Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Behaviour Management: Conversation Over Confrontation

Late last term, Adam reminded us of the importance of attempting restorative conversations. These are a behaviour management strategy, which focuses on the repair and rebuild of relationships, as opposed to a punitive approach. The aim of developing confidence to create restorative chats with students, is for the students to gain closer connections with others and become more empathetic and aware of others thoughts, values, feelings, decisions. 

Learning how to hold a restorative conversation, and practicing how to complete them, are important for the future of the student's relationship with you and others, but also their long term behaviour. I leant a lot about these conversations at Tamaki (see here and here), but as I was so new to teaching, I found these conversations very difficult. Throughout this year I have been attempting to have more, because I think they are significantly more beneficial for the student's learning than punitive measures like writing lines and detentions (which I unfortunately still give, as they are part of the school system!), because the students are likely to learn more from a personal, honest chat as opposed to copying words onto a page or a confrontational grilling!

I decided to write this post late last term, when Adam asked the department if we are open to learning. If we are open to discuss the things we are challenged by or things that are not working. It is of course much easier to write a post about things that are going amazing, but we are obviously more likely to learn from reflecting on and thinking about the not-so amazing stuff. For me, two  things I am struggling with are having these conversations with students, but also having challenging chats with my colleagues (I plan to read a lot more about the latter and write a post in a few weeks).

The most recent attempt I had at a restorative chat was with a Year 9 student late last term. This student had repeatedly been disruptive throughout the lesson, disrespected others and was not getting involved the activities. After several reminders of how to talk to others, he threw a racquet forcefully at the ground for his own entertainment. By that point I'd had enough, and asked him to sit out. He went and sat on a chair a few metres away from the class game and a couple of minutes later I sat on the floor in front of him. I attempted to maintain the WARM layout for the conversation (as previously linked and alongside), and keep a calm voice. He was able to explain to me what'd happened throughout the lesson and who may have been affected by some of his decisions. He agreed that these needed to change. What actually emerged from the conversation was that his mum was really sick, and it was unexpected. He was angry about this. Why did his Mum need to get sick? Why couldn't he help her? So every time he was bugged by someone or something, that was pushing him closer and closer to the edge. We both felt a lot better after our discussion because he knew that I was more understanding of how his actions came about, and he was more understanding of how some of his behaviours were unacceptable. Moving forward, I hope to see more positive choices from him, to see whether this conversation did have an impact on him!

I watched the above Ted Talk which explores restoratives practices to resolve conflict and build relationships. Some of the key points I took away from the talk were;
- Students may not understand what they have done is incorrect or wrong, so it is important we educate them about why it is not ok. If they don't understand why it isn't, the behaviour may reoccur.
- Katy used a 'time in' instead of a 'time out' - when students were deemed as 'misbehaving', instead of sending them out of the class, she had designated a 'time in' zone, where she asks the students to go, to then have a chat with them.
- Before having the conversations, consider how whatever had happened leading to the chat, and the chat included, could have actually contributed positively to the future.
- Be honest and empathetic
- Understand why the restorative conversations are important in the bigger picture.
- Use I statements rather then saying You, to avoid blaming or accusing.
- Consider and attempt a discussion about why the student made the decision(s) they did - what is going on in their lives, did anything possibly trigger it etc.
- But also avoiding the use of the word why when possible
- Talk with the student, not at them!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Highlights & Challenges: A Visual

Throughout the year I have volunteered again for Auckland PENZ, helping with the Graduate Mentoring Programme supporting beginning teachers and undergraduate students (see last years post here). At one of our sessions, Sarah Loomb from Alfriston College showed us this reflection tool - draw 9 things that have stood out for you so far this year including highlights and challenges. I thought this was a great idea for an end of term 3 reflection, and a great visual. I ran a session with the first and second year teachers at Orewa, with the focus around the practising teacher criteria and registration, then used this to discuss what criteria it may give evidence and reflection for. So what do they mean to me?

Snow Camp
I was lucky enough to attend one of the Level 3 Outdoor Ed trips to Mt Ruapehu in August. I learnt more about risk management, including preventative measures and responses when things do happen. On our first day up the mountain, there was an avalanche that made the news and we went into lock down with kids as a precaution. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and one that I will never forget. The biggest thing I took away from this trip was the importance of everyone being prepared for the outdoors and to stay calm!

Associate Teacher
As previously blogged about, I was an associate teacher earlier in the year. This was both a (positive) challenge and a highlight, because I learnt a lot about myself but found it hard to leave him to do his thing! Trying to teach someone how to teach, but also ensuring the students were still learning/achieving what I wanted them to achieve was difficult, but great for my own development.

Integrated Unit
I am getting very very excited for the 2020 integrated curriculum. I think it’s going to be incredible for the kids, but I’m also starting to feel a little anxious about how everything is going to pan out! Creating a unit with 5 other people has been hard. Very hard. We all want what is best for the kids, and our subjects, but sometimes these wants don’t align. The group I’m part of though, have all been quite flexible and accepting of these differences and tried to make it work. We are quite lucky we are somewhat compatible with one another! 

The one thing I don’t like about this process though, is that we aren’t guaranteed to teach the unit we’ve developed next year. There will be 75 students with three subject specialist teachers - but these teachers could be anyone from the department! So it may not be the other person or I in our integrated group, which will be disappointing after investing so much time and effort into creating the unit.

Teaching with Adam 
This year Adam and I share a Level 3 PE class. We don’t co-teach like I did in first year, we have half of the periods on the timetable each. I was really nervous to see how this would work for a variety of reasons; Adam and I teach quite differently, he is much more experienced than me, Level 3 students may be hard to motivate and the time we would need to plan together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard, but not for most of these reasons (the kids have certainly been hard to motivate!). I believe we’ve worked well together, trying to find a balance between what we both want in the lessons as well as what we want the students to learn/achieve. Our communication between each other has thankfully been our strength. 

What I’ve actually struggled with is the content; what I need to teach to ensure all the kids have the possibility to achieve an Excellence. Adam is knowledgeable and experienced, so he knows the course in and out, but I don’t. Throughout the year I’ve tried to ask lots of questions, and read lots of information, but I never felt like I fully grasped the big picture of what the kids were learning, what the purpose was. As a result I feel guilty that I didn’t give all students the chance to achieve an E, purely because I didn’t fully know how to support them to get there. If I was to teach this course again, with the baseline understanding I have now I feel I could minimise the risk of this happening again.

11PE Class
I have drawn angel emojis because that is how I refer to my Year 11s - my absolute angels. I have been really lucky to have a class that enjoys learning, are actively involved and supportive of one another. I look forward to teaching this class because they are a dream. Many still struggle with learning difficulties and we still have P.E. is not P.A. chats from time to time - but the culture of the class is incredible! To paint a picture - during the last period of term the kids were all working peacefully on their assessment and there was only one passing comment about wanting to have a practical. This felt like a massive win!!

Working with new people 
I’ve touched on this briefly above, referring to snow camp, the integrated unit, and sharing a class. Additionally I’ve been in charge of a course (below), and taught courses alongside some different people and some the same from last year. Without going into too much detail, I’ve found some professional relationships really hard this year. It can be challenging to have some conversations with other teachers, when they are more experienced than you, have been around longer than you and/or have positions that you don’t have. I have quite a loud personality; I’m opinionated and happy to stand up for what I think. This can be problematic. I’m having to learn when to bite my tongue and how to change my tone of voice to ensure my intentions are clear, are positive and are not treading on anyone’s toes. Because every challenging conversation I have, needs to be approached differently.

Strike Day
A momentous occasion that’ll be part of NZ history. I felt proud to be a teacher walking down Queen Street, but also immensely sad how the negotiations played out. This was an emotional roller coaster for me, having to constantly remind myself how I teach for the kids not money, but how overworked and undervalued I feel. The process certainly reminded me why I love teaching, but I also noticed I felt deflated and reduced the amount of time I invested in schoolwork at home.

Teacher In Charge of 12Health
Being in charge of a course has meant I’ve learnt more about moderation procedures, planning senior units, facilitating meetings and adapting the course from student feedback. I plan to write an entire blogpost about this later in the year!

I’ve previously blogged about what the Miss D is proud certificates are here, and student feedback here. This has been a considerable highlight of my year. I get warm fuzzies when I send the certificates home, and look forward to it! I decided to send them on Friday mornings, which has been a great way to end each week - particularly when I’ve had a stressful or horrible week. 

Overall this visual has been a great way to reflect on many things throughout the year, and recommend others to do the same! One term to go...