I have been trying to think of alternative ways to approach the behaviour of the minority in school. I have also been trying to write my first 2 essays for my SENCO course – the two things are vaguely linked. For the first essay I looked at the differences in perception and reality of behaviour in school – inspired by Steer’s 2009 report (Learning Behaviour – Lessons Learned) and I have come across lots of interesting papers and journal articles.
This lunchtime I have been reading Better Learning – Better Behaviour by George Head (Head G.(2007) Better Learning – Better Behaviour In: Better Learning – Better Behaviour Policy and Practice in Education Edinburgh:Dunedin Academic Press) It has some really interesting points that once I read I felt I had almost thought at the back of my mind even if I hadn’t actually said them.
1. Behaviour and learning are inextricably linked but dealing with behaviour as a pre-requisite for learning is not necessarily the right starting point.
2. Children who have behaviour difficulties tend to be dealt with using the school discipline system rather than a pastoral care system.
3. Dealing with behavioural difficulties as a discipline matter leads to initial improvements which tail off as the student finds that the reward loses its novelty or they start to see the sanction as ineffective.
4. Teachers often like the “discipline system” method of dealing with behaviour as there is normally an initial improvement and they feel in control – they are applying order to the student and they can target the undesirable behaviours.
He also talks about how it is often felt that relationships are key and that if we can form a good relationship between school, parents and pupil then the behaviour will become appropriate and that the learning will follow. I think we have thought that – and tried it – and, guess what? After a short while the behaviour deteriorates.
Further into the paper Head goes on to talk about mediation (not meditation as I first read it!) He shows how if you just ask a child to shut the door that they can agree or refuse depending upon how they felt but changing the request to,” Please can you shut the door as there is a draught and we’ll catch cold,” starts to give a reason. The child could still refuse but they start to have a dialogue (probably internal) that makes them have to justify why they won’t do it and why their reason is better than the teacher’s. The teacher is then given an option to discuss the action based on reason rather than on the child’s behaviour. The paper continues and suggests that a mediating teaching style that concentrates on the learning will help to sort the behaviour and minimise exclusions. I think what he has written makes a lot of sense but that it won’t be the quick fix I’d like.
I appreciate that there won’t be a quick fix and looking at teaching styles and use of language may be a good way forward but in the meantime we may need to put some alternative curriculum opportunities into place!