The recently published ‘behaviour checklist’ (or ‘naughty list’ in The Sun) will no doubt prompt another debate about poor discipline in our country’s classrooms. Many things seem to prompt this discussion, such as riots in the summer, school exclusion figures or any other number of general societal ills we can blame on those ‘badly behaved’ youngsters. This is invariably twinned with some sort of wistful reminiscing about how we were all so angelic in our day.
For teachers, behaviour management is often the most basic yet the most tricky of areas. Strategies for one year group may fall flat on their face, while even techniques that work in one class won’t work for another. Which is why a fixed ‘checklist’ won’t lead to anything radical happening in terms of behaviour. Children are just little adults, with all the nuances and idiosyncrasies that will mean that they just won’t respond well to certain approaches to managing them. Not to say that every teacher should not be reminded of the basic need to reward positive and sanction negative behaviour, it is often cited as the thing that gets ‘forgotten’ in the middle of a busy lesson, especially, and most unfortunately, the rewards for the positive. But is a simple checklist suddenly going to solve all of this?
Schools are targeted for the simple reason that you can monitor them, unlike parents or peers or society. Places of education are rightfully monitored and tested to ensure consistency. That doesn’t mean that a discussion about ‘falling standards’ of behaviour shouldn’t also involve the wider community. I am also incredibly guilty of the ‘in my day’ speech that accompanies complaints about the youth of today, the absolute perplexity that comes with unpicking the generation that follows our own. Why, for example, does there seem to be such a sense of entitlement in many young people of today? Much of the rioting seemed to me to involve people taking things they thought they should have anyway. Do we look at the influence of the media, the ‘Cribs’ and ‘Only Way is Essex’ trash TV that teaches us that happiness is only possible through a wealth of material possessions? Do we turn to technology itself, the very fact that we spend hours staring at screens rather than talking to each other which makes us ‘inhuman?’ http://tgr.ph/pdNUyK We could also look at home life. Certainly recent research (http://bit.ly/q4jCMg) would suggest that our children are losing out on actual parenting to material goods as parents everywhere struggle to provide for their children rather than focusing on their well-being. So maybe the kids aren’t all right, but who is to blame? Or more importantly, who can help them? With financial doom and gloom permanently on the news agenda we need self-sufficient and adaptable young people who are effective at managing their own behaviour. Is there a checklist for that?
If you have experience with young people in any capacity and have any ideas on these issues please get in touch or comment below, thanks!