“Why is it surprising that scientists might have long hair and wear cowboy boots? In fields like neuroscience, where the events you are recording are so minute, I suspect scientists cultivate a boring, reliable image. A scientist with a reputation for flamboyance might be suspect.” Steven Pinker
I watched the amazing ‘Rack Pack’ last night, brilliant TV which got me thinking about who we are and how we approach things so differently. It followed the careers of Alex Higgins, Steve Davis and to a lesser extent Jimmy White. They were all snooker players at a time when the game exploded on to the sporting scene in the 1980’s. I never really watched snooker but I knew about these players because they were iconic and part of the culture I grew up around. What was so powerful was the relationship between Steve ‘Boring’ Davis and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. Alex was the George Best of Snooker, brilliant but plagued by drink, a lack of discipline and a tendency to crash and burn; whereas, Steve Davis was the absolute opposite whom Higgins called, “a robot”. What was fascinating was how they both played the same game and were amazing in different ways. It got me thinking about the many different approaches there are to the things we do in education. It got me thinking about behaviour. How we can approach an issue from very different perspectives and seem to achieve the same outcomes. Initially I thought, it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get the job done.
I realised, much to my horror, that I am approaching behaviour rather like Steve Davis approached the snooker table. A measured, methodical and rather slow amble; you can watch for some time and not be too sure what is going on. Results don’t happen quickly. When they do they feel rather damp and squib-like. I try to take ALL the emotion out of situations. I realised I was becoming ‘boring’ in my approach towards behaviour. It was not always this way and for a moment last night I felt disappointed in who I seemed to have become. I thought I wanted my approach to behaviour to be like Alex Higgins, or at least Jimmy White; maverick, quick and with a flash of showmanship that left others rising to their feet to applaud a master-class. I wanted quick results. I wanted immediate resolution. I wanted the problems to just disappear down a hole.
I am realising that dealing with challenging behaviour is something that my mind-set is absolutely central to. There are no quick fixes for children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional or behavioural well-being. Many teachers and senior leaders must feel that the time behaviour takes away from their day is a distraction that lessens their impact and true purpose – that of being ‘teacher’. They must feel that the dis empowerment they face is utterly at odds with their day to day. I understand this but it is a very short term view. I realised, last night that the purpose of playing snooker was not how you played it but how you wanted to play it. What is crucial then is being content with the results. Whiz-bang does not work with challenging behaviour but steady, consistent and well-practised technique really does. Being boring might just be the best approach to tackling the greatest needs.
The end of the ‘Rack-Pack’ charts Alex Higgins’ death in 2010 where Steve Davis in his obituary says that the Hurricane was “the one true genius that snooker has produced”. That’s the thing with genius, it comes all too rarely and though amazing things happen it is never wise to try to be like the ones who do it. The same can be said about certain approaches to dealing with behaviour. We might want to try the maverick approaches but deep down, steady, calm, practiced and passionate (though often hidden) approaches will get the greatest results.