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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
Read the rest of this entry
“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”
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
“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
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…
“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”
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.
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
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.
“No school can work well for children if parents and teachers do not act in partnership on behalf of the children’s b est interests. Parents have every right to understand what is happening to their children at school, and teachers have the responsibility to share that information without prejudicial judgement…. Such communication, which can only be in a child’s interest, is not possible without mutual trust between parent and teacher.”
Dorothy H. Cohen
A few weeks ago I read a blog post written by @jordyjax titled ‘Should we label children?’ which was excellent and since then, I have been thinking and reflecting. As people we judge all of the time, even sub-consciously. Everyone makes judgements but the professional side of someone working in education is to keep these judgements to yourself and be impartial. As @jordyjax blog post eloquently alludes to, labelling children, particularly with special needs, is vital to help them progress. So what about when we, as people and professionals, silently judge or label parents?
My precious role working in a PRU had me regularly performing outreach work. When I went into schools and classes that were in crisis with particular children, the staff in those schools were so exasperated that they wouldn’t even keep their judgements of the parents to themselves… they would kind of just blame the parents. They are just like their dad, the parents are useless because they swear in front of them, they are allowed to stay up until 2am, the parents are always late to pick them up, they can’t be bothered/don’t care about their child… and it goes on. If these conversations happen in the staffroom or anywhere else, they have the ability to become toxic and poison the perceptions that other members of staff may have of that child. So when that child finally ends up in the Y6 class, the teacher already knows all about the child but also knows second-hand, all about the parents useless parenting technique and they haven’t even said hello yet!
Engaging parents is awesome and for the amount of effort and time you actually put into it in a contrived manner… the pay off can be seismic. It really does have the power to turn around a child who needs supporting with their behaviour or it also has the power to help bring out a more confident side of a child and after the initial effort, the contrived manner is dropped and it just becomes natural. So why bother? What is the key?
How can I get parents on side?
This is an easy one… talk to them. I recently started a new post in a mainstream in April and I was the third teacher for that class. I knew the parents would be apprehensive about another new teacher so I made an effort to be seen on the playground every night, talking to someone. It was only small conversations but I was consistent, insistent and persistent. I have now spoken to the majority of the parents. It started off by going over, introducing myself and just repeating something that the child had told me that day – “Oh I hear that John is in a rugby match at the weekend?” That is the ice breaker. What it does is it shows the parents that you have listened to their children about things other than school and it also shows that you are willing to open dialogue about it. If you make the effort to talk to them, they will make the effort to talk to you. How many times have you said “well if you/child had told me this was happening, I could have helped.” Now with may parents at the school I work, I will speak formally when I need to and the rest of the time I will speak on a more casual basis with comments etc as I am passing by. Read the rest of this entry