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‘Three Chairs, a Table and a Lamp’ is a unique DVD. In many ways it does what it says on the box. Three chairs, a table and a lamp are filmed on location in North Wales. Sitting on the chairs are three men and it’s the role each one plays in the conversation that follows that makes the film so interesting. It also has a sub-title, but in the interests of keeping things simple we’ll ignore that for now.

Imagine a zoo keeper who wants to do a better job. He wanders around his zoo with a notepad, making notes and collating together all the interesting animal behaviours he sees (the gorilla who throws away his bananas, you know the sort of thing). He then sits down with two people — a zoologist (who is able to clarify why, biologically speaking, the gorilla behaves this way) and an expert in zoo-keeping, a zoo ‘guru’ if you will (who explains what can be done to help the poor gorilla with the banana-rejection issues).

This analogy, roughly speaking, is what goes on in ‘Three Chairs’. The ‘zoo keeper’ is Michael Supple, an ex-teacher who visited various zoos secondary schools in Northampton, making notes and collating together all the interesting animal pupil behaviours he found there. The ‘zoologist’ is Dr Andrew Curran (a consultant paediatric neurologist), whose job it is to explain these behaviours in terms of what is going on in the pupils’ brains. Finally, the ‘zoo-guru’ is Ian Gilbert (educational innovator, author and speaker) who gives valuable tips to understand and make the most of these behaviours.

Put simply, ‘Three Chairs’ is about:

    - what your pupils do;
    - why they do what they do;
    - what you should do about it.

We’ve all faced the situations that crop up in the film. For example, pupils who want to rest their heads on desks, give inappropriate responses to questions and teacher/pupil confrontations. Most of the time, if we’re honest, the way we deal with them is to see the students as badly behaved, get cross and generally make matters worse.

‘Three Chairs, a Table and a Lamp’ shows us that our reactions to everyday classroom situations and pupil behaviours are often misguided. For instance…

Shouting out in class, at inappropriate times was something I witnessed by both boys and girls. Why does it happen and how can it be effectively managed?


Michael Supple
Now, our instant reaction to that would be to crack down on it. No one wants a classful of pupils shouting out. But, do we know neurologically why pupils shout out? What is going on inside their brains to cause it? Many teachers will just put it down to bad behaviour, a catch-all term… “They’re just naughty…” But don’t you want to know more? If we can find out why pupils behave like this isn’t it our professional duty to do so?

For each question posed, Andrew Curran provides the explanation of what is going on ‘behind the scenes’ and then Ian Gilbert follows up with ways to deal with the behaviour and use it to everyone’s advantage. It’s a discussion starter of a film, a catalyst to help you and your school change the way you deal with confrontation, pupil behaviour, the learning environment, motivation and your own teaching. In this respect, ‘Three Chairs’ is worth investing in as a training tool — to watch in a staff meeting and spend time discussing its implications with colleagues. It’ll certainly ruffle one or two ‘old-school’ feathers along the way. An open mind and willingness to try new ideas is a must, so teacher training students and NQTs would benefit hugely from watching.


Inside the DVD cover is a booklet containing an extended transcription of the ‘Three Chairs’ conversations which is especially useful if, like us, you struggle with the workings of the human brain. It also provides a handy referral tool if you need to look up one of the strategies Ian Gilbert provides, which are always straightforward, effective and brain-centred.

In case you were wondering, the sub-title to ‘Three Chairs, a Table and a Lamp’ is ‘How insights from neuroscience can improve the quality of learning in your school’. If you want to sell the idea to your colleagues, best stick with ‘Three Chairs…’ It might go down better.

So there you have it. Three men with designer sunglasses sitting on Llandudno seafront has never been more interesting.

 

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