Aug 012016

I have been thinking about what the phrase “Teaching is a political act” means, and how the decision influences my actions in the classroom with learners.

As I have been thinking about this, I realize the while the learners may engage more and learn mathematics at a higher level, some of their parents may be upset at the non-traditional and non-textbook orientation of the class. So what am I to do when my classroom is buzzing with excitement, the learners are engaged and focused on mathematics, and a parent files a complaint with the principal that I am not teaching out of the textbook.

My personal reaction is a giant … er … well it would not be appropriate to say out loud my first reaction. It would not accomplish anything.

So assuming I have sound pedagogical reasons for doing what I am doing. Assuming that I have solid arguments for the class going where I am taking it, and assuming that in the end, all the standards required of me are deeply uncovered and learned, how do I respond?

I really didn’t have an answer to that question. The current political climate on Facebook yields a glimpse of how those conversations end up; a shouting match. No winner.

So how do both parties walk out winners? How can we all, parents, teachers and admins, walk away from the meeting accomplishing something positive. That is the question.

I didn’t know or have a clue until I was listening to NPR and heard about “noncomplementary behavior”.
 And an NPR article about it here.

Essentially, complementary behavior is mirroring what the other person does. If they are warm and friendly, you are warm and friendly in response. However, if they are cold or angry, you are cold or angry as well.

Noncomplementary behavior flips the script of conversations, which is difficult, but worthwhile.

I have been attempting (which means not always succeeding) to do this on Facebook conversations. When someone gets hostile and angry, I respond with niceness and facts. I can see doing this when parents are challenging my classroom as well. When they are hostile towards the political acts of teaching, I respond with positivity and facts.

This has the potential to be very powerful, but it takes practice. Complementary behavior is so easy to do, and it is natural to do. It takes some will power and some effort to be noncomplementary. Read the articles. Try it. I think it is easy for teachers to practice, because great teachers are constantly positive anyway.



This is the first  post I have made. Shooting for 1 post per day this month!

MTBOSBlaugust2016 Thank you Shelli Temple!

  5 Responses to “Noncomplementary behavior in teaching”

  1. What a great way to diffuse a potential issue! Thanks for posting!

  2. So much opportunity these days to practice niceness and facts! Looking forward to reading your posts!

  3. I was just discussing this with another educator. He is an elementary school teacher in his third year of teaching. I’ve been buzzing a lot about how I am going to be an innovator in the classroom rather than passively following orders even if I disagree with the resulting pedagogical approaches. This educator essentially told me to “protect” myself by doing what I’m told. Considering I’ve been learning from you, Professor Waddell, for a year now, this response didn’t sit well with me. The question was posed to me, “And when the parents complain? When administration comes after you? What then?” I didn’t want to answer instantaneously because the topic deserves so much more thought than I can possibly perform in but a moment, so I responded by saying, “I may not have the answer or strategy now, but that’s why I’m in school. That’s what I’m actively working towards figuring out.” Hopefully throughout the rest of my experience in the NevadaTeach program, I will be able to better elaborate my ideas. Ultimately, what matters most is that I work towards solving problems of that nature because I refuse to passively accept the status quo and become yet another stagnant teacher. Instead, I am going to be an innovative and reflective educator.

  4. LearnerX,
    You make me proud. Thank you! I promise we will be there to support you and help you.

  5. LearnerX, that is such a mature answer! I must put that one in my reportoire!

    Glenn, thanks for so much good thoughtfulness.

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