The highest levels of performance come to people who are centred, intuitive, creative, and reflective – people who know how to see a problem as an opportunity. Deepak Chopra
The conversation I had with a local teacher Susan (not her real name) about her pupil John (also not a real name) a while ago had been stored somewhere in the back of my memory. However, when the telephone in my office rang just as I was about to leave for home this evening, the sound of Susan’s voice, clearly distinguished by a north east of England accent, immediately brought our discussion back to the surface.
In October Susan had come to see me to discuss John and the difficulties that she was experiencing managing his behaviour in class (Who has difficulties with behaviour? October 24th). After some debate we had come to a consensus (at least this is my interpretation) that John did not necessarily see that he was behaving badly, and that the need for change might be far removed from his personal agenda. During the course of our meeting, Susan and I discussed the idea that if John could be encouraged to take some responsibility in class and enabled to see that his contribution in school was valued, this might have some impact upon the way he behaved. We had also explored the possibility of John recording his achievements and good behaviour in order to bring these to his own attention and that of his peers.
Susan rang today to report progress with John since we had met in October. I could tell immediately from the tone of her voice that she was going to have some positive news to report. This is a relatively short period of time and I would have been surprised if she had informed me that there were no longer any difficulties. However, I was pleased to hear her report of the progress that has been made.
Following our conversation, and being a first rate reflective teacher, Susan had given a great deal of thought to how she could support John, and hopefully improve the classroom situation for all involved. The plan she developed is a clear indication of her creativity and imagination. For more than a month now John has been the classroom reporter. At the end of each day, using an audio recorder he creates an account of the day’s activities in the classroom. Susan has encouraged John to make these audio reports as if he is going to present them on the evening news. She has asked him in his reports to consider the day’s happenings from a personal perspective with a focus upon the part that he has played in all of the events that have taken place.
The reports usually last no more than two or three minutes, but at the beginning of each day, John plays these to the whole class, after which for ten minutes they discuss what he has had to say. His peers look forward to this morning ritual and their enthusiasm has had a positive impact upon John. He enjoys being the centre of attention in the class and has become much more focused upon the day ahead. Several times during each day his classmates make suggestions about what he might record; these are usually based upon their own personal interests and reflect the natural egocentric behaviours of many primary school children. John enjoys this attention as it makes him feel important and confident about his own role in the class.
Susan reports that John is now much more settled in class and appears to be enjoying lessons more than was previously the case. He still has occasions when his behaviour challenges her ability to manage the class. When this is the case, the morning discussion session sometimes helps him to reflect upon why the day went badly. I got the distinct impression that both Susan and John are much happier than they were earlier in the term. As we discussed during our meeting, there is seldom a “quick fix” for issues related to behaviour, self-esteem or relationships, but reflective teachers such as Susan instil within me a great confidence that with appropriate levels of commitment improvements for the benefit of children and teachers who experience difficulties can most certainly be made.