Can it still be true that some teachers still believe that fear — fear of failure, fear of exclusion, fear of the teacher, fear of ridicule, or fear of the parental call home — motivates students to do high-quality work? Is the intentional creation of fear still one of the most widely used strategies for managing behaviour and encouraging achievement? There are teachers who feel that they need to be feared to be successful. They believe that fear is a necessary component of successful learning. But is it? When fear rules the day, students are less able to learn effectively because their focus is on self-preservation. Students in an environment ruled by fear do not think as effectively and learn as much as those who feel safe and secure.
As Eric Jensen, a leading writer on great teaching wrote in 1998:
“Start by removing threats from the learning environment……..first work to eliminate the negatives. … There is no evidence that threats are an effective way to meet long-term academic goals”.
Be aware the language you use with students: “If you don’t do well in this test, you are in danger of failing” can be switched to “do well in the next test, and watch your end-of-year grades shoot up! ” Both are true, but one deflates students. the second encourages students by emphasising a positive outcome.
Use these magic phrases:
Remember that all new learning takes students out of their comfort zones. Removing fear from the classroom encourages students to take risks and learn more, and this is something that as a teacher supply agency we hear from all of our candidates.
Peter Cobrin entered teaching by accident in 1981 to provide cover for a few days and stayed at the same school for 15 years first as a teacher of history and politics, then head of department and de facto head of sixth form. Later in his career he was a lead adviser in the Building Schools for the Future programme and now he is a key member of the First Class Education family, focusing on innovation and special projects.