Behaviour – it’s all about context

by | Oct 19, 2020 | Classroom Practice, Inclusion, Leadership | 0 comments

The Behaviour: Last year my partner and I announced our engagement. (we haven’t got to it yet, 2020 and all…)

The consequence: 

In the UK this is more or less a celebrated event, as it would be in 29 other countries in the world.

In my partner’s country it is unheard of and illegal.

In 76 countries we face imprisonment.

In 15 countries we could be stoned.

In 11 countries, by law, we could be killed.

Yes, we both happen to have the same genitalia.

This is a stark example (that anyone in the LGBTQ+ community lives with daily) of this blog’s point – the behaviour, us announcing that we are a couple and want to make that official, is the same. Depending on where we chose to live will determine how that behaviour is perceived.

Back in the classroom

The Behaviour:

Sustaining a continual and regular bounce with a ball.

The consequence: 

In basketball in a PE lesson – praise, possibly feedback and instructions on the next move to perfect.

In an exam – probably a fail?

The context piece is important. I have been interviewed a lot recently, one of the recurring questions is around ‘zero tolerance’ ‘rules’ ‘boundaries’ ‘discipline’ and ‘consistency.’ Often asked to me as if I should jump on them and say how awful they are. No. We need them.

I have zero tolerance with discrimination in my classroom.

I have rules around keeping my pupils safe.

I hold boundaries around when it is discussion time, and when we need silence to work.

I strive to be consistent with my kindness and my passion for my pupils’ education – even when that requires me to be firm (see my blog Tough Love).

The context is everything, this becomes clearly apparent when you work with pupils with SEMH.

“F*ck Miss, look what I’ve just done!” – Tanya swore. That’s bad. It’s against the school rules.

She just wrote her first story independently. – So what do you do?

Context is everything.

Jo is swinging on her chair – again. That’s bad. It’s against the school rules.

She hasn’t got her lighter out for the whole lesson, for the first time. – So what do you do?

Context is everything.

Tyler is wearing trainers. That’s bad. It’s against the school rules.

This is the first time he has made it into school in three weeks due to anxiety. – So what do you do?

Context is everything.

But doesn’t that mean we treat people differently? Doesn’t that mean different children have different expectations? Doesn’t that mean we’re not being fair.

No. My Dad taught me this  – Equal does not mean the same.

Context is everything.

The follow up question is often around how this is workable schoolwide – how do we ensure standards, fairness, how do we write rules and behaviour policies?

We have guidance, we ask our pupils, as a community we decide what will keep ourselves safe and for all of us to have the chance to thrive within our school.

And then we trust our teachers and staff. We trust our teachers to make judgements based on children and circumstances they know well. If needs be we share this transparently with pupils who feel frustrated or need to learn and understand.

Tanya needs acknowledgement that she has achieved if we want her to do it again. She might also need a reminder about appropriate language and the possible consequences.

Without a lighter for distraction we can engage Jo in learning more easily – what an opportunity, let’s focus on that! Maybe she needs a reminder about chair swinging? Maybe she needs to fall and learn that lesson herself?

Tyler needs to know that he is safe, welcomed and belongs. If not, it will be another three weeks, or longer, until he returns again – causing more anxiety for him, his parents, the school; meetings, paperwork, interventions…how about we let his trainers go, for now?

Context is everything.


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