Behaviour Management in LLS Recommended Text

download (2)I can not recommend Managing Behaviour in Further and Adult Education by Susan Wallace enough as an essential read for anyone working in the LLS or training there or heading there in the future.

I love the easy writing style, the use of case studies which will be all too familiar to many NQT’s and PGCE placement students who are in FE in particular but also in HE.

It puts to bed the myths that students in LLS are there because they choose to be and as such will be model students, impeccably behaved and reasonable… crikey I was in a class of trainee teachers many with recent BA degrees under their belt who didn’t know how to turn up on time, stop giggling, keep on task, prevent themselves from doodling and chattering during lessons, presentations and guest speaks. If people who are trying to manage behaviour in classrooms as teachers can’t behave when they are students then there is no class out there which is immune from behaviour management issues.

As it’s titling suggests also prepare for gaining QTLS (if we figure out what is happening with that) so if that’s where you are heading and it probably is then it’s even more essential.

This is the most up to date version of this book and is available here from Amazon at around £11 plus p&p, £17.50 for the Kindle version and around £15.00 if you buy through Prime. The second edition is available here for less on Amazon and if you are really strapped for cash it’s still a useful purchase. Don’t be put off by the slightly different title it is still the previous version of this book. I have both and either are really useful but of course the updated version does have some useful updates relevant to changes in the sector. I’m not sure if it’s available in the Kindle library to Prime members for a free hire I’ve not checked but it’s one you will want to keep in my opinion anyway so for a reasonable text book price and for one that isn’t massive and hefty that you can stick in your bag and read in bed without danger of caving your face in if it slips from your hands it’s a good investment.

E&D – discrimination doesn’t have to be blatant to be felt

This post has took time to write or rather to make it to publication. I have given much thought to the usefulness or value of it weighed against anyone who it strikes a chord with and I decided, you know what, I’m going to take a risk with my content (see the quote from Creme 2010 above) and I’m going to put this out there. I’ve heard these things, I’ve been affected by these things and I’m going to lay them out there bare and let people have a look and a think and perhaps even comment. Maybe it will help student teachers to understand E&D issues just a tiny bit better, to avoid causing offence to others and to think twice before making assumptions about the students in front of them. These are some of the more subtle examples I’ve drawn out of the folder of unbelievably and perhaps unwittingly offensive things I have heard.

download (1)I have avoided this topic in my blog because I know that whenever it comes up and I give my view point I’m seen as being ‘over sensitive’.  I’m over sensitive because I have black children. It makes us laugh, myself, my kids and their dad, to think that people feel I’m over sensitive to issues of inequality because I have black kids. The fact that they don’t reason that I have black kids because I judge people on merit not skin colour or nationality, ability or age, gender or sexuality evades them. The kids came first and I sure as hell didn’t produce them from my lily white flesh on my own. But no, I’m sensitive because I have black children. Think about that in itself and what it says about people who think that, do you imagine that could be offensive in itself? Too right it is. It’s like saying a parent can’t really give an objective opinion on child abuse because they are parents… what so people who don’t have children find these things less emotive? If they do, shame on them, but I don’t think we believe that this is the case, yet I’ve been told to my face more times than I remember that I’m sensitive to issues of racial discrimination because of my children. Like I didn’t care about it before then. It’s rude, it’s wrong, it’s unfair and get this… it’s discriminatory in itself.

We laugh my family and I as an alternative to crying because we know that this perception speaks volumes, it’s already told us something we don’t want to believe, not still, not in 2014, surely.

We laugh because the children are also told during E&D classes and discussions that they are ‘over sensitive’ because they are black/brown/mixed or whatever they are categorised as, I’d just love to get to the day when they are simply ‘children’ but sadly we missed that boat because one of them is already an adult, we’ve got a couple of years left before the youngest is an adult too and sadly I don’t think we’ll get there before then.

We have to laugh because there isn’t much else we can do other than keep sharing our opinion and keep being good people and hoping that one day everyone believes that we feel the way we do because we do not like discrimination on any grounds. We have opinions because we have insight that we are proud and privileged to have. Our humanity extends beyond feeling pained at racist issues, believe it or not we actually care about children, old people, disabled people, mentally ill people, people of other faiths and a whole lot more too being treated fairly and justly. We protest against discrimination both on a personal and institutionalised level, not just racism because the kids are black.

I’m just putting these things out there, things I’ve heard and seen and I ask you to just think about them. What is or could be wrong about them, would you challenge them, would you be offended, would you care? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

“For God’s sake, why are all E&D speakers black?” (Trainee teacher at E&D lecture)

“Some people can’t understand English too well can they? Are you alright following what I’m saying?” the lecturer mouthed loudly to the three guys at the back, the two with the Arabic names and the Russian. The class laughed uncomfortably knowing one was English born and bred, one had lived here for more years than he’d lived anywhere else and for the other English was one of a couple of his country’s official languages. (In an HE lecture on customer communications)

“Why do black people need black role models? I’m white and I’ve got a couple of black role models, why can’t they just  have white ones?” (Trainee teacher back in class after an E&D guest speak lecture)

“Could you please stand back and wait” a delegate shouted to a hoard of other delegates as they  near trampled the imagesembarrassed lady trying to turn in her wheelchair. (Witnessed at a teaching conference following an E&D lecture)

“Don’t worry about him, leave him in the corner and ignore him, there’s a language barrier”. (Teacher to teacher about student)

“OK so how do we get the service users up to the top floor conference room? Where’s the lift?” “There isn’t one, they’ll have to walk up 8 flights of stairs”. (Conversation between chair of older people’s conference and event organisers)

“What’s he doing here? He was supposed to be on a boat back to China.” (Teacher to class about fellow student)

“Idiot FE students” (Trainee teacher on social media site)

I announced I was going to the shop for some drinks, it was a really hot day and we’d worked hard relocating the QA Department across the city and keeping it operational. The young porter who had been able to lift full filing cabinets into place had been instrumental in it happening and he had worked tirelessly. He sat sweating in a corner having  hauled how many kgs around against H&S regs I can only imagine. I came back and handed him a diet coke he thanked me. My colleague took me to one side “Don’t give him a drink, he’s only a porter, he does this donkey work because his kind can’t do anything else”. “Oh you mean his kind as in law students earning some money to get them through final year of university, or his kind as in huge black guys?” I asked. Oh and I didn’t have children at the time so couldn’t possibly have been seen as over sensitive when I reported her inappropriate and offensive comments to her manager.

“WHAT.IS.YOUR.STUDENT.NUMBER?” (receptionist yelling to British student of Asian parentage in a university)

“Well let the Nigerian die as it will save the country money on benefits” (HE student’s first thoughts when confronted with a management exercise which contained no information to indicate the guy lived anywhere other than Nigeria but did inform that he was well educated, employed and of a high social standing)

“The display is ready to go to the cultural centre” I was told by my colleague I looked at it, yards and yards of beautifully compiled work and images on 7 foot high notice boards. “Everyone on the pictures is white” I said “in fact, everyone on the pictures is white and a man” I added. “Oh it doesn’t matter now, we don’t get many foreigners at these things anyway” my colleague responded. “You’re so fussy about this stuff, do you think it’s because of your kids?”. I breathed deeply and counted to ten.

“I couldn’t complete the enrollment process because I had an argument with the administrator who said that because I noted my ethnicity as Anglo African on my form I couldn’t state my nationality as British, I tried to explain that my parents are British, I’m British, I showed her my passport, my driving licence and birth certificate but she just didn’t get it, I got so frustrated with her I left” (student trying to enrol on a university course).

“I’m giving this one a miss aren’t you? I mean, it’s bad enough having to work with him without having to have an image of him sleeping with his partner in my head” (Colleague of a gay man who had offered to host that month’s staff social event)

I’m English, I’m white, I’m not disabled, I’m young (ish), I speak English perfectly well, I’m heterosexual, I didn’t come here ‘on a boat’, but I’m sensitive to all of this, well not just sensitive but OVER sensitive to it, and why? Oh did I mention I found two black kids? Maybe that explains it.

Correction, I’m sensitive to it because it is wrong, all of it is wrong, very subtle but wrong and I could bring up hundreds more blatantly obvious comments but I want to show the subtlety, I want to show how words can cause offence and offence causes alienation and if they can do it to a hardened time served battle axe like me who understands that some people are ignorant, imagine what they can do to a child, a young impressionable person who wants to just be who they are and accepted for that and who doesn’t want to be singled out on any characteristic.

This is how used to it I am, some people reading this will think this has all been about race, they’ve already forgotten or didn’t even notice the gender discrimination, they’ve forgotten the discrimination based on language, the disability examples, the age discrimination and the discrimination based on status and don’t even start me on the stereotyping that was going on.

An earlier post of mine contains a TED talk which says that children do not learn from people they do not like and I’d take that a step further and say they do not learn from people who do not like them. But it’s not just about offending us sensitive folk, it’s much worse than that. It’s worse because much of this comes from educators and we know what educators do, they teach people and if they don’t realise that what they are saying is wrong and offensive, or simply very narrow minded. If we all just breathe and count to ten instead of challenging that behaviour then there is a great danger that they will teach those people attitudes like theirs and it will never end.

As teachers we are responsible for so much. What we make OK, our students see as OK. We are doing them a disservice when they go out into the world and find that OK is actually not OK at all.

Educating the East End Episode 3

I loved this episode. I was struck by a couple of things and that is how this one seemed to show much better behaved, driven, involved and inspired kids who realised the importance of education and the added extras. I felt this was far more representative of young people in the main, or at least the young people I’m used to.

I loved the elections, the campaigning, the obvious camaraderie and support throughout the school, the barrier relaxing between students and teachers, all of it was inspirational. As a teacher who has shifted from FE to Secondary I was able to relate so much easier to this and I think it is true that they began the series with the difficult year 9 which consensus has it is the toughest year as mentioned in my first post on this series.

I was also interested to see how it was noticed that things going on outside of school were affecting the outgoing head girl’s performance and how it was nipped in the bud and ultimately did not affect her achievements at GCSE. I felt it was interesting to see the focus on developing her self belief and I felt educated myself by the head teacher’s comments on exam performance being largely due to a mental attitude. I’ve seen people filled with fear and negativity prior to an exam and have wondered how they can do that to themselves, believing that negative mind set can’t be productive but for some people positivity and self belief doesn’t come easy and that’s something to bear in mind now as a teacher. I don’t think I’m bigging myself up too much to say that I’m pretty good at encouraging students to have faith in themselves but I saw it more in action on the programme and feel that I understand the importance even more now of building that positivity. Some people do not have it instilled in them by parents or anyone else in their life, even society may have a low expectation or give out signs that trying is pointless and we as teachers do have to fight against that.

We were shocked that nobody seemed to know who the eventual election victor was. I guess that’s because he was under the radar, probably well behaved, always on time, good attendance and a high achiever. Nobody’s noticed him because he hasn’t given anyone reason to and in some ways I think that’s very sad. Imagine if he had never stood for election, he would possibly have passed right through secondary school with nobody ever noticing him.

I see how easy it is for deserving students to be bypassed on awards events and for opportunities to represent the school and for treats and rewards and while I get it now as a teacher that the challenging students take up the lion’s share of your time and focus, it’s really not fair. It’s made me want to make an even more concerted effort to make sure I notice the other students, not just the high achievers but the middling, average students who come in, sit down, get on with their work, achieve comfortably and leave. I know who they are in my current classes and I know who they were in my placement classes and I have to hold my hands up and admit that in my placement classes they were the ones I took longest to remember the names of, the ones I engaged with the least and the ones I should have recognised more.

As a student teacher you will soon realise that it really is the challenging students who you remember first and you will be shocked when you reflect and consider the amount of time you spent talking directly to them (another reason why reflection is important). You have to be careful of that, some ‘disruptive’ students just crave attention and they are very skilled at commanding it.  In one of my observations my university tutor advised me to ignore any behaviours which were not threatening or affecting anyone else. As an example in the observed class one of my students decided to make a paper plane and I asked why he had done that and I should have just ignored it, nobody else had noticed he had made it, it wasn’t detracting from the overall flow of the lesson and I brought everyone’s focus to the paper plane and thereby I caused the class to become distracted from the lesson and of course myself. Later on he wrapped toilet paper around himself and again I mentioned it and created the conflict situation the student wanted when again I could have just ignored it.

So lesson learned, less time on the attention seekers and more of acknowledgement of the under the radar, safe kids, they might not crave attention but everyone likes to be noticed for something they’re doing well and to have some attention now and again, I’d hate to think a student of mine would put himself up for an election and I wouldn’t know who he was but am aware of how easily it could happen.

Looking forward to the  next episode.

Celebrations

So it’s not long off a year since I started this blog and in that time it has attracted hundreds of followers from Twitter as well as those who follow directly and I’ve not really courted followers like I do on my monetised blogs so this is really good. Over 3,800 viewers, 378 followers and 165 posts and tons of comments private and published which have led me to some exciting places, fascinating people and wonderful experiences.

I’m going to celebrate by trying to write my requested warts and all reflection of my whole PGCE experience both placement and taught course. I’m a bit busy these days but I’m going to try to cobble it together bit by bit and I think it’s time I told my story. It didn’t start off too good placement wise but improved beyond my dreams and I loved the experience. My academic journey was kind of the reverse I loved it at first and came to wish it over at the end but now am still enjoying carrying it on with reading and blogging, developing and learning as a teacher never ends and it’s a privilege to have been set off on a good track.

The PGCE teaches you what you have to carry on doing, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning. There was an academic glitch when I was so unhappy on placement that I lost the will to live with the whole thing but thankfully I picked myself up and dusted myself off and made this journey about me not about those who whisper in ears to detract from the goal. Being a teacher is about continuously learning, reflecting, developing, reading, being aware of the changing landscape and not just about what happens in the classroom. If you’ve got the knack in the classroom you can teach anything at any time to anybody I firmly believe that but it takes some dedication to keep on growing as a professional, to keep on top of technology, cultural, societal, economic and political shifts in the education sector.

So my insight to my experience will be coming just as soon as I get time to write it but until then know that no matter how bad it gets there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s up to you to make your placement and your whole course what you want it to be. You get one shot at this don’t let anyone put you off, you wanted to be a teacher when you started don’t stop until you are one. If you’re lucky you get a smooth ride, if you’re luckier you get to ride the roller coaster and learn more about yourself and the profession than you ever imagined.

Supply and Demand

So I headed into the big wide world of supply with a good academic year contract if I want it, but I’ve discovered something about teaching, it’s not always what you imagine it is going to be. You think that your performance and subject specialist knowledge count for something when really it’s mainly about being able to fulfil a contract and your skills will be moulded to suit a vacancy as long as you fulfill the main requirements of the post.

So here I am teaching French and it’s good, it’s really good. I’ve had to brush up a bit on my own grammar and have been thankful to all of those French friends who kept me engaged in delightful conversation over the years. I  never thought of this as my ‘thing’ and never thought I’d want to teach at this level but I am loving it.

The money is not to be sneezed at and when you weigh up all things you kind of come out with a decent gross annual pay which would put a newly qualified solicitor and doctor to shame and is touching up there on consultancy rates, so that’s another good point and of course you can either continue in supply or look for something permanent, up to you… the money is alluring for some positions (especially those where there is a shortage so if you are able to teach in one of those go for it) and I’d take longish or short term contracts with periods of unemployment where I can spend all that lovely dosh over full time permanent drudge any day.

So I guess teaching is about pushing those boundaries and taking opportunities, at the end of the day you are sharing knowledge and if you’ve got to my age and studied as much as I have you have enough knowledge and pieces of paper to back it up to teach a whole range of subjects. Being a good teacher is knowing how to pass on information, it’s about rapport building and effective communication, good management of people and confidence, the specialist knowledge flows, if all of the other elements are in place.

This will fund me through my masters too and set me up for when it’s time to move on at last. I really hate that our move had been delayed so many times but things seem to be right, the decision is made and then a little voice pipes up as he gets cold feet, just a year and a bit to go and we’re out of here.

Now it seems that the delay wasn’t such a bad thing. I like flexibility, it was my method of working of choice before I had responsibilities and I love the way you never become complacent or settled and are always kept on your toes and also you never have time to become bored which is the most important thing. It builds skills and forces a development of self, of subject specialism and of all those other associated teaching skills.

Educating the East End Episode 2 Review

This is just going to be quick one as I went into lots of detail last time which can be found HERE and I don’t have so much time now I’m TEACHING!!

I watched episode 2 with my son and he said something which I thought was quite relevant in response to the discipline and that was “if we’re supposed to act like adults to prepare for being adults then when do we get to just be kids?”.

I thought it was quite significant and pertinent, when do they get to be kids? I know there were some serious issues of getting involved with the wrong crowd, but had the boy in question been battered outside of the school gates it wouldn’t be “a school issue” and parents would be advised to go to the police. The police had been involved yet the school still disciplined as well. But anyway, I digress, the kid is a boy, he’s having a laugh, teenage boys find everything hilarious, they are  being forced to stifle this essential element of who they are, the element which will bring them their most fun childhood memories because they are expected to act like adults which they are not.

Part of preparing for the adult world is them learning how far they can push boundaries and of saving face. The challenge was thrown down to put the ball on the desk within the allocated time ‘or else’, he played by the rules, he did as asked, he put it down within the time frame rule dictated by the teacher, the adult, and yet he was still the loser, the adult chose to break the rules and the ‘or else’ happened anyway, even though he had played by the rules dictated. I guess in that sense we could concede that he was being prepared for adult life, in that quite often as an adult you play by the rules and it gets you nowhere, or people with authority will change rules to suit themselves or they will break rules and that’s OK as long as you know your place and you don’t. He wasn’t pushing the boundary to irk the teacher, he was doing it to save face in front of his peers, and the same could be said of the teacher who had to save his face in front of the boy’s peers too, but he won and grandad was called in, detentions and exclusions bandied about willy nilly and when the kid does something really bad there is nowhere left to go with punishments and the whole process breaks down.

I was hugely in agreement with the PE teacher and the way he persuaded the football crazy lad to think of a plan B. It can be a fine line between destroying someone’s ambition by asking ‘what if’ and encouraging the back up plan but I think he did a great job of it.

My only concern is that the opportunity to coach football was seen as an opportunity at the right time and put to good effect and tied to performance criteria which is arguably a good thing, however the opportunity to join police cadets should have been identified sooner. Why do we wait for things to go wrong before we take action? Why does it take a child being ‘a problem’ before we get to know them and tailor part of schooling to meet a need and avert a crisis? Why is there little in the way of risk management for all from the start?

One of the down sides of waiting until there is a problem is that the other kids who are not offered these opportunities see them as rewards for bad behaviour and who knows where that could lead? Most likely to further bad behaviour.

Final point, the jewellery on that deputy head’s hands is ridiculous. How can you say you set rules around appearance as a preparation for adult or working life and then have teachers with hands rattling in rings, tottering around in high heels and with ear tunnels? It’s a conflict. You can’t wear those rings because in the adult world you won’t get a job if you go to an interview or to work like that and that’s being told to you by an adult in the adult world with a job… go figure, it’s confusing.

I’m not as into this series as I was into the last two but Educating Yorkshire took three episodes to grip me so let’s see what the next one brings later this week.

Mentoring

I came across this TES article today via Twitter, Leadership – Take a long hard look at mentoring written by Ian Rivers, who besides being a writer is a professor of human development and head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University London and also a keen Tweeter.

The article sets out a guide for mentors of trainee teachers specifically in schools and so I imagine on the direct route in to teaching.  It makes perfect sense and seems to be more than adequate in terms of ensuring that both parties understand what is required and expected of them at the outset, that good targets are set, useful records are kept, communication is clear and support from the university mentor is encouraged and put to best use. The end result should be a job well done which prepares the NQT for the future.

After a ‘chat’ with Ian two main themes emerged; consistency and quality. Now aren’t they two novel concepts? These words pop up all over the place in teaching and for good reason, if a framework or guideline is going to be developed it has to work consistently and be delivered consistently. Not only does it need to be of a good quality, the consistency of its delivery can only be measured against the quality of its delivery. How do we know how good something is if nobody identified what good is and how do we know it’s being done properly if we don’t measure it against whatever that good is?

So how do we decide what good is when it comes to mentoring trainee teachers? In my experience (in other fields as well as teaching) there is good practice done well, bad practice and good practice done badly. I think the first step to finding good is to separate out these three areas.

The bad we can ignore for now although it may be useful to use as an example or indicator of how things should not be done. Sometimes people need to see bad practice to understand how important good practice is.

The good done well can be set aside as given that it works and it should be replicated.

The good done badly is perhaps where the most work needs to be done and where the most development will take place, it holds the largest potential for learning and improvement.

One of the best ways to gather this information is to ask about experiences gathering qualitative and quantitative data. Who feels it knows it and all that, we need to find out from the horses mouth what works, what doesn’t and what is missing. So we need to ask people who know; recent trainees, mentors and university link staff who support mentor and trainee. All three are involved in the process, all three will have tales of where it works and where it doesn’t. But more than asking what works we need to ask what the value was. If we are talking about measuring quality we need to know the worth of something.

A process might be good but was it worth anything? What did it add. For instance keeping notes of every mentor/trainee meeting might be useful but what did it add in terms of value for time and resources used? Was it worth doing? Could a couple of actions jotted into a planner have done the same job and taken less time? Should the quality indicators be:

  1. Did regular meetings take place
  2. Were actions identified
  3. Were development points identified
  4. Were actions followed up at next meeting
  5. Were development points added to trainee’s development plan (which would then link to a QIs around the development plan e.g was a development plan maintained, was it discussed with university tutor etc)

If these are the indicators then the swathes of paper being printed and emailed around could be spared, as could time spent doing it because they can be met with jotted down notes in a planner.

For quality purposes the mentoring process would have to be dissected into its component parts and again they would be the most crucial elements of the process and may include:

  • Mentor/trainee/university communications – possible QI how many interactions would be expected, records kept
  • Development plan – possible QI frequency of update, inclusion of items from meetings and observations
  • Classroom observations – possible QI frequency, range of classes, anticipated levels of improvement

Perhaps quality could be measured in terms of improvement in a number of areas on a scale for which a benchmark in terms of end point or improvement against starting point could be devised. Mentor, trainee and university link could mutually agree position on the scale.

  • Competence – how well they plan and teach and how well did they demonstrate knowledge of their subject
  • Confidence – how their level of classroom confidence increases not just in terms of at what point they stop shaking but how they begin to become more flexible against the lesson plan, take advantage of seize the moment opportunities, manage behaviour situations
  • Satisfaction – how do they feel about the mentoring process over all, how close did it come to meeting expectations
  • Integration – into the teaching team and the profession, do they contribute to staff meetings

It could be that a scale is set with ten points and it is anticipated that a trainee will progress at least 4 points during the training period or that they will achieve the 7th point as a minimum by the end of the training period. Final feedback from mentor and trainee would show if those QIs are being met, if they are set too high or too low or if they have any value.

Another idea is that mentoring of trainees should be done by teachers who are not too far removed from the memories of trainee days themselves. I’m not saying older teacher’s have memory loss but they may have been trained in very different ways. A relatively newly qualified mentor will have tales to tell that are relevant rather than “back in my day” stories.

Being a mentor should be time spent which counts towards CPD. Making it a target for a mentor to produce a decent NQT is tricky because a mentor can’t be blamed for a trainee who runs screaming from the building after a half term deciding that teaching is not for them after all, but there could be some targets set and measured against for the mentor much in line with those suggested as quality indicators already. Particularly if the mentor is graded against the 4 areas mentioned more latterly and that grading can be influenced by the trainees own input and feedback.

Of course consistency and quality are key because there are other routes into teaching such as pre-service teaching qualifications which need to be considered and idiosyncrasies in different areas of teaching, from Early Years to Secondary to FE and HE but most of these suggestions for quality can easily be mapped onto each scenario and consistency can be assured. It should be anticipated that a direct entry trainee has a similar experience to a pre-service student on placement in terms of quality of experience and of mentor.

As a pre-service PGCE student who had an entirely different experience on placement to that imagined I would advocate anything which seeks to establish and maintain consistency and quality and which encourages and utilises feedback on the experience. It is one thing to complete course expectations and another to have found the experience as useful as it might have been and surely if something was not as useful as it might have been, the quality was not as it might have been and that could be because there was no set of QIs to make it accountable against.

These are just my immediate thoughts and I’m sure that Ian would be delighted to hear any others from all perspectives. You can leave comments on this blog or you can leave comments directly under his TES article or by contacting him via Twitter. I’m very interested in this so shall be keeping a keen eye out myself.