Sunday, April 26, 2009

NLP for Teaching

Susan Norman shares some principles of NLP for teaching:

  • There is no failure, only feedback.
  • The map is not the territory. My mental map of the world is different from yours.
  • The map becomes the territory. What you habitually think about becomesyour reality.
  • Communication is non-verbal as well as verbal.
  • Communication is non-conscious as well as conscious.
  • All behaviour has a positive intention.
  • Mind and body are interconnected. If you affect one, you affect the other.
  • The resources we need are within us.
  • The meaning of my communication is the response I get.

The map becomes the territory

What you habitually think about becomes your reality. If children watch non-stop violence on TV, they take it for granted. If you think positively, your life becomes more positive.

Have you ever noticed how someone brings something to your attention (e.g. Caribbean cruises) and within two days, you've come across two other references to the same thing? The references would always have been there, but now it's 'in your mind' it comes to your conscious attention. (Just for fun, see whether Caribbean cruises come to your attention in the near future.)

How about telling students about this phenomenon and then setting up class topics two weeks ahead of time by asking students to collect any references at all that they come across. Lots may not be relevant, but their brains will be pro-rammed to be receptive to any information you then provide later on.

Communication is non-verbal and nonconscious as well as verbal and conscious

We pick up much more information from a person's body language and tone of voice than we do from their words. According to the research of Albert Mehrabian, the percentage of information we get in Body language 55% normal face-to-face conversation is 55% from body Voice tonality 38% language, 38% from tone of voice and only 7% from Words 7% the words spoken. Although these percentages obviously change in different situations (giving figures over the phone, for example), it is important for us to realise that we are giving message to our students all the time - about what we think about them, our job, the school, the subject. Are you sure you're giving the messages you want to give? Remember, it is impossible to not communicate.

All behaviour has a positive intention

This positive intention is, of course, for the benefit of the person exhibiting the behaviour, and we're talking about the 'intention' of the person's non-conscious mind to look after its 'host', rather than any conscious intention to 'do good'.

Take the example of the 'naughty' child 'seeking attention'. Since,deep down,everyone craves attention, the child who cannot get attention by being good might find that naughtiness does get attention. It may not be the preferred sort of attention, but it's better than none. So the child learns that a positive benefit of bad behaviour is attention.

If we can look for the positive benefit students are getting from behaviour which we find unhelpful, we may be able to find other ways of giving them what they want (positive attention for things they do which are helpful for their learning, perhaps) which means that (after a time) they no longer need to indulge in the unhelpful behaviour.

Mind and body are interconnected

If you affect one, you affect the other. Most people now accept that mental stress and tension can lead to illness and that, conversely, exercise (see the article on p38) can make you feel more positive. For yourself, it is good to know that you can improve your own state. If we just remember to do something about negative feelings, something as simple as sitting or standing up straight, a brisk walk, or even drinking a glass of water, can all make us feel better.

If we can give our students (and ourselves) simple exercises to relieve physical and mental stress, it will improve relationships in the classroom, get people into a better state for learning (and teach-in) and give them techniques they can use to improve their own state at times of particular stress, such as before an exam. Try the following:

  1. Sit well, with a straight back, head balanced on top of your spine with your chin horizontal with the floor.Take a deep breath in, and as you slowly breathe out, relax from the top of your head down to your feet. Do it a second time, this time silently naming the parts of the body as you relax them - head, face, ears, shoulders, arms, hands, back, chest, abdomen, backside, thighs, knees, calves, feet, toes. As you breathe out a third time, just think your way round your body and release any remaining tension.
  2. Sit well, and without making any special effort to breathe in any special way, just count in time with your breath. In-breath - one, out-breath - two, in-breath - three, etc.
  3. Sitting well, close your eyes and listen. How many different sounds can you hear? The quieter you become, the more sounds you will hear. Distant sounds, sounds within the building, within the room, near you, inside you. If you do this with a class, do it twice. After the first time, share all the different things people have heard. The second time, most people will hear more than they did the first time.

The resources we need are within us

No one is broken. We are all born with the necessary apparatus to grow and learn from the world around us. We may do it in different ways, but we're all doing the best we can. If we approach our students with this in mind, maybe we can be more tolerant of their unique characteristics!

The meaning of my communication is the response I get

Have you ever had times when, no matter how clear you are, other people seem willfully to ms-understand you? Unfortunately the reality of the communicative act is that if you want to get your message across, you need to do it in as many different ways as it takes for everyone to understand what you think you mean. If students don't under-stand, we are the ones with the knowledge, experience and skills to find ways to help them.

So does my understanding students better mean that I can change them for the better? At one level, no. You cannot change other people. But it's interesting that when you change yourself, others around you seem to change too.

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