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Game positions

In his entertaining book Games People Play (1973) the psychiatrist Eric Berne identified three 'game' positions that people tend to take up, as learners, children, parents, learner-drivers, marriage-partners, work-colleagues - or student teachers.

First, there is over-anxiety (Berne calls the sufferer a 'Jerk'). You are so nervous about doing your best that you forget things, tend to be clumsy, are ready with a thousand excuses for lateness/not preparing your lesson/not being in the right place/forgetting the departmental meeting, and so on. You try to cover all this up with over-eagerness, over-friendliness, or by pouring out all your weaknesses and shortcomings - anything to prove that you can do better if given another chance. But you are in such a sweat to put things right that you cannot find the right conditions for calm reflection and action, that would lead to improvement. You need, in short, to relax and organize yourself - but how?

Second, there is resentment (Berne calls the sufferer a 'Sulk'). Why should you have to do things this way, just because someone else says so? If there is no chalk/paper/books, it must be 'their' fault; if pupils will not listen it is because they are 'out of control'; if you don't have your teaching file in good order for your supervisor, then he/she should have let you know they wanted to see it; if you teacher colleagues find you lacking in initiative, then they should tell you exactly what they want of you. Sulks are so busy sulking and blaming everyone else, that nothing will ever be learned or improved. How can the game be broken?

Third, there is efficiency. You have passed your driving test, or you can change nappies, or you can apply all the groundrules of The Craft of the Classroom - at least as far as organizing materials, classrooms and lesson plans are concerned. This teaching business, you find, is quite straightforward after all, as long as you keep to the 'Highway code' of this Course Unit. You are, in short, a 'model' student-teacher; having outgrown the 'jerk' and 'sulk' positions, you are ready for your place in the system. You are pleased about the admiring supervisors' and teachers' reports on your performance. But might you be missing something?

Eric Berne suggests that there is a fourth, game-free position, where efficiency has been learned, but where you have recovered own self - you are not just 'the teacher', but you, a person who teaches. You are open, flexible, interested in new ideas, not defensive about fixed positions. Your interest in pupils and colleagues is genuinely professional not trying to out-manoeuvre them in a devious game where you make the rules, but willing to engage in the give-and-take of honest relationships.

You will do well to reach the 'efficiency' stage on your teaching practice, but the fourth, 'open' stage may be of even more importance in the long term. Teaching is - and should be an arduous career, and you will need to rely on your own well-being in order to be reliable and effective.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 738

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