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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Sep-06


Monday 04-September-06

Start of term and other beginnings

Here in the UK, it's the start of the Autumn term for thousands of children. And my wife too, who is an English teacher. I also have an interest, working as I do in a national agency that does much with schools.

I can sympathize from both sides of the desk: I was a teacher once and know the hard work in settling down classes. For the children, too, it's a time of change, with new people in the class, new teachers, new subjects and being one chunk higher up the school ladder. Never mind the work, this is a highly social period during which jostling for social position is an important (and, for some, all-consuming) activity.

One of the first tasks for the teacher is to establish discipline. An early trap that I, as many young teachers, fell into was trying to be too nice, with the result that the kids took advantage and I lost control of whole classes. When this happens it takes a long time to re-establish control and sometimes it never really happens. The bottom line for creating discipline is to set rules and then never bend them. One child will put their toe over the line (or maybe saunter over as if it was not there). This is an important test, as all others in the class will be watching with great interest. If you lose what is in effect the ensuing contest, then the class will assume that they can also walk over the line, and you will be in retreat.

This happens in other places too, in particularly at home, where parents make empty threats and their kids rule the roost. Even in the workplace, you get unruly employees, including those who will use trade unions and employment law to effectively blackmail their way to getting what they want.

Whether you are teacher or a manager or someone else, beginnings of any relationship are important. What happens early on is often what will continue to happen. When one person bends over backwards, then others will assume that this is their normal way of operating and will treat them accordingly.

The bottom line: start clearly, establishing and protecting rules. Start also as you mean to go on, providing the consistency that establishes trust and gives you the sense of control that you need.

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