Imagine it was your job to teach a child addition. What would you do?
First of all, you’d probably saturate the environment with numbers. You’d put posters on the wall, play card games and board games that gave practice with numbers, and sing songs about numbers. You’d provide lots of repetition and you’d make it fun.
You’d probably set up situations for the child to see the usefulness of addition. You’d teach them how they can use addition to make sure there are enough cookies for everyone. You’d show them how they can count enough loonies to purchase the toy that they want. You’d show them strategies like counting on your fingers, or using a number line so that they can figure out number problems for themselves. You’d set up situations for them to practice this new skill, ensuring that the situation was manageable, and that they’d find success.
And when that child made a mistake, you’d encourage them. You would expect that they weren’t going to get it correct the first time – or even the tenth time. You’d know that these concepts take time to learn, and you’d be a patient teacher.
Imagine if we taught math the way we often teach behaviour!
We would start by not even mentioning numbers until the child was really needing to use them. Then we’d simply tell the child what the answer is. We’d say this once, and then get frustrated and angry if the child didn’t get it the first time. We’d say “He knows this – I told him just yesterday!” and then we’d take away recess and computer time to punish the child for choosing to purposefully make mistakes, because we know that “he knows better”.
It strikes me as funny how we know so much about good teaching, yet how rarely we apply those principles when what we are trying to teach is behaviour.
And the really funny thing is, controlling one’s behaviour is a much more complicated task than is learning to add 2+2.
But the good news is that we know a lot about good teaching. If we were only to apply what we already know to the realm of behaviour, we’d find a lot more success.
Want to start a conversation about this? Click here to download a handout that you could use at a staff meeting, professional development session, or to simply leave out on the staff room table!