Tales from new teachers - Restless children

17th January 2014 at 00:00

The problem

After the first half-term with my new class of six- to eight-year-olds, I had grown used to dealing with each child's unique behaviour traits and charming idiosyncrasies. However, it was apparent that one particular student (we'll call her "Child X") was out of my control. More hyper than the Duracell Bunny, more attention-seeking than a Miley Cyrus video, Child X simply could not - or would not - sit still and stop talking, no matter what I did. I was clean out of ideas.

The options

"Glue her to the floor?" my mother - an ex-teacher - suggested over a weekend coffee. I changed the subject.

My mentor was more helpful. She immediately suggested that she could sit in on a lesson to see the behaviour for herself. However, the thought of anyone sitting in on one of my lessons for any reason other than the mandatory observations filled me with dread. I told her that I thought I could handle it and would "let her know".

"Out of interest," she added, "how long are you expecting them to sit on the carpet?"

Was it possible that I was aggravating the problem by rambling on just a little too long? I resolved to pick up the pace.

Colleagues made other useful suggestions, including using a sand timer to allow Child X to measure time and thus regulate her own behaviour. I also paid a visit to our special educational needs coordinator, who led me to a cupboard labelled "Behaviour resources" (otherwise known as "heavy things to pin fidgety children to the floor"). I selected a weighted cushion and a little coloured floor spot for Child X to sit on.

The result

I ended up with a mix of strategies and, a few weeks on, things are steadily improving. No, Child X has not magically become 100 per cent silent or still, but she does have a clearer understanding of my expectations during a carpet session. When I tell her to sit down, she happily grabs her cushion and the 10-minute timer and then settles on to her spot. If she manages to sit quietly for the duration, she gets a sticker. I have also reduced the amount of time I spend talking to cater to the attention span not just of Child X but of the other students, too.

The writer is training to be a teacher in the North West of England

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