Natural Consequences – Part 2

Thanks again to Jo Bailey for her fabulous ‘Part 1’ guest post. ‘Part 2’ of Natural badchildConsequences (a response to Unnatural Consequences) comes to you from Andy Vasily (who has guest posted for me before!).

Andy is a long time #physed Twittererer (@andyvasily), a blogger and the co-founder of Nexus Education.

In reading Doug’s blog post, it brings several thoughts to my mind related to the archaic, punitive, lead as I have been led, type thinking that many leaders and teachers still unfortunately hold on to at the very core of who they are and the work that they do in education. You can understand that leaders and teachers do need to think carefully about the interventions that they use (and endorse) in order to more effectively manage students who misbehave and/or have difficulty following classroom and school rules. 

However, there is definitely an element of ‘we better protect our asses in case something goes wrong’ that is happening here in regards to the reasons why leaders like Brenda Koch have reservations about supporting policy proposals such as this. Leaders, like Brenda, still operate from a ‘protect me and us’ mentality on a daily basis, instead of positively moving toward more pro-active and empowering solutions when dealing with potentially troublesome students. 

So, in knowing what we now know about the power of movement, disciplining with dignity, and ensuring that building relationships with students is at the heart and core of what we do in education, those who still think that punishing students by taking away recess, physical education time, and other critically important social-emotional type activities (field trips, excursions etc.), are operating from such a traditionalistic, out of date and broken model of thinking that just doesn’t work anymore.

As my role in education has shifted to more of a coaching/consulting role when working with teachers, we often talk our way through creating more efficient structures and routines that support student learning rather than fall into the trap of blaming students for not being able to sit still, follow instructions, interact with others positively, or stay engaged with their learning. 

So, when teachers need to see more examples of options available to them in regards to how to better manage students who misbehave, perhaps the more pressing question that should come to mind is:

“How do I manage the routines and structures that I have in place to ensure my students are less likely to get off track?”. In particular, how do I need to structure the transition times in my classes? 

Evidence shows that kids are more likely to misbehave and cause problems during lengthy and unorganized transitions between tasks/activities and lessons. Rather than continually reacting to bad behavior and stressing out about how to deal with it, teachers can instead look at refining their structures and routines to ensure more of a smooth flow to their teaching. 

And lastly, the importance of INVESTING in building strong relationships with students should never be underestimated. Invest your time and your energy even more than you feel is necessary because human connection can go a hell of a long way when working to bring out the very best in young people.

My friend, Andy Dutton (@PEAndyD), told a story during his opening keynote address at a recent workshop we were running together in Poland. He talked about working with a student much earlier in his career who was belligerent, disrespectful and arrogant. He admits to giving up on the relationship early on in the school year and coming down on him with an iron fist, often sending him out of the gym. One day, as Andy describes, the student started misbehaving again and being very disrespectful. Andy admits to losing it on him…. then the unthinkable happens. The boy pulls out what appears to be a hand gun. Andy and all the students hit the floor in a panic. The kid laughs as the gun actually turns out to be a toy bb gun. Andy then sets in immediate motion the boy being expelled from school. The next day the boy was expelled and Andy never saw him again. 

Why Andy told this story was that, even though this happened nearly 15 years ago, he has never once stopped thinking about the fact that he never attempted to get to know the boy or invest in building a relationship with him. He still thinks about how much of a difference he might have made in this student’s life had he actually attempted to build that relationship and get to know him and what he was going through. To give a bit more back story, the boy was held in a refugee camp for several years in Africa before immigrating to Australia. He was then given a new life and sent to Andy’s school. Imagine what that student had gone through? Imagine the horrors he had witnessed? 

Although this story might seem way off topic as it relates to Doug’s post, it’s not! When our default setting is to react with anger at our students and discipline them in traditionally punitive ways by taking away things that they so badly need (recess, physical activity etc.), we also take away the lenses of compassion, empathy, and support that these young people so badly need to experience life and school through.

It is our responsibility, as educators, to model to students how to work through issues in a proactive way in order to ultimately empower them to be more responsible for their own actions.

Instead of asking “How do I deal with troublesome kids?” or “What options are available to me when dealing with these kids?”, we might need to reflect on how deeply we try to connect with these kids and reach them in a way that lets them know they are cared for and supported. We might need to think about the structure of our teaching and what we might need to change, rather than the punishment we’ll deliver when kids misbehave. When we work to refine these fundamentally important areas in our teaching practice, it can have a positive impact on the behavior of our students. As well, it can make a huge difference to their social and emotional well-being as we are genuinely supporting them in ways that will benefit them now and in the long run. 

Thanks Andy!

Please feel free to add your thoughts on ‘natural consequences’ in the comments below, or contact me to contribute a post to this series!

 

Natural Consequences – Part 1

Back in March, I wrote a piece entitled Unnatural Consequences dealing with the wayPlaygorund schools and teachers take away things like recess and physical education as punishments or consequences for some form of misbehaviour. I did provide a few options in the post about what I deemed to be more appropriate and meaningful consequences, however, a number of kind readers asked for more – talking to you Alison from Hamilton!

So, what I did was ask a number of #physed folks to write about the consequences that they use – as well as their approach to ‘discipline’ or ‘management’ in their classes (lots of different words we could use here). My plan is to post one of these a week for a bit (I think I have 4-6 in total lined up). This first post in the Natural Consequences series is from Jo Bailey (@LovePhyEd). Please check out Jo’s blog as well!

The case of the student who punched 3 boys in the face and took another boy’s boot in order to get a pylon (not sure what that is!).

Editors note: Jo, a pylon is the little (usually) orange cone-like thingys we use to mark goals, boundaries etc. – what do you call them?)

We know he was in the wrong. He admitted, as the report said, he was in the wrong but nothing in the consequences given to this student tackled the WHY behind what happened. In this situation, a simple A,B,C protocol would probably have been much more effective.

A,B,C in this context refers to Antecedent, Behaviour, and Consequence. We know what the behaviour was, we know what the consequence was but we don’t know what happened before the behaviour: What led to this? Why did the student lash out? Had something happened in the preceding classroom time or at a previous recess? Was this student simply needing to let off a lot of steam and did so in a completely inappropriate way? Doe this student need to be taught coping strategies for dealing with frustration or communication skills to use with his peers?

Step 1 for me would be to identify the antecedent. This is not necessarily easy and the student, particularly being quite young, might not be able to articulate exactly why he felt the need to punch other students or steal their belongings.

Step 2 we already know about.

Step 3 – the consequence – is the part that needs to change. The punishment given does nothing towards teaching the student why his behaviour was not acceptable. The student has not, as far as we are aware, considered what he needs to do in order to fix this situation nor has he been given the opportunity to do so. Student ownership of how their actions affected others needs to be addressed. The consequence given does not address the victims in this scenario either: How the incident impacted them, what has been hard for them about dealing with the incident, and what they think needs to happen to make things right.

The approach described above is Restorative Practices – the student who did wrong needs to make it right again and learn how to make better decisions in the future. Restricting physical activity and denying him an academic class by removing him from Physical Education may well increase the odds of the student lashing out again.

To give an example, last year my students were learning about geocaching and we visited aIMG_5727 park across the road from school where I had hidden geocaches. On this day a new bench was being put into the park, with fresh concrete to hold it in place. This fresh concrete was just too tempting for a few of my students who made the poor decision to write their names and add some inappropriate artwork to the concrete. I addressed it immediately and asked the students 1) who had been affected by their actions and 2)what they thought they should do to make it right. They agreed they should try to repair the damage done. Luckily, the parks department employees were still in the park and the students worked with them to repair the damage they had caused. Having to apologize to the park department staff and then realize, by doing it themselves, the hard work that the parks department staff had done was very eye opening for them. They also learnt about the whole procedure required to lay concrete for such a project. It was so much more effective than any detention or removal from class would have been and provided a complete new perspective for them.

Identify and fix the problem – don’t put a band-aid on it. It won’t stick.

Thanks Jo!

Please feel free to add your thought on ‘natural consequences’ in the comments below, or contact me to contribute a post!