It was about eight years ago.
A parent came to see me about his son’s behaviour and said, “I give you permission to smack him when he’s naughty.”
Of course I had to explain to the parent that even if that permission could be granted, I would not be able to use any physical punishment on the parent’s child. It’s not the only time it’s happened either.
I’ve had many experiences of ‘difficult children’ over the years. I’ve only taught in ‘difficult’ areas of Birmingham – areas of high deprivation, low expectations and often multi-ethnic. In one school of only 180 children, 22 different home languages were spoken. In another, some of the families last legal employment could be traced back 6 or 7 generations to some great, great, great grandfather who had helped build the canals. Why am I saying this? Credibility? I suppose so. While I’m a relative newbie to blogging, Twitter and behaviour management, I’ve spent my whole career dealing with challenging behaviour.
So what’s my top tip for dealing with challenging children? Treat them all as children. All different, all unique, all special and all with some growing up still to enjoy.
When I was a full-time teacher I encouraged my class to have a sense of class-ness. I used aspiration walls to engage children with their future and circle time to encourage a sense of openness and teamwork. I used the BASIS approach to analyse children’s self esteem and plan interventions for children or groups of children with particularly low areas. I use day planners and a weekly diary so that children can approach each lesson without any sense of surprise and then reflect on the highs and lows of a week of learning. All these strategies create a sense of unity that is difficult to fight against, but still there are challenges and when they came I would use other adults – teachers, senior leaders and parents to support. The most difficult situation is when a parent isn’t supportive. I’ve had parents threaten and swear at me and when this happens I’ve needed colleagues to support me, time to sort the situation out and a good cry.
I’m BeCo (Behaviour Co-ordinator) now. I spend a good amount of my time dealing with challenging behaviour from around the school. As a leader, it’s often tempting to question what strategies were being used in the lesson? Was the learning appropriate? Were the children bored? But it’s unfair to point the finger at any teachers. The strategies are good, the lessons are good and the majority of the children are thoroughly engaged. Actually I’m more and more pointing the finger at myself – my intervention wasn’t early enough, my support level wasn’t high enough, my engagement with both the pupils and parents wasn’t deep enough. I’m new to the role and learning as I go, but I’m sure I’ve dropped more balls than I’ve caught so far (sorry colleagues!)
The thing is, it takes a whole village to raise a child, or in our context – in the UK – a whole school community. We all need each other to raise these children right. That’s why parents needs teachers, teachers need their leaders and the leaders need the parents. If you’re wondering how you can sort out the naughty children by yourself (remembering that smacking isn’t allowed), then maybe you’re thinking the wrong thing.