This year, I’ve had a few really tough classes that have challenged me to use all of my behaviour management strategies and trial a few more. The main problem seems to be a lack of respect – in the way they speak to and react to adults, and even more in the way they speak and react to each other. There’s very little patience or indeed kindness.
Whatever the reason behind this, it’s something that I really feel is my job to tackle. However high flying these children are academically, if they’re selfish and cruel then they’re going to struggle to find happiness in later life.
Really, I think the foundation blocks of this need to be – and usually are – laid in early education and then reiterated in secondary education. Although there are ways around it, teenagers are harder to get through to and you just can’t be anywhere near as ‘cheesy’ if you’re trying to encourage year 9 to be kind, as you can with year 5.
In secondary teaching, short, sharp chunks thrown into other subjects or tutor time seem to serve well as reminders. Following a fantastic assembly about ‘Random Act of Kindness,’ I was inspired to buy Danny Wallace’s book of the same name, and use this to regularly inspire or at least remind my form of practical ways that they can be kind towards others.
It’s a great book to dip in and out of once a week, and make a suggestion like, ‘swap places behind you in a queue,’ ‘share your lunch with someone’ or ‘give someone a genuine complement.’ Even if the ideas aren’t acted upon, at least there’s a dialogue in the classroom which is focused on helping others. Let’s face it: teenagers can be a pretty miserable and self-absorbed lot so it won’t do them any harm to consider other people for a couple of minutes and take the focus away from themselves.
One of the other rather brilliant young teachers has told me she does the same with her tutor group, only she has taken it a step further. She asks children to fill in slips with their name and the act of kindness that they completed, and then picks a name out like a raffle every week and awards a little prize. I’ll try this myself this coming school year – I might even make this into a bit of a ‘Pay it Forward’ style project and extend it. Updates to follow!