Home > Uncategorized > Voice and movement coaches in lieu of behavior management courses

Voice and movement coaches in lieu of behavior management courses

The more I talk to teachers – new teachers, old teachers, student teachers – the more I hear that behavior management (aka the ability to get kids quiet and still long enough to teach them) is one of the greatest challenges in classrooms.  I hear that across school districts and populations – it’s not an urban problem or a suburban problem, a rich problem or a poor problem, as far as I can tell.  It seems that teachers everywhere have trouble getting their kids to listen.

In my own life, one of my friends is struggling with classroom management in his student teaching placement, trying to figure out how kids who are reasonably well-behaved with their regular teacher can be so hard to control when he has them on his own.  In pondering this problem with him I thought of two very different sources of inspiration: dog training and acting.

I think of dog training because, like Cesar of the Dog Whisperer, I believe that a significant amount of a dog’s response to us is based on the energy we project.  Our posture, voice, and attitude tell the dog either “I’m leading here.  You can trust me and should follow me,” or “I’m lost.  This is scary.  You’re on your own here.”  I believe the same thing happens in a classroom.  Children’s health and happiness often depends on their ability to read the emotions and attitudes of the adults around them, so they tend to get good at it.  When an adult’s posture or tone communicates “I have no idea what I’m doing here and I’m not sure if you should be listening to me,” students, like dogs, will take control, dominating the teacher.  Also like dogs, however, this isn’t really what they want.  It’s chaotic, unpredictable, and unbalanced.  Most students, certainly at the elementary school level, want to know that someone is in charge, has a plan, and will take care of them.

I think of acting classes because of Penelope Trunk’s post about taking an acting class to improve her leadership skills.  The premise of the class is that “acting and leading are both about establishing a relationship with an audience and making them believe in you.”  That applies just as well to teaching.  I believe that at heart, all great teachers are great performers.  They’re not all stand-up comedians, but they all know how to use their voice and body to get and keep the attention of a roomful of students.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful your lesson is – if you can’t get the kids’ attention they will never learn what you have to teach them.

Given how important our posture, voice, and energy are in controlling the attention in a classroom, perhaps it makes more sense for teachers to ditch the college courses on behavior management and instead work with vocal, acting, or movement coaches to tune the body’s vital tools.

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