Enough is enough- it's time to stop taking bad advice about behaviour when children's futures are at stake
Years ago I waited tables in TGI Fridays, where they used to run competitions for staff to see who could sell the most sticky, smoky meat and goldfish bowls of margaritas. Until one day the good times stopped rolling and the managers decreed there would be no more. The reason? One of them had read a book: ‘Punished by rewards’, and claimed that it described how people shouldn’t be incentivised by something so gaudy as an incentive. The author was Alfie Kohn. Years later when I became a teacher I discovered his advice was following me around like eyes on a painting in Scooby Doo. Kohn has become one of the most influential writers in education. His books have found homes in libraries from Beirut to Bearsden. Sadly, rarely have trees been so needlessly pulped.
I frequently hear him described as a behaviour expert. But I find this strange, because surely one of the defining …
There were many common themes (because all students are humans, with human capacities, appetites and reactions) many different ways these themes were achieved (because context matters, and few things in human behaviour are universal). Detail matters.
One of the most commonly encountered strategies was the use of well-described routines, defined, embedded and maintained by an alert and consistent staff, and self-sustained by the community of students. For routines to work, they have to be consistent. There need to be understood exceptions, and exceptions need to be exceptional, rational and coherent with the culture. Laws are laws but without room for wise interpretation they become prisons rather than climbing frames.
It’s still a wonderful job Nb: this is an edited version of a previously published post I usually have a Christmas ritual: I republish a post I wrote a few years ago called ‘It’s a wonderful job.’ It was a Winter rumination about why teaching was still one of the best jobs you could do, despite the aggro and the paperwork and rats carrying lasers*. It was a sentimental meditation, me on my rocking chair smoking a pipe and chuckling as I read Christmas cards from cherubic children.
Love, Actually says at Christmas you have to tell the truth. This year it would feel insincere to regurgitate so straightforward a love letter to the profession- mainly because since September last year I’m not teaching. Four years ago I started researchED as a kitchen table project, and I ran it on top of full time teaching for 18 months until the banjo string of my psyche threatened to snap. So I went part time. researchED grew and grew, more and more conferences in more and more countries and continents, b…