Have you ever considered using the ancient Japanese art of judo to manage pupil behaviour? Christian Pountain, head of RE and director of spirituality at a secondary school in Lancashire, has – and he says it can be incredibly effective.
Don’t panic, he’s not suggesting that low-level disruption should be met with an ashi guruma (leg wheel), or that late homework be punished with a obi otoshi (belt drop). Rather, he explains that Zen Buddhism has had a major influence on the development of modern judo and an alternative version of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths on overcoming suffering can provide teachers with inspiration for behaviour management.
In the 26 June issue of TES, Pountain details all four of these truths. Here is a preview of two of them:
Noble Truth 1 – Get the basics right: get to grips with your opponent and always keep your balance
The importance of the basics really cannot be overstated. In judo, as in teaching, if you get the main principles right and stick to them, you cannot go too far wrong. The first principle in a judo contest is to establish your grip. Pupils are not opponents but they do need getting to grips with. The way to do this is by cultivating strong relationships. Everything turns on this.
Equally important is to remember the three F words:
Keep fit: always stay on top of the latest thinking in the -profession. (The chances are that you are doing so, as you are reading this publication.)
Move fast: keep the pace of your lessons quick and avoid predictability.
Stay focused: remember why you came into the profession, and remember also that you are making a difference, regardless of how you’re feeling on any given day.
Related to and underpinning all of this is the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. My busiest days are the most important days to attend judo training. Quite simply, I owe it to my pupils not to reduce myself to a teaching machine; if a set of books gets marked slightly later than planned, so be it. My greatest gift to them is a healthy me.
What is your judo? You need to know what it is. And if you don’t have a judo in your life, get one, fast. You owe it to yourself – and to your pupils.
Noble Truth 2 – Pick the right partner to lever others’ strength
In judo, as in any sport, if you want a good laugh, train with a white belt – a beginner who will make you look good. If you want a workout, train with someone of similar ability. But if you really want to improve, seek out the black belt who will give you a hiding and make you look rubbish by comparison.
This is just as true in teaching. We can all feel better about ourselves by comparing ourselves to the wrong people.
I make it a priority to seek out and deliberately be around the very best teachers, who excel at behaviour management. You should do the same.
Observe them (formally and informally), question them, think about their practice and how it differs from yours and allow them to mentor you.
Read the full feature in the 26 June issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.