The first blog post about actually teaching & it is about behaviour management. Of course it is.
Without conditions for learning being right the children won’t learn and behaviour for learning is a massive part of that. When the class are calm and behave well there is a feeling of safety. I don’t mean when they are quiet by the way. I was very pleased when one of our Assistant Heads popped in this week. The children were really into their learning and so was I. I mentioned it was a bit noisy & he said. Good, they are learning. No one was shouting or being inappropriate it was just thirty 5 and 6 year olds being very excited about learning.
The class has been through a big change with their lovely teacher going on maternity leave. It has taken them a couple of weeks to settle and become ‘my ducklings.’ I have always thought of teaching infants as managing your row of ducklings, particularly when we trek across the playground to the lunch hall.
I have gone back to some lovely behaviour management strategies that I learned a long while ago from a very intelligent man named Dr Bill Rogers. If you haven’t seen his work please find out more. I was very fortunate to see Bill present at a conference back in 2002. It was our local learning cluster and all local schools were there. We had a couple of lengthy doses of Bill’s wisdom and I have always kept it at my heart. It’s all about removing the negative. Obviously it is a part of your range of behaviour management strategies as if someone has punched someone else there isn’t really any opportunity to remove the negative. But it is a valuable tool to set the culture of behaviour. For example in a situation where everyone needs to listen for 30 seconds ‘Bob, you’re talking’ instead of ‘stop talking Bob.’ Often I don’t even say the child’s name, I just make eye contact & say ‘you’re talking.’ They so often just stop.
It’s working. They are happy and settled with me this week.
This strategy is also brilliant with those children that slightly step outside of our usual policy of reward and sanction. The ones for whom that just doesn’t work. I’ll come back to that as before that bit I need to share this bit.
Back to the ducklings. They need to be behind mummy (or daddy) duck. Small children feel safe with kind, firm consistency. The first week I had a duckling who ran ahead of me. By Thursday of week 2 that duckling was level with me. By Tuesday this week (week 3) behind me. Today on the way to assembly not only behind me but behind another duckling. So as a reward was allowed to sit by me & hold the merit cards. Now back to the aforementioned bit about those beyond the reward/sanction system! The following conversation took place:
Child: I want to read out the names from the merit cards when it’s time.
Me: the adults have to do that
Child: but I want to, I’ve been good
Me: yes, you have that’s why you’re holding the merit cards. The adults read them out. That’s what happens.
Child: but I want to
Me: I know you do. The adults read them.
End of conversation-no more from child.
I read them. What I learned from Bill’s training is to remove all elements of confrontation that actually often just occur in human language and we don’t realise we’re doing. I didn’t say no, I didn’t say you can’t, I didn’t say ‘but the adults have to read them.’ It was just emotionless fact. Sadly I slightly fell asleep with my eyes open when we got to the blue merit cards and child started to read one but I came to & called out the name quick! We’re all only human. Important to remember that too.
Unconditional positive regard is the underpinning feature of calm, positive behaviour management in the infants. The narrative in the behaviour culture has to say ‘I like you so much, you are just great. We might have to work on some of these things you do but you can do it and I want to help.’ If we sort it in the infants, or even just build some strategies it will help a lot later on. Our class TA said a lovely thing when we were chatting after school. She said ‘I’ve always thought if we stop believing in them they might stop believing in themselves.’
School culture is an essential part of all this and ours is spot on. The support I have received is so amazing it has actually changed my life quite a bit already. I’m loving teaching and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Inclusion means inclusion and it is such a joy to be part of.
I also mentioned Joyce Grenfell there in the post title as I have to say my discourse reminds me of her at times. I don’t have the slight tone she does of course as hers is for comic value but much of my content is no different. ‘Oh, take your finger out of there dear. ‘No, please stop, he doesn’t want you to do that to his head.’ Etc.
I did it just today ‘take it out of your mouth poppet. No, don’t stick it on your shoe give it to me. Oh, this doesn’t look like something you should have anywhere near your mouth. Go and have a drink love. That’s it you’re fine now. Now sit down and listen to the story.’