We are delighted to be publishing our first book specifically for secondary school teachers and trainees, Understanding and Supporting Behaviour through Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Guide for Secondary Teachers by Victor Allen. The behaviour of students is a common concern and challenge for those working in secondary schools. In addition there is continued government emphasis on behaviour as an important educational issue. Victor’s book takes a fresh approach to the topic and looks at how an understanding of behaviour types and new findings on the development of the brain can increase emotional intelligence, improve classroom behaviour, promote stress-free teaching and so enhance learning in the secondary school.
In this post Victor sets out the current landscape within schools and explains how he thinks his book can help hard-pressed teachers work effectively with their most challenging pupils.
Education is becoming synonymous with the word change. The proliferation of academies, the speed in which teachers are trained and put in place, changes to the curriculum, changes to how OFSTED examine schools, changes to the exam system and changes to the length of time that students are expected to stay in school. And along with these changes come the changing attitudes and expectations of the students. Schools are expected to be all inclusive, to cope with all manner of emotional and mental issues and to deal with child protection issues, including providing food when students arrive from home in the morning having not eaten. In some cases schools provide clothes for students to wear as parents are unable to equip them adequately for school. Some schools contend with students who have the reading age of six when they enter secondary school. In one recent case, a special educational needs officer filled in a form to say why their school is ill equipped to meet the needs of a child who has learning disabilities, and was told by the authority they have nowhere else for them to go. Schools have classes where English is predominantly the second language and parents look to them to teach their children the basics regarding manners and behaviour because “we can’t do a thing with him at home!”
This then is the environment that teachers are now looking to perform in and in which to become outstanding. If a child is observed as being “off task” during part of a lesson this will count against the overall assessment of a teacher. Teachers report they are working on average 60‑70 hours per week to keep up with all the marking, planning, assessments and report writing that comes with every lesson and, yet, teachers still want to join the profession! They still are excited at the prospect of making a difference; still waiting expectantly for students to leave the examination hall to hear how they think they have got on; still having sleepless nights waiting for the results. The students may be less emotionally equipped to deal with the pressures placed on them in school, in their social life and for the format that some lessons take, yet they are going to be taught by dedicated, caring people who are going to act as teachers, social workers, counsellors, mentors, coaches, leaders and inspirers of the next generation no matter what the starting point. It’s as if what ever is being asked of them, the desire to be the one who makes the difference in a young person’s life still motivates them to try and not give up. To face daunting classes of teenagers who have become disengaged. To battle against sometimes abusive and threating behaviour because they know that this represents a small proportion of students, and that those students are like that because they need people like them to care.
My aim in my new book Understanding and Supporting Behaviour through Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Guide for Secondary Teachers is to give those working in one of the best professions in the world some insight as to the reasons why they see some of these behaviours and reactions going on in the classroom and why teenagers seem to respond aggressively to situations they can’t handle by explaining what we have learnt about the development of the brain and the stages it goes though, and the implications this has on how we should talk to and teach our students.
I bring to the book experience and insights gained through working with persistent young offenders and from coaching and mentoring executives and managers from international companies. I make use of insights from psychometric profiling, as well as the experience I have gained though teaching emotionally intelligent leadership to aspiring leaders in the business world. I have worked in schools for the last ten years, helping the most disaffected students learn to understand what motivates them and what the causes of their disaffection are. I aim to provide practical examples to build upon a wider understanding of some of the issues teachers face.
A lot of what is now needed to help create a classroom where learning can take place is a good solid respectful relationship, yet this won’t come from the belief that with the title teacher comes respect. Throughout the book I try to explain why we are in the situation we are, why children are no longer acting and learning as children but trying to become adults and suffering from the stresses and anxiety that this brings.
Never was there such a time for teachers to not only be aware of the need to teach about emotional intelligence, but also to demonstrate it throughout their interactions with others. Never has the need to be patient been more necessary, and never has the need to be a role model demonstrating patience been so critical. I hope that eventually we won’t need to put young people on anger management courses but instead provide them with positive examples of how to act, reacting and managing all their emotions. We can use the classroom to facilitate their emotional development as well as their educational development. When teachers are able to understand the triggers for emotional outbursts from struggling teenagers they can use those outbursts to start getting students to own and be responsible for their actions.
I hope that this book will go some way to start to take the pressure off hard pressed teachers and give them some hope that they do have what it takes to make a positive difference to everyone they come into contact with. May your patience never let you down.
Victor Allen, June 2014