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Typical reptilian behaviours

In this article, we explore typical reptilian responses to threat which may once have helped us survive but can be very damaging in the classroom.
Reptile - iguana.
Typical reptilian responses to threat may once have helped us survive but can be very damaging in the classroom. Recognising behaviours as reptilian responses can help practitioners in the classroom. If you see behaviours as a biological response to threat you are more likely to select management strategies designed to keep pupils’ reptilian complexes in a less activated state. This will reduce the incidents of these types of behaviour.
The ‘Typical reptilian behaviours’ which are shown below (and are also available in your Week 4 workbook for ease of reference) shows one way in which some reptilian behaviours can be categorised and invites you to identify some behaviours from your own context.
Category of reptilian responseContext
TerritorialityThese types of behaviour make sense in an evolutionary context. Animals that have larger territories are more likely to find food and mates. Some pupils will treat your classroom as their territory.
DominanceIf an animal dominates others within its territory then they are more likely to have opportunities to mate. It makes biological sense for pupils to assert control over others.
VengeanceIn the ongoing struggle for dominance it could make biological sense for others to see that you are not to be trifled with.
Fight or FlightA typical response to threat. The fight may be physical, verbal or a struggle for control. The flight can be actual or a withdrawal from an activity or situation.
Anxiety/fearThese feelings are associated with the physiological response mediated by stress hormones. They can be uncomfortable to experience and impair the ability to learn.
AngerCan be seen both as a way to display to warn others of our emotional state and a preparation for violence or flight.
AggressionViewed in the context of evolution aggression could be seen as a reasonable and logical response to threat.
Fast, spontaneousEscalation of behaviours can be very rapid – this is logical if your brain ‘feels’ you are in imminent danger.
Don’t careThe limbic system is supressed by activity in the reptilian complex. Our emotional response is impaired.
Fail to see big pictureSuppression of the neocortex makes it less likely that a pupil recognises how their choices are impacting on them.
IllogicalAs above – people can speak and act in ways that can seem to be disadvantageous and make little apparent sense.
Now, complete the table shown in Activity 4.3 of your workbook, think of learners in your context and the types of behaviour they present. Attempt to place the behaviours into the suggested categories (e.g. entering the room in a loud, disruptive way could fall into the category of territoriality or dominance).
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Challenging Behaviour: Strategies for Helping Young People

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