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The talk and walk

Behaviour Management

The talk and walk

a guide for classroom teachers and teacher aides

Experienced teachers learn and use this technique without actually knowing that it’s a technique. First, the teacher provides an instruction a student. Second, the teacher turns to do something else while expecting compliance. There is no waiting for agreement or acknowledgement as that only serves to entice and invite an argument – a debate is not an option. The teacher provides an instruction, drops eye contact and then diverts his or her attention elsewhere. The assumption is that compliance is a given – it is inevitable. This method puts additional pressure on the student to comply because to argue would mean interrupting the teacher who has moved on to other tasks. It is easier to comply than to pursue the unwanted attention and escalated response from the teacher.

Hint: Remember the key concept of situational awareness – ‘turn and walk’ should probably be ‘turn, walk a few steps, and observe using your peripheral vision’ – this isn’t as catchy, however. Whatever you do, don’t wait 15 steps to realise the student isn’t following your instructions. Take a few steps and glance behind you just in case.

From the student’s perspective, he or she can either agree to your commands (which is by far the easiest option), or escalate the situation and be outright defiant. To not comply is difficult because there is no middle-ground – it is a choice between the easy road (compliance) and the hard road (defiance). Few students ever choose outright defiance because the consequences are so high. A word of caution here, however. Allow a bit of time for a student to process the situation and his or her options. If you step into a class where students have been running rings around your predecessor, it can take a moment for students to realise that the tide has turned.

Some teachers may even allow several minutes for students to comply. For example, you instruct a student to get back on with their work and then turn and walk to assist another. Keeping an eye on whether the student complies, you notice he or she continues to misbehave for a moment or 2, then settles and stares around the room for a few minutes. Finally, the student does what you asked. This delay is called secondary behaviour and is perfectly normal, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Your goal was for the student to get back on with work and he or she did just that – albeit eventually. Goal achieved.

Hint: Security and police officers use this ‘trick’ to encourage individuals to follow them. For example, an officer wants a person to move away from friends to calm down. The officer simply says, ‘follow me please’ and then proceeds to turn and walk (while being cautious and aware of the person’s movements for safety reasons). In most cases the person follows (95 times out of 100), at least when not affected by drugs or alcohol. When a person doesn’t, there is a problem (however, that means there is a bigger problem than you first thought anyway). A short glance back and a terse ‘now please, thank-you’ will further encourage the individual to comply with the instruction. This same technique works just as well in the playground.

About the author

Image of the managing director of FTTA.

ADAM GREEN

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of FTTA, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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