Blog Archives

Anti-bullying: Not just for a week!

During this week, schools up and down the country would have had a large focus on anti-bullying as, unless you live under a stone, everyone knows it has been anti-bullying week this week. Children will have had lessons, assemblies, competitions etc to help to raise the profile of bullying and the kids dutifully come up with all of the answers but it got me thinking. How can a school keep this up all year long? If this could be addressed (and in lots of schools I am sure it is), then surely schools would become more proactive about tackling bullying rather than being reactive.

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NQT Support 2

Last year I delivered some behaviour training and I did the same this year. This post summarises some of their questions.

On Thursday 22nd September, I delivered some training to a group of NQTs as part of our Academy Trust training programme. The session was great, very informal in terms of delivery style but well structured. At the beginning of the session, some of them put up post-its with particular questions that they would like answering. Rather than paying them 10 minutes lip service at the end, I said that I would respond to them as a whole by email so that they could be used as a starting point for further discussion if necessary.

This blog post is simply the questions that were on the post-its and the answers that I gave in the email. It seemed a shame to waste them!

A child who interrupts to correct/tell you how to do things

Some children just have to tell you everything that you do wrong. This can be frustrating but as soon as you let the frustration show, it will manifest itself. Being frustrated will not change the child’s behaviour. Speak to them about whether things are useful to know or vitally important. When they correct you, start threading in and asking whether what they just said was vitally important at that point or not. You may have to categorise with them. Keep doing this consistently and when they’ve got it, as soon as they start to interrupt you or shoot their hand up when you know that it is something that isn’t imperative, ask them whether it is vitally important or whether they can tell you at the end of the lesson because you’ll have time to listen to them. It will work in one of two ways – they will either get fed up of coming back and telling you at lunch that actually called John by the name of James (or something else pointless) or it will give them a more appropriate time to tell you. Some may just need to say it. If it is at an appropriate time, just thank them. This is then dealt with courteously and you can get on with your lesson.

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Exclusions – The facts!

Exclusions are the most serious consequence that a school can issue to a child in this country. This blog post aims to highlight some of the key points when considering exclusions as well as looking at the balance of when and when not to exclude as well as the implications for excluding children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As well as this, I will offer my own thoughts and experience on exclusions. If you want to read further on exclusions, I would suggest reading DfE: Exclusion from maintained schools, Academies and pupil referral units in England.

The power to exclude

Schools can choose to exclude children on the grounds of disciplinary only. They cannot exclude for any reason and infact, they must protect children and make sure that all children are treated fairly and not excluded on the grounds of things such as disability or race. Only the Head of a school or academy can exclude a child (that includes Executive Heads) and no-one else. Many people can contribute towards the child and the evidence but it is only the Head who can authorise this and therefore they must be the one who signs the letter. The decision to exclude must be legal, reasonable and fair.

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Teaching Behaviour

As educators working in schools, our primary job is to impart knowledge to others. Maths, literacy, scientific skills et cetera. There are many other elements to the job but the only thing that we should be doing when directly working with children is to educate them, to teach them something. This may be something academic but it can also be a whole plethora of other things, such as how to ask politely for something, how to share, how to resolve their issues, communicate… In fact, every time we interact with children, we should always teach them something.

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Lead by example

“One of the most important things we adults can do for young children is to model the kind of person we would like them to be.”

Carol B Hillman

The new academic year is nearly upon us and I work in a large primary school with about 550 children in it. Seeing as though we have 20+ classes, we always have a few teachers move on and start somewhere else for September. We have three new teachers this year, all NQT’s and as part of my additional responsibility for my new role, I am their mentor. This got me thinking… There are all of the formal ways to support them as laid out by the appropriate body for the Local Authority that I work within but I think they will learn far more from the informal discussions, support and most importantly, observations of other staff around the school. This post isn’t about NQT’s per se, but about how adults act in and around the school and the monumental impact that this can have, positive and negative on the children.

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Feelings and Behaviour

After working with children with challenging behaviour for a number of years, and more recently taking up a role in a mainstream academy as well as supporting other local schools with behaviour, I know more than ever how difficult it can be to persuade/encourage other members of staff to change how they manage behaviour. Where effective behaviour modification in children takes place, it is usually down to how the adult changes their behaviour. The driving force behind this… is the adult being aware of the feelings of both parties.

Our feelings

When we feel in a calm and serene mood, we may behave in a particular way. The behaviour may be in the actions we undertake, but it is also in our body language, tone of voice, the things we say and the look on our faces. On a Saturday morning, after a full week at work, I am usually in an extremely calm frame of mind. I have put the week behind me (until at least the Sunday night work!) and I get to spend the morning having a cup of tea with my wife, spending time with my kids, reading or whatever else suits my agenda. I am relaxed in my posture, my mannerisms, with the things that I say and I am even handle frustrations more easily. None of the kids electronic devices are not connecting to the wifi… no problem. I’ll sort it.

Fast forward this to a time when I am not feeling so calm, maybe to a state of anxiety or frustration and as you can guess, it is not the same idyllic picture. I am more edgy; my movements are quicker and sharper; I am more easily wound up and simply short with everyone. My kids come to me saying the wifi has gone off while I’m in the middle of writing reports that are due the next day and it is already 8.30pm? Big problem… it seems as though the end of the world is nigh!
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Non-verbal communication – The silent power!

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”

Charlie Kaufman

There are many forms of communication and they all have merit. Some forms of communication are more effective depending on the circumstance. The most effective type depends on the relationship between the two parties, what is going on at that point, how receptive they are to certain modes of communication, the purpose of the communication and their current emotional state. For example, being spoken to in a diplomatic manner by a bank manager when opening an account is perfectly acceptable and delivers their message effectively but the same cannot be said to a police officer chasing a criminal on foot. As they are puffing and wheezing, they might scream stop. Their message is short and their voice level is on the opposite end of the spectrum to the bank manager… it wouldn’t quite work if officer asked the criminal in a quiet and patient voice.

This is similar in mainstreams with children. Read the rest of this entry

Training staff

“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Abraham Maslow

I have spent a large proportion of September training staff at our school. We have had quite a lot of new staff start and many of the current staff have moved year groups. Although this has helped revitalise many of the staff, it has highlighted a wide range of issues around consistency hence, a jam packed training schedule. I delivered my first actual INSET yesterday based around the key changes to our behaviour policy. It was an odd situation. There were lots of periods of silence part from opportunities that I gave for them to speak. The training based around reminding staff about the conflict spiral and scripted language (both two things that I have blogged about), our 3 new school rules and then sanctions and praise. Although my training style was slightly informal due to a didactic style not being appropriate, I felt that maybe the staff had not bought into it. As I got in today though, I was pleasantly surprised as I was given good feedback from staff from all levels of hierarchy in the school. I think this is a good sign…

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Praise: The good, the bad and the ugly

“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open and the rules are flexible”

Virginia Satir

Sanctions and praise have always gone hand in hand. The old adage of ‘carrot and stick’ rings true for many. It would be easy to think that in terms of managing children in a school, they would want to avoid the sanctions and punishment and work tirelessly for the praise. For the masses this may be gospel truth but there are some children who end up getting sanctioned when they do something wrong and then what feels like a sanction again when they are praised for doing something right.

There are many types of personalities in a modern day classroom and although many school systems seem to try to suppress them and uniform them, with a classroom ethos based on secure relationships they are still there. There are the boisterous ones, the quiet ones, the studious ones, the shy ones and the ones who like to be involved in malarkey but stop before being caught. In an attempt to actually label the children in some ratifying system for this post, on one end of the scale there are the introverts and on the opposing end the extroverts and everyone else between them. If a class teacher thinks about their own class, they will be able to easily pick the ones for either end of the spectrum and these are the most suitable ones to use for the discussion.

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The power of honesty

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

Virginia Woolf

On April 29th 2014, I sat down in front of 24 Year 4 children who stared at me with ambiguity. I was their third teacher during this academic year. The tone was set and I’m not sure they trusted me. I thought about doing a usual ‘getting to know you’ style activity but instead, I opted to sit down and chat with them. My opening line was “My name is Mr Nixon and I’m 28 years old and have a wife and 2 kids.” Their ambiguous expressions softened… I continued. I spoke for about 5 minutes and when I finished, one of the boys at the back of the class thanked me for telling them about my life. Once he had said this publicly, there was a chorus of “Yeah thanks sir.” At this point, I knew that the rest of the first period of the day would be spent on activities to promote honesty and trust.

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