Practices of Superior Teachers

Here are a few tips for promoting learning.

Use procedures rather than rules.
Superior teachers use procedures and do not rely on rules. Rules are necessary in games. However, in interactions, rules result in adversarial relationships because rules require enforcement. Rules place the teacher in the position of an enforcer, a cop-rather than that of a teacher, mentor, or facilitator of learning. Enforcing rules often results in power struggles that rarely result in win-win situations or in good relationships. Instead, rules often result in reluctance, resistance, and resentment. While rules are “left-hemisphere” oriented, and they work with people who are orderly and structured, they do not work well with “right-hemisphere” dominant students act who randomly and spontaneously. Even when these students know the rules, their lack of impulse control mitigates against following them.

In addition, rules are often stated in negative terms and imply an imposed consequence. Rules are not designed to inspire, encourage, or teach. They are aimed at obedience and are meant to control.

Rather than relying on rules, you will be much more effective if you teach procedures, which is the essence of good classroom management. Successful teachers assume that students do not know how to do an activity. These teachers explain the procedure, model it, have students practice it, and periodically revisit it for review and reinforcement.

State what you want, not what you don’t want.
Superior teachers communicate in positive terms. The brain thinks in pictures, not in words. We often want to assist people by telling them what to avoid. So often, however when you tell a person what not to do, the opposite results. The reason is that the brain does not envision “don’t” or any other negative-type word. The brain envisions pictures, illusions, visions, and images. Here is an example: Don’t think of the color blue. What color did you envision? The teacher who tells the student not to look at his neighbor’s paper is having the student’s brain envision looking at his neighbor’s paper. When people tell others what not to do, the “don’t” is not imaged in the brain; what follows the “don’t is what is imaged. Therefore, always communicate in positive terms of what you do want. Examples: “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” Instead of “Don’t run,” say “We walk in the hallways at our school.”

Aim at promoting responsibility, not obedience.
Superior teachers promote responsibility, rather than aiming at obedience. Obedience does not create desire. When you promote responsibility, obedience then follows as a natural by-product. Focusing on obedience prompts using coercion, which is the least effective approach for changing behavior or for inspiring others. Although teachers can control students temporarily, teachers cannot change students. People change themselves, and the most effective approach for actuating students to change is to eliminate coercion, which is not to be confused with permissiveness. The approach for the teacher is to hone the skill of asking reflective questions. As long as the teacher does the asking, rather than telling, the teacher controls the conversation. Use questions such as, “Are you willing to try something different if it would help you?” and “What would an extraordinary person do in this situation?”

Encourage Reflection.
Superior teachers use reflection to prompt self-evaluation, the key to changing behavior. You can control a person temporarily, but no once can change another person. People change themselves, and the path for this is to have them reflect.

Reflection is critical for long-term memory, and it is the most overlooked learning activity. At the conclusion of any activity, students should engage in some type of reflective activity-whether it be a “think, pair, timed-share,” writing in a log, or some other activity where the learning will be revisited. Students cannot be exposed to something once and then expect the learning to go into long-term memory. Having students share and reflect reinforces the learning.

Elicit, rather than impose.
Superior teachers elicit from students, rather than use authority and impose something on them. Simply stated, when a consequence is imposed, students are deprived of ownership in the decision. A more effective and fairer approach is to elicit a consequence or a procedure to redirect impulses that will help each student become more responsible. This can easily be accomplished and still be consistent in terms of fairness by asking students if they would rather be treated as a group or as individuals. They will readily have a preference to be treated as individuals and have ownership in the decision that will help them. Use questions such as, “What procedure can we develop so that in the future you will not be a victim of your impulses?”