G'day sport, or maybe not

26th March 2004 at 00:00
Everyone has a Davie in fourth year, operating at Credit level in attitude, disruption in class and confrontational ability. His girlfriend has more mood swings than Caligula and he wears a huge coat constantly about the school, thus ensuring he gets rows from teachers he doesn't even know. Home life is dysfunctional and he walks the corridors with a macho swagger.

In short, Davie is a row waiting to happen. While he can occasionally be quite threatening, mostly his misbehaviour is low level annoyance - coming to class unprepared, refusing to work, slagging his pals across the room.

The problem starts with the unpredictability of his reaction. Sometimes an appeal to mature consideration and his better judgment brings forth a reasonable response. Other times he winds up the kind of posture that you might spot in No Mean City, complete with shoulder movements and jutting jaw. Clearly, where Davie is concerned, it's a case of all hands to the supportive pump.

So, when I attended Bill Rogers's excellent presentation on behaviour leadership recently (TESS, March 5), Davie was very much in my mind. The Aussie guru hit several nails squarely on the head. His message, delivered with style and humour, reminded us that, as professionals and adults, we should have no need to see pupils as the enemy, or discipline as a "battle that has to be won". He put into palatable form a whole raft of strategies that basically amounted to: mutual respect, self-awareness, reflective planning and the need for proactive support from colleagues.

He was clear that boundaries had to be imposed and highlighted several areas where harsh but consistent sanctions should be applied. His message was a call to professionalism and to respect the individual needs of pupils and teachers in the complex web of relationships to be found in classroom and school.

With my head ringing to the advantages of "describing obvious reality", "tactical ignoring" and the "relaxed vigilant approach". I returned to school next day well prepared for supporting Davie through the last tormented days of his English folio completion.

In the best traditions, his teachers shared strategies, and, whaddya know, it really seemed to work. By last Thursday, folk were stopping me in the corridor to comment on his improved behaviour and work rate and praise postcards were winging their way home.

Life was good, until 2.20pm, when all hell broke loose and Davie was excluded for using obscene language towards a teacher. Rogers's book lay open on my desk, and on the frontpiece I noticed: "For every complex problem, there is a simple answer, and that answer is wrong."

Too true, cobber.

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