The Best Laid Plans…

Today was going to be RAP, INSET planning and all that Jazz. I had planned to download the draft NC but that could wait and any urgent emails could be dealt with on my phone as the internet was down. I sat at my desk and started working. After about 5 minutes my laptop switched itself off with a loud ‘crack’. I stared at the screen for a few moments, not quite believing what had just happened. I tried the power switch, battery and everything else I could think of. Nothing worked. It had turned itself off, permanently. It struck me just how reliant we are on technology. Nothing I could do about it so I thought I would go and have a wander round the school, just to see…

As I came out of my office a TA came to inform me that a certain child had stormed out of the classroom again and had gone out onto the field. You met him in my blog yesterday. I looked outside and saw that he was outside one of the classrooms and that he was playing with the sand and water there. The TA and I watched him for a while as it was clear to us that he was using the play as a calming strategy. We thought that he was enjoying not having to share the toys, playing on his own, peacefully, without having to compete with his four siblings. When we thought he had calmed down enough I suggested to the TA that she go out and ask if she could have a ‘cup of tea’ too. She did this, and that cheeky grin broke out on the child’s face. They played together for a little while and then the TA took him back to class to re-engage in his learning.

Some might say that we had rewarded the child for his poor behaviour. I would say that we allowed him to self regulate, to calm down, to do what he needed to do at the time which was soothe himself with his playing at ‘tea’ with the sand and water. We had given him the time to trust that we would support and look after him. It is easy for us to forget just how little these children are. He had had a strop because he didn’t want to share. I can understand that in his shoes. Of course he has to learn to share, but he shares everything, all the time and just needed a moment where it was just him and he didn’t have to share anything with anyone.

My Y6 teacher has set up a role play area in her classroom which the children love. They still play imaginary games. We need to allow and encourage them to do this. In Y6 this is harnessed and related to their literacy, which in turn feeds into their writing, with excellent results. So many of our children do not understand how to play, we provide them with as many opportunities as we can.

I went to see how one of the children on an internal reintegration programme was getting on. He has been in our support class since September and is now back in class more or less full time. He had been a child who was a danger to himself and others, would rampage around the school, shout, hit, kick, swear etc. Out of school he spends most of his time roaming the streets causing trouble. In school, there is a large part of him that wants to conform but in the past he has just found this so difficult. He has a real paucity of language and just doesn’t have the vocabulary to express himself fully. This frustrates him. His talents are in his hands – he is able to build things. He wants to be a mechanic and work on stock cars. He is already driving them around the circuits!

When we got back to school after the summer holidays we were faced with a group of children who were completely off the wall. Each for their own reasons. Rather than exclude I set up a ‘support’ class and I taught them myself for the autumn term. These children were so needy they were in danger of preventing the other children from learning. They were also displaying high levels of physical aggression. I do exclude at times because I feel that there is no other option (a punch in the face etc.) but I don’t really believe in exclusion, especially when I am aware of what the children are going back to. The support class is there as a safety net. To catch them before they fall out of the system altogether. This child had been in the turnaround class since September…

I stood in the doorway of the classroom for a while – I love it when the buzz of learning is such that neither adults nor children notice that there is someone watching them. I couldn’t see the child that I was looking for at first glance so I scanned the room again. I hadn’t noticed him because he was doing exactly what he should have been. Not only that but it was a cooperative task and he was working intensively with another child. After a while he noticed me watching him so I grinned at him. He grinned back and then turned to his partner and got on with his learning. That felt good. A real success. Here was a child, who in the autumn term had been on the verge of permanent exclusion, back in his proper class, engaged in the learning and functioning at an appropriate level.

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4 Responses to The Best Laid Plans…

  1. Anna says:

    I was introduced to your blog today by an online friend who I worked with briefly while on a placement formy PGCE, I felt compelled to share how inspiring I find your attitude and approach. Although I have not worked as a teacher (finished and had two babies quite quickly) education is something I feel passionately about. I recently discovered NVC (nonviolent communication) and have attended several trainings based around NVC in my own time, I wondered if this is something which has inspired your own approach as it seems to resonate so strongly with how you do things? Anyway, just wanted to give you some feedback to say how much I am enjoying reading your blog. Kindest Regards.

    • bergistra says:

      Thank you. I haven’t heard of
      NVC before. It sounds interesting. Is it similar to restorative justice approaches?

      • Anna says:

        Hi 🙂 I am surprised you haven’t heard of it as your approach seems very similar in a lot of ways, I am thinking particulary about your school’s focus on connection between the children to resolve disputes, the separate class to avoid exclusion and some other things you have mentioned. NVC is something I have found incredibly transformational in my own life, and is an approach used worldwide in conflict situations, schools, businesses, and many other settings, it was developed by a guy called Marshall Rosenberg, and yes, is very closely linked to restorative practice. It is based around connection, and the concept of univeral human needs, and achieving connection through a model of identifying observations, feelings, needs and requests. I am by no means qualified to explain it as I am quite a novice when it comes to NVC but it fits really well with much of what you describe. I know that if you type it into a search engine, (NVC, nonviolent communication, compassionate communication) you would get a lot of resuls and I would imagine if you also put education or schools you would find a lot of interesting stuff. I have a ten year old son due to start secondary school next year, and he is in the process of being diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and I am finding applying it to the way I talk to/with him is making a massive different to how we communicate/connect with each other, because it explains things clearly and removes judging and blaming. I hope it is something you might find interesting if you have a chance to investigate it a little. Thankyou for taking the time to reply to me, I imagine your weekends must be very precious! Kindest Regards, I will continue to enjoy reading the blog now I have discovered it 🙂 . Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

      • bergistra says:

        Hi there. Our whole ethos is based on the UNCRC so has similar roots to NVC I guess. Will look it up. My nephew has aspergers so have some understanding of their needs and much admiration for their parents! Thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂

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