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Know Thy Student

‘Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’ Rita Pierson

A number of weeks back, my son’s teachers asked if I would like to come on the Year 6 Camp.  Normally, I would politely decline the invitation but for some reason, I said yes.  They must have caught me at a weak moment.  So reluctantly, this week I ventured off into Victorian Mountain Country with 50 Year 6 students and a couple of teachers.   The ‘bucket dipper’ attitude I left with, soon turned around as I witnessed a 3-day Behaviour Management Master Class.  Let me tell you about it!

Going on camp as a parent and not a teacher required me to restrain my natural instinct to teach and it is fair to say I did a pretty average job of it.  However, I wasn’t really needed as the two incredibly talented Year 6 teachers had it well and truly covered.  The deep knowledge they shared with me about each student, who they are, what they like, what they don’t and all their idiosyncrasies was outstanding.  It was made even more apparent as they interacted with the students in a genuinely warm way that never over stepped the ‘matey line’.   I wished I had teachers like these two when I was in school.  You couldn’t help but want to work hard and do your best for them.  They expect it and do it with a smile.  What’s not to love about that?

There were many moments throughout the camp that impressed me but one in particular resonated with me.  As the students finished lunch and were directed to head back to the Meeting Room, one student decided to hit the trampolines for a bounce, rather than follow the directions given.  Both teachers noticed and instead of instinctively raising their voice and redirecting the student they leveraged the strong relationship they had with this student in a really powerful way.
It went something like this:

Teacher, ‘Hey, insert name, you love these trampolines, don’t you?
Student, ‘Yes I do’.
Teacher, ‘What was the rule we set at the start of the camp about the trampoline?’
Student, ‘A teacher must be supervising the trampoline when we use it.’
Teacher, ‘Correct, now what needs to happen next.’
Student, ‘I need to get off and go to the meeting.’
Teacher, ‘Thanks.’ (with a smile)
Student, ‘Sorry, see you at the meeting.’  (with a smile)

Not once was a voice raised, the student happily followed the direction solving the issue through the teachers questioning.  Later in the day I witnessed the teacher follow it up with the student.  The relationship between the teacher and student was not damaged in fact it was probably strengthened through this respectful and honest exchange.  These honest and respectful exchanges occurred frequently throughout the camp.   As my father has always said, ‘You catch more with honey, than you do with a bag of prickles.’

I have no doubt that this type of interaction happens in schools right across Australia each and every day.   But I want to acknowledge the two talented Year 6 teachers who allowed me the opportunity to be a small part of their brilliant camp as they demonstrated in impressive fashion the power of relationship in managing student behaviour.  Strangely, well not really, the nightmare moments of all camps such as clean up were carried out seamlessly.  This was no fluke. I believe it occurred due to the level of respect that has been established between the teachers and students.

These types of exchanges are common place at my children’s school and they literally run in the gates every day.   If you have a class right now that is testing your patience and maybe you and they are not running through the gates each day.  It might be worth reflecting on the relationships that have been fostered throughout the year.  I have one game changing strategy for you. ‘Know thy student!’ It can’t be much simpler than that and Real Schools has been built around this non negotiable belief.


Warm regards,

ryan name