I was rubbish at behaviour management when I started teaching. If students didn’t comply, I thought I had failed. Then something clicked: behaviour management isn’t about managing other people’s behaviour – it’s about managing your own.
It’s rare for a simple change in perspective to have a monumental impact, but this did and I was irritated that it hadn’t crossed my mind before. It was crazy to think I could make anyone behave in a certain way. Their behaviour was theirs to own.
Once this sunk in, behaviour-management problems became rare. I could usually adapt and control my own behaviour to get the response I needed. My proudest moment, however, didn’t take place at college.
For quite a few years, my son and I, inspired by the sitcom Parks and Recreation, have embraced a summer tradition: Treat Yo Self Day. The clue about what it involves is in the title.
One year’s Treat Yo Self Day was spent dangling off a massive climbing wall; another involved tenpin bowling. In 2014, we were supposed to be in for some solid-gold memory-fodder when we flew to Disneyland Paris. Sadly, a dodgy egg sandwich en route left my stomach feeling like it was being twisted by metal claws. Out of pity, Mickey’s mates gave my lad a priority pass. As he went on every rollercoaster without queueing, I remained on terra firma, bent double, barfing into a carrier bag. Disneyland was not “the happiest place on Earth” that day.
I was determined to make amends on last year’s adventure with a trip to our capital to visit Forbidden Planet and have a spin on the London Eye.
Everything went to plan. The comic-book shop met all our nerdy whims and our gentle stroll to the Southbank was punctuated with landmarks. We joined the queue for our turn on the London Eye and were ushered into a pod; the doors shut and off we went, trapped in a glass torpedo with 20 lairy, sweary women clutching inflatable penises.
My lad’s 12 now and I don’t have many more years of doing daft things with him, so this hen party was not going to ruin it. The air was thick with baby-pink marabou as they posed for group selfies, covering all the glass in the process and turning the best view in London into a slow lift. My lad looked at me in a “do something” way.
I was not going to win by being direct and asking a gang of Proseccoed-up women in party mode to keep a lid on it. I spotted my chance and piped up: “Shall I do some group photos?”
They seemed surprised, as if we’d just materialised, thanking us as they thrust phones into our hands. We spent 10 minutes snapping but it was a great time investment. The ladies stopped swearing and gave up their seats. They couldn’t have been more generous.
We haven’t planned the next Treat Yo Self Day yet. We might stay at home.
Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands