Some of my older boys can be a tricky bunch to manage, they are a very needy group. Among them they have suffered sibling bereavement, parental mental health issues ranging from Bi Polar disorder to long term depression, parents who have shared their miscarriages with them, parental separation, alcoholism – the list goes on. Their teacher is brilliant and manages them beautifully. She is such a natural that she is not always aware just how skillful she is. This is brought sharply into light when she is not teaching them. They give her replacement a VERY hard time and can be completely outrageous, which they have done on a number of occasions recently.
Instead of telling them off I asked them to come and meet me in my office as I wanted to talk to them about their behaviour. What I wanted to do was to get their perspective as to why they think they are so rude to and difficult for adults other than their class teacher. It was one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had with a group of children. They were very articulate and able to tell me precisely what they felt and why they behaved in particular ways.
They said that unlike their teacher, other adults who teach them are too ‘harsh’ – whereas their teacher would understand that they need a gentle, sometimes humorous, ‘warning’ before a more serious consequence, which they would respond positively to, other adults gave them an immediate consequence which made them feel like they may as well carry on misbehaving. They said that their teacher ‘understands’ them and that her gentle cajoling or teasing if they are making poor choices helps them to then make the right ones. They made it clear that they felt other adults were sometimes unfair or too quick to jump on them. They said they found it hard to adjust to other adults’ ways of doing things and were ‘used to’ how their teacher does things. They also know that she really likes them.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. Other staff are aware of how tricky this group of children are and so are anxious about taking them and therefore more rigid in their approach to behaviour management. This in turn makes the children feel hard done by and elicits a defensive response. This then makes the member of staff respond in a more ‘strict’ way. And so the cycle continues. I have spoken to the children about giving other people a chance to show them how good a teacher they are and I’ve spoken to the staff to try to help them be less anxious about the class in the first place.