Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Teachers are faced with daily and ongoing challenges when it comes to managing a multitude of emotional, learning and behavioural needs within the classroom. Following is a real life example of how difficult the juggle can be, and how a single decision can significantly impact an outcome.
Which line would you take?
I spent a day in a year six classroom recently (11 year olds.) I was familiarising with the group when I came across resistance from a young girl who I will call Kelly. Kelly made a deliberate choice to not follow the instructions or participate in the task. She looked me straight in the eye as she tipped her chair over. I calmly removed the chair, to which she replied, “I prefer to work on the floor anyway.”
What do you do? Do you take the stern teacher approach, or perhaps choose to strategically ignore?
I got down onto my knees next to her, I passed her book and smiled as if we were involved in a secret conspiracy together and whispered, “Me too.”
At this point, I stood and returned to addressing the rest of the class. Kelly began writing in her book, ignoring the instructions to show a plan but commencing with her writing.
Upon returning from a lap around the room, Kelly asked me if she could finish her mandala colouring sheet. Looking at the sheet, I made the split decision that this was a mindfulness activity and possibly required regulation for a student who was having difficulty with the task at hand. My decision was to say yes. Kelly immediately discarded her book on the floor and returned to her table to colour in.
Another lap around the room and I returned to Kelly, commenting on the intricate detail of her colouring. I then continued working with another student where I made a deliberate comment about his excellent planning and layout. Kelly returned to her writing on the floor and proceeded to write her plan. Towards the end of the lesson, she interrupted me to ask for a sheet of paper.
At the conclusion of the lesson, Kelly handed me back the piece of paper, telling me I could read it whenever I liked. Below is the letter she had written to me. And true to her word, we had a wonderful day without any further hiccups.
You see, whatever Kelly’s background, diagnosis or previous experiences with relief teachers, her behaviour was a reaction to change. My presence alone created anxiety in her world and she simply needed time to process the situation and make some clear decisions.
Now, can you imagine the scenario if I’d taken the hard line? If I’d disciplined her for the chair tipping, for not doing her work, for not following instructions? What if I’d said no to colouring in? As teachers, we are faced with these scenarios daily and sometimes we make the right call, sometimes we don’t. The key is to learn from these situations, take time to reflect on what we could do differently next time, or what we should commend ourselves for.
I always teach from the philosophy that kids aren’t bad. Sometimes their behaviour is, but that’s not what they’re truly trying to communicate with us. So yes, you could teach from a hard line, everytime but just consider the opportunities you could be missing to make a genuine impact on that child’s day, week or even their life.
I would love to hear some situations you have experienced and how you have dealt with them?
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