'Get rid of the lion trainers'

ONE of Scotland's leading educational psychologists has called for action to tackle the problem of the "disruptive teacher".

Alan McLean, who works for Glasgow's education department, said that disruptive teaching is "one of the biggest open secrets in education". Writing in this week's TES Scotland (page 23), Mr McLean adds: "Just as bullies set the tone in the playground, the self-protective cynicism of such teachers is a corrosive agent festering away in many staffrooms."

Disruptive teachers display the same characteristics and attitudes as the difficult pupils they complain about - "both strongly resist any attacks on their autonomy".

Mr McLean said that, while some teachers are interested in children, others take a pessimistic "command and conquer" approach. Some teachers see themselves and children in the same terms, others see pupils as different from themselves - "like lion trainers see lions".

He called for an end to "confrontational" teaching styles. "Some teachers have a malleable idea of personality and believe behaviour is learnt and can change.

"Others assume a pupil's personality is unchangeable and think behaviour is predetermined. Such teachers have a need for definite answers, based on their preference for certainty over ambiguity; they can leap to conclusions on little evidence and then show a reluctance to entertain views different from their own. They seem to 'seize on and then freeze on' their judgments."

Mr McLean acknowledged that the solution is far from simple. But he urges schools "to find the time to reflect on how the school influences teachers'

behaviour and give honest feedback to teachers.

"The trick is to do so in an objective and non-personalised form, without stigmatising teachers in the way we do with pupils." There should be no "blame culture".

Leader, page 24

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