One of the problems when you use the word ‘challenging’ is that it’s all a little bit too flexible.
For one teacher ‘challenging’ may mean ‘a bit cheeky and scampish – won’t be quiet sometimes, even when asked’ for another it might mean ‘arch-villain level of psychosis coupled with outbursts of obscenity, firelighting and genocide’.
Because it’s all different isn’t it? If I say that you should never, ever restrain a child and you’re in an environment where without that restraint a child may well repeatedly stab his classmate in the neck with a key, you’re going to think that I’m a complete imbecile that cares nothing for the physical safety of children.
Or if I tell you that restraint is absolutely necessary and even desirable at times and you work in a school with few behaviour problems with kids who respond well to positive re-inforcement and have never had to shout at a child, let alone lay a hand on them, you’re going to think that I’m some kind of monster.
And you’d both be right. Or wrong. Or something.
It’s what makes conversations about behaviour problems and solutions so difficult sometimes. My challenging isn’t your challenging and vice versa. So what to do?
You know what would make things a little easier? A rating system. Fully under-utilised in the education sphere if you ask me. Not ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’ and the rest of that old tat. I’m talking something a bit more akin to the bbfc so we can establish some shared experience before we start spewing forth on what should or shouldn’t be done. Just like the movies. Before starting a heated argument about whether students should be co-creators of their own rules or the merits of positive reinforcement or zero tolerance or whatever, those involved should state the rating of the situation they would apply these ideas too.
‘There’s no reason to shout at a child.’
‘Yeah but my place is a 15. I’ve had to shout at someone to shock them into stopping an assault.’
‘You’ve got to go in hard and scare them.’
‘Even in a U?’
‘Perhaps not in a U no.’
You see? Brilliant. You can thank me later.
I’ve written about it before, but it’s worth saying again – there’s very little homogeny in teaching and when it comes to such an important subject like behaviour (one that destroys careers and educational chances without care or thought) sweeping statements (and I’m as guilty of this as anyone) do nothing more than make people want to act in a challenging fashion.
And what would that fashion look like? Well now, that all depends.