I am a lucky man because I work in two areas that I enjoy and find fascinating. These are the vocations of teaching and psychotherapy and I love it when they come together. This is lucky because they come together frequently. In fact they’re rarely apart. Teaching is about relationships. Psychotherapy is about relationships. They are made for each other.
There is an unfortunate trend in education over the last few years. We seem to have moved away from relationships and towards “measurable outcomes”. We can measure a child’s IQ, CAT score, SAT score, GCSE grade, AS level etc etc. but it’s pretty hard to put a number on how happy he or she is at school and whether he feels cared for, nurtured, respected, inspired or safe. My argument is that all of these things are essential before any learning can take place. Once they are secure then the child may fly. She can feel safe enough to have a go, make mistakes and learn that it’s OK. Then real learning begins.
Who inspired you?
Look back at the teachers you found inspiring at school. Were they the ones that marked your homework on time? Was it the way in which they set work for you that you remember? The thing that we remember about our special teachers is how they connected with us. How we felt when we were with them. I remember clearly how I felt with my English teacher when I was I kid. I felt valued, inspired and special and I loved going to English lessons. For most homework assignments I would do the minimum just to make sure I didn’t get into trouble (typical boy). For my English teacher I would write reams!
So what’s all this got to do with Transactional Analysis? In order for a child to learn anything within the classroom setting you need a good teacher to facilitate the process. Teaching is a demanding, stressful and high pressured vocation where the humanness of the teacher is often forgotten by all parties. This is regularly demonstrated by excited children running up to teachers during the school day to tell them “I saw you in Tescos”! Yep, teachers have to eat too! As teachers we often forget that we are human too and we are not our jobs. We take poor behaviour in our classrooms personally, feel stressed when we are being observed (mention Ofsted to a teacher and they tend to react as if they are to be visited by the grim reaper to have their very soul brought to judgment) and find it difficult to unwind in the long holidays we are endlessly lambasted for.
How can Transactional Analysis help teachers?
Transactional Analysis offers teachers a way of understanding what is happening on a social level within the classroom and within themselves. It provides a map, a framework to start hanging experiences on.
Here’s a list of a few features of transactional analysis and how they can be used by teachers;
- Ego states – once understood, teachers can figure out what’s going on with their thinking, feeling and behaviour in the classroom and choose to respond rather than react.
- Transactional Analysis Proper – teachers can use their knowledge of TA proper to keep irate children (and parents!) placated, cut dead unproductive conversations and make their points seem clear during lessons.
- Strokes – the understanding of the stroke economy makes the poor behaviour of some children more comprehendible and encourages teachers to be positive in their classrooms as a method of behaviour management. I’ve done a lot of work with students explicitly discussing strokes and the stroke economy, they find it fascinating too!
- Games – there are many games played out in the classroom including “Do Me Something”, Wooden Leg”, “If It Wasn’t For You” and “Now I’ve Got You, You S.O.B”. If teachers understand them they can avoid them or at least be aware when they enter into them and avoid the negative payoff for themselves (for example, that common feeling of hopelessness that teachers can feel, or feelings of anger) and for the students.
- Scripts – understanding our own script helps us language why we wanted to be a teacher in the first place and gives us permission to pursue our vocation from a positive place.
My examples above barely scrape the surface of the uses of TA within teaching and there are many more aspects of TA such as the drama triangle, the OK corral, script matrix, discounting that are also very useful.
By learning Transactional Analysis a teacher can gain more insight to how human relationships tick. They can make more sense of the behaviour they see around them and put it into a wider context. Transactional Analysis provides a language to explain why certain classroom management techniques are going to be more effective than others and gives permission for the teacher to retain humanness in the face of adversity.
Transactional Analysis brings greater awareness into the classroom and with this comes options and the possibility of doing things differently.