BFL: Tactical Ignoring

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Tactical ignoring is the teacher’s conscious decision to ignore certain behaviour and keep the focus on the flow of the lesson, or on acknowledging and reinforcing positive behaviour. In this sense tactical ignoring and selective attention are complementary reinforcers. This emphasis is appropriate for example – when a teacher ignores several students calling out. A general rule reminder is given to the whole class: ‘Remember our rule for hands up, everyone.’

The teacher then focuses on the students with hands up, who are not calling out. The student who whines when asked to pack up is tactically ignored, though the teacher may feel like saying, ‘Look. Why can’t you do something just once, just once, without whining?!’

Tactical ignoring is a difficult skill because of the frustration we may feel with student behaviour such as whining; calling out; sulking; the raised eyes to the ceiling; and pouting; the ‘tsk tsks ‘ when you ask a student to pack up. It is for these kinds of behaviour that tactical ignoring is appropriate.

Tactical ignoring should be distinguished from blind ignorance or hopeful ignoring (‘If I do nothing, it might go away!’). One should never ignore safety issues, aggressive behaviour, bullying tactics, blatant put-downs. These need to be addressed assertively and immediately.

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