responsibility for pupil behaviour.
So are there still schools in which managers utter the refrain ‘Well-planned lessons lead to good behaviour’? Are there still schools in which you’ll hear ‘You need to use your classroom management techniques,’ as a throw away solution the school’s poor culture?
Probably. I hope the tide is changing. I hope we’re doing better. But as Rob said four years ago: “Is it any wonder that half of new teachers leave the profession within five years?”
I’m not sure we’ve yet seen any hint of decline in that figure, and so I hope, at least, that we will do better.
*For anyone interested in logic and logical fallacies, this one is called Modus Tollens. It follows this logical form:
if P then Q
therefore not P
“If you plan a good lesson, then there will be good behaviour. There was not good behaviour. Therefore you did not plan a good lesson.”
This is a valid logical inference; the conclusion is correct provided the premise is correct. In other words, if you teach trainees to believe that ‘Good lessons lead to good behaviour’ you should expect them to naturally, and inevitably, conclude that any poor behaviour in their lessons is the sole consequence of their own poor planning.
What good comes of that.
The lie of the premise is supported by a logical fallacy, Commutation of the Conditionals.
if P then Q
therefore, if Q then P
“If you plan a good lesson, there will be good behaviour. Therefore, if there is good behaviour, you must have planned a good lesson.”
To understand why the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, consider the following:
“If it rains, the road will be wet. Therefore, if the road is wet, it must be raining.”
Once a person buys into the lie that ‘good planning leads to good behaviour,’ it can be perpetuated by asserting that wherever good behaviour was seen, there was, of course, good planning.