NLP and Discipline

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As I discussed in the section on Rapport, NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a set of incredibly useful tools for teachers. The architects of NLP attempted to describe a science of optimum communication, by modeling the most effective communicators of their generation: therapists like Milton Erickson, who could effect profound change in individuals, and visionary thinkers, like Gregory Bateson, who had developed models, such as systems theory to describe the complex reality of relationships. Today NLP is used widely in theraputic practice, in business, even in entertainment by Derren Brown and Paul McKenna, for example. It is used to help business people make sales, even to help people lose weight. The section on Rapport, dealt with building good relationships with individuals. This section, which will deal mainly with framing and re-framing discusses how to lead both groups and individuals towards a common target.

Framing and Re-framing

• As a canvas is framed, a frame in NLP is the way we view a person, place or experience; the angle at which we view it and the meaning that we give to it.

• Assume the responsibility to proactivly create a positive frame for yourself and your lessons, in the eyes of your students and to re-frame the expectations of those who may come into your class with a frame of disaffection and boredom.

• In NLP terms: 'whoever controls the frame, controls the game'. If your classes are badly behaved, you may well have unwittingly surrendered the learning frame to the pupils and need to re-frame their expectations and experience of your lessons.

One of the presuppositions of all of these techniques is that we must learn to take responsibility for the results that we create, both in our classes and in life. If something is going wrong, blame yourself first; have the sensory acuity to understand the feedback that you are getting and the behavioral flexibility to do something different. Most kids that come to school want to learn, whether they realize it or not. A large part of our job is about reminding them of that fact and helping them to uncover their motivation.

Also understand that in learning any new skill, such as NLP, you will pass through four stages of competence, from Unconscious Incompetence (I don't know what I'm doing wrong) to Conscious Incompetence (Now I know what I'm doing wrong) through Conscious Competence (I can see what I am doing right) to Unconscious Competence (I'm doing it right but I've forgotten how I learned). Learning to drive is a great metaphor for this. Remember how complicated and difficult it seemed at first and how weird it now seems when you make yourself think about driving whilst you are doing it.

Part of the genius of NLP is that most people who are excellent at something cannot always tell you why and will often have forgotten how they learned. NLP provides a set of tools for modeling excellence. It was created by modeling therapists, who were master communicators and then formulating a series of rules, which applied to all of them. As a new teacher you may well be experiencing difficulties being taught how to teach by teachers who have forgotten how they learned. Apply some basic NLP skills to your observations and lessons and you will learn rapidly. Check out the stages of competence on Wikipedia

Bringing NLP Home


'WIIFM?': I was lucky enough to have been involved with a lot of youth work before entering teaching, both in youth clubs and summer camps. Our job in reality, was to learn to create rapport with young people, so that they felt comfortable around us. We had to create and market to the young people, a series of programs, which involved fun activities that they could choose from. Because we had to 'sell' each activity, we had to answer what I call the 'WIIFM' or 'What's in it for me?' of each part of the program, just like an advertiser or marketer would do. If we couldn't 'sell' it, the kids wouldn't come and the activity wouldn't run. Once in an activity, we would often have to be flexible and negotiate with the kids, often changing things, mid-way if they were not popular so as to maintain our rapport and keep them interested. If this sounds in any way similar to aspects of parenting, the similarity is not accidental.

UNHAPPY PEOPLE: Think of the people that you know, both in work and outside, who seem inflexible and unable to 'see' the feedback that they are getting from others. How easy is it for them to create rapport? I have found that such people struggle and seem to be surrounded by conflict. Often they expect to lead without pacing first and do not understand

RE-FRAMES: Have you ever had a bad day? Why not NLP it? When this happens to me I tend to replay the events of the day in my mind like a movie. I frame it as a tragedy, with myself as the victim. Occasionally, I remember that I can re-frame my day by asking myself a number of questions like: 'What was great about today?' or 'What did I learn about myself today?'. Doing this helps me change from a 'victim' frame to a 'learning opportunity' frame and I cheer up considerably.

Framing Your Classes


Let's assume that you have decided to be proactive and create a positive learning frame for your classes. There are many techniques that create rapport and motivate students.

Answering the WIIFM for each lesson is vital. The world of marketing and advertising is spending millions trying to answer that question for young consumers as it leads them to its products. Likewise, you have to sell your learning experience and persuade the children that you teach there is enough in it for them to engage with the subject matter and to engage with you. Before this can happen, of course, you must convince yourself, as pupils can spot an unmotivated teacher a mile off and will respond in kind. Here are some ideas:

• Think about what you loved about the subject at school and try to reproduce it. Perhaps you really got into your subject at University? Can you modify some more advanced work in order to stretch your students?

• Can you modify the syllabus to reflect their and your interest? Can you create starter activities, that relate the work to their lives in some way? Ask whether the students understand why they are studying the subject and why it could be useful to them.

Your behavior and attitude in class is being instantaneously registered by your pupils and a kind of internal thermometer of like and dislike is moving up or down, both for you and for the work as well as for your status in their eyes. In which case, be sure to use positive language as much as possible and think of your language in class as text with the very definite subtext of your expectations and beliefs about education. Whilst I have no problem with specific class codes of conduct, I want to stress that it is your job to continually reinforce your expectations, no matter what is displayed on the wall.

• 'Now which kind person is going to help me hand out the books?' (Wait for a volunteer). 'I assume that you are nice people, I expect students to help out. I have the authority to ask you to do things for me. Whoever volunteers is setting themselves up as a role model for my class values. My class values are based on being kind enough to help the teacher and to help others

• 'Put your hand up if you want me to go through that again' 'It matters to me that everyone understands. Its fine if you don't. Getting it wrong is fine'.

• 'Put your hand up if you need help' I care about your learning and I don't expect you to just be able to do the work magically. My job as a teacher is to help you learn'.

• 'That part was excellent' 'If I have to criticize your work, I will focus on what's good about it first'.

• 'How did you get that answer?' Both correct and incorrect answers are about thought processes. Thinking is experimental. Having the 'right' answer is not everything'.

• 'Did anyone get a different answer?' 'I am not the font of all knowledge. We help each other.

• 'Here's a story about this from my own life' I engage with this material and so can you. I care about motivating and interesting you.

• 'Have any of you experienced this?' I am interested in your experience and in how you connect to this work. What we are learning here relates to you. I value your experience'.

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Click here for a sample NLP script for your most challenging students!

The NLP Coach

Here's a book I can highly recommend if you are looking for a quick practical reference guide to all of the NLP techniques and their applications. I use this all the time when I am looking to explain a technique or find quick practical applications.

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