The IPPR has published a report a while ago which looks good.
“The problem with ‘kids these days’ is the way adults are treating them. Britain is in danger of becoming a nation fearful of its young people: a nation of paedophobics. We need policy which reminds adults – parents and non-parents alike – that it is their responsibility to set norms of behaviour and to maintain them through positive and authoritative interaction with young people.”
ippr’s report will argue that children need adults who give them:
- Consistency in rules and discipline
- Warmth and interest
- Stability and security
- Authority without hostility
Warmth and interest some teachers do better than others. Personally, I find much of the discipline issues take care of themselves if the children trust you are one their side. One way of engendering that trust is to do the human basics, say good morning, know their names, have lunch with them, but not intrude. Stability and security, in the private sector is for the most part a given; as is authority without hostility.
From my (little) experience, the hardest of these to manage in a school setting is consistency in rules and discipline. What I think is hard for school is to co-create a set of rules for which students, staff and parents understand the need. The two immediate stumbling blocks are necessity and number.
By necessity, I mean that all concerned understand the need for the rule. For instance, we have a rule at our school about sports kits not being worn inside after lunch. Some teachers mind more about it than others. Or, less damningly, some teachers try to uphold the school rules more earnestly than others. The difficulty here is being able to argue convincingly why it should be the case. If one cannot, I would suggest the rule is dropped. The burden of proof, I think, falls on those suggesting the rules; “that’s just how we do things here” is never really good enough.
By number, I mean that the more rules there are, the harder is is for all to understand them. If things become overly Bablyonian, the children begin a) to take great pleasure in seeing a teacher who does not know the rules, and then b) decide that if the teachers don’t know all the rules, why should they? Equally, the teachers end up in the position that they it is all too easy to contradict what colleagues have said.
So how do we focus on the need and number. Partly, I think, the two go hand in hand. The number of sensible rules a school needs do not have to be great.
Partly, though, I think there is help to be found in Dave Snowden”‘s Party Metaphor.
“Imagine organizing a birthday party for a group of young children.
Would you agree a set of learning objectives with their parents in advance of the party aligned with the mission statement for education in the society to which you belong? Would you create a project plan for the party with clear milestones associated with empirical measures of achievement? Would you start the party with a motivational video so that the children did not waste time in play not aligned with the learning objectives? Would you use PowerPoint to demonstrate to the children that their future pocket money is linked to achievement of the empirical measures at each milestone? Would you conduct an after action review at the end of the party, update you best practice database and mandate future process?
No, instead like most parents you would create boundaries to prevent certain types of behaviour, you would use attractors (party games, a football, a videotape) to encourage the formation of beneficial largely self-organization patterns (Identities); you would disrupt negative patterns early, to prevent the party becoming chaotic, or requiring the draconian imposition of authority.”
There is gold dust in that there metaphor, I’m sure of it. Just not so sure what it is yet. My best guess is that schools have a strong, simply explainable sense of what is a negative pattern. A mission statement perhaps? But if so, then do they need to be less generic than this plucked at random from thousands of similar school mission statements.
“[the school] recognises that each child is an individual; that all children are creative; that all children need to succeed. Therefore, [the school] respects the individual needs of children; fosters a caring and creative environment; and emphasizes the social, emotional, physical, intellectual development of each child. “
My gut feeling is yes, it needs be less generic. But any pointers, suggestions, ideas hugely welcomed.