Behaviour work causes dismay

22nd April 2011 at 01:00

I read Raymond Soltysek's piece on behaviour management with some dismay (TESS, 15 April). I agree with his principles, though not with his practical suggestions.

I am a third-year student and would not profess to having anywhere near the experience of professional colleagues reading this. However, I have worked with children in a previous life, so I am not entirely new to the game either. As a student, I find the notion of removing pupils known for misbehaviour appalling and gladly have no experience of this practice taking place among my fellow students.

Mr Soltysek advocates restorative practice for the "persistent offenders" and accepts sanctions for chatting and rewards for behaviour modification. His reasoning is that a "chat in the corridor" in this instance would give restorative conversations a bad name. Perhaps, then, instead of swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum of behaviour management, a brief word with the chatting girl in the class about the effect she has on her peers and the teaching may be enough to fit the "crime".

If his point about justice and the needs of the victim is widely accepted, then surely the level of conversation should meet the learning needs of the individual pupil, instead of a two-tiered behaviour management system.

That said, the analogy to crime concerns me. Limit setting may be as undemocratic as denying people the right to vote. The laws to protect us, of which Mr Soltysek speaks, were created by politicians, elected by the public. Babies may not have much say in the legal system they are born into, but they will get a voice eventually. When do our pupils gain that right?

I believe children are in our schools to learn. It is not enough to offer them the cognitive strategies required to thrive academically; deliberately or not we provide them with a moral framework as well. Rewards and sanctions sit on a spectrum of manipulation via conditioning, which sits a bit too close to punishment. So, should we expect pupils to learn to avoid certain actions due to their consequences (which is actually what they are avoiding) - or should they learn to do the right thing, regardless of consequence?

Ray Viola, Third year, BEd, Glasgow University.

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