I had a conversation with another parent today about her fifteen year old son. According to her boy, one of his teachers had told him off in front of the whole class, nothing unsual I thought, get over it. But what the teacher said had upset her son a great deal. The teacher had told her son the following: that he was arrogant, that he looked arrogant and was arrogrant and had an arrogant attiude. My ears pricked up at this point, especially at the word ‘looked.’ I listened and mumbled something to her about, seperating a child’s behaviour from who they are, and not making things personal; the teacher should have tackled it another way.
Later when I got home, I thought to myself about it again and realised that I hear these kinds of stories a lot from other parents of secondary school children; I’ve had a little bit of that with my son here and there too. I wondered to myself why secondary schools sometimes appear not to hold dear the same things we take for granted at primary school, namely seeking to protect a child’s self esteem during episodes of poor behaviour and using restorative justice as a means to resolve troubles. The bottom line is this: (and I’m more sure of it every year I teach) you will achieve nothing by demoralising children or using a critique of their persona as a punishment. What you will certainly achieve instead is a complete switch off, and perhaps even war. You get far more out of children if you agree punishments during harmonious times and then follow through, sticking to those when they behave poorly. Never ever make it personal. For example,it might go something like this:
“Remember as a class we agreed that if anyone disrupted the class they would get a warning, and if they did it again, they would have to stay in and write an apology letter. You interupted me three times and I gave you a warning too, so sit back down and get your pencil out.’ This business like approach works and no one is pulled to pieces either. I’ve never had it fail me…and nobody gets away with anything in my class either.
So just think back, when did you ever want to do anything for anyone or listen to a word they said after they’d given your character the once over? As soon as it becomes personal, you’ve lost as a teacher. So I wonder if this more enlightened approach to behaviour management is taught as a matter of course to new secondary teachers? Why do we seem to get the more old fashioned, military dressing downs in secondary schools? Is it because secondary school teachers have a harder job and so deal with behaviour differently?
I don’t understand? My intuition tells me you need to be even more thoughtful when dealing with the behaviour of children (young adults really) who are hormonal and where their feelings about themselves are probably the most complex they’ll ever face. So, that’s a piece of research: how do approaches to behaviour differ between primary and secondary schools and what are the effects of those differences. Someone please explain.