Friday, March 1, 2013

Teachers Need More Impulse Control?

By Theresa McKeon

Are you kidding? Aren’t teachers the superheroes of self-control? Every day they control the desire to use unacceptable phrases like, “No, you screwed it up again” and “Wow! I can’t believe you still don’t have this!” Teachers even are required to become proficient at restraining external signs of annoyance and frustration such as eye rolls, heavy sighs and throwing their hands up in the air in a gesture of “I give up.” 

So where does a good teacher possibly need more impulse control? It may seem counterintuitive but teachers could benefit by limiting the amount of information they deliver at certain times, mainly in the moments immediately preceding a student’s attempt to perform. 

Several conditions lead us to believe our students will be more successful if we toss them a last minute “don’t forget…,” “remember to…” or maybe the most distracting, “You can do it! I have faith in you!” While these phrases certainly have their place, the moment prior to performing a newly developing behavior is not one of them.  So why is it so hard to control our impulse to disrupt the student’s focus?

1. Passion talking—
As a rule, teachers are passionate about delivering information to others. We have worked hard at gathering vast amounts of knowledge and can feel strangled when we have to stop conveying it, even if it is to let the learner have a go.

2. Our desire to be reinforced—
We are reinforced by our student’s success. When it appears our last minute advice has facilitated achievement, a superstitious conclusion may arise. “Last time I quickly listed everything I wanted him to remember right before the performance and it seemed that reminding him at the last minute worked.”

3. Worries about how we are regarded—
It is possible that we are afraid that coworkers or even outside observers might assume that our silence reflects a lack of proficiency in our observation skills. “If I don’t say something to the student, the other coaches will think I didn't see the error.”

Properly timed moments of silence are the mark of an attentive teacher; one who is consciously allowing the student to be part of the learning process and not just a vessel into which information is deposited at will.  Learning to resist the impulse to repeat last minute bits of coaching, feedback or even cheer leading may actually speed up the time to your student’s fluency and ultimately, their ability to achieve independence. 

Recorded Webinar

Click here to register for a recorded webinar with Theresa McKeon: Leave It! Impulse Control for the Teacher

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