Reflection on PRU visit

As part of our Teach First training several of us spent a fascinating morning in a Pupil Referral Unit. It was an inspiration, and several points stick out in my mind from it:

  • The competencies a teacher needs to teach effectively in a PRU are the same as those in a mainstream school, only extended. Getting to know pupils, making lessons relevant to them, setting clear boundaries, and outstanding teaching were repeated themes throughout the day.
  • There is always a reason for poor behaviour. If you can find out that reason, you have the best chance of addressing the behaviour.
  • Its most important to get to know the students you least want to teach. It’s those students who will respond best to a personalised approach.
  • In terms of safeguarding: if a student discloses something to you, its often because they want something done about it. Students rarely disclose accidentally.
  • Building a relationship with students is crucial in being able to de-escalate behaviours in the classroom: “keep your distance but let them in.”
  • Allowing students to take control of the lesson, and giving your most challenging student responsibilities can work wonders in classroom management.

So how can I apply this in my own school? Obvious parallels are to focus on getting to know students as much as I can early on, particularly individual interests and needs. The second point is for me to set myself a challenge of putting extra effort in to getting to know and engaging the students I least want to teach. This will be difficult! But valuable.

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Classroom behaviour Ch 7: Managing anger in ourselves and others

  • It is natural to get angry; we need to learn to express/manage that anger in a constructive way.
    • Awareness of what lowers our tolerance helps; so does skill
    • Characteristic behaviours when angry can be learned and unlearned.
    • It can be valuable to get angry on issues that matter, but do so in a controlled way after taking a moment to calm yourself. De-escalate the situation swiftly afterwards, perhaps with cool-off time. The teacher will also have to initiate rebuilding.
  • With angry parents:
    • Let them explain how they feel
    • Invite them to sit down
    • Listen and reflect back
    • Assure them that you know they and the school care
    • Have the facts as the school sees them
    • Be honest and supportive
  • When a student is angry it may be useful to let them run out of steam and deal with it calmly later.

Classroom behaviour Ch 6: Challenging children and children with emotional and behavioural difficulties

  • To support children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD:
    • Seat them near a positive, supportive role model
    • Use visual cues to assist student focus and attention
    • Break down tasks into smaller parts with progress clear
    • Check for understanding by getting them to repeat back
    • Make normal learning routines explicit
    • Allow time for reasonable movement
    • Avoid keeping them in at break time
  • To support children diagnosed with or displaying signs of ASD:
    • Build and sustain a calm working environment
    • Take care in any touching
    • Use clear, context specific language cueing
    • Have clear routines and prepare child in advance for changes
    • Give specific feedback not general encouragement
    • Have an individual behaviour plan
  • To respond to attention-seeking behaviour
    • Consider tactical ignoring if:
      • the student does not get kudos
      • no-one is prevented from working
      • the student is not e.g. swearing
    • If you ask the student to move and they refuse, offer a deferred consequence or time-out whilst remaining calm
    • Follow up one-to-one if it is a repeat occurrence – but do not construe follow-up as an additional punishment
    • Strategies for one-to-one pp. 175-181
  • Swearing as hostile intent towards others must be dealt with immediately, firmly and briefly, with cooling-off time.
  • Conversational swearing should be acknowledged not ignored.

Classroom behaviour Ch 5: Management beyond the classroom: behaviour consequences

  • We need to make clear that all behaviour has consequences.
    • Consequences should refer back to the behaviour agreement.
    • They can be non-negotiable or negotiable (worked through with teacher after class).
    • They link consequence to behaviour e.g. a quit smoking video in a ‘smoker’s detention’.
    • Focus on present and future change flowing from consequence, not the past misdemeanour.
    • Keep respect intact; focus on certainty of consequence not severity.
    • Make consequences reasonable in terms of degree of seriousness.
    • Should be balance with support and mediation.
  • ‘Time-out’ can be either in class (less intrusive) or out-of-class. If the latter, emphasise that it is to address behaviour not to reject the student. Always follow-up with student. It’s important to emphasise in the first week what time-out is and what it means.
  • A deferred consequence is of the form “If you…then I will have to…” and then leaving the choice up to the student.
    • The message should never be delivered as a threat.
    • If a student refuses to comply, don’t try to force them to – just implement the consequence.
  • Always consider the purpose of a detention, and never use it simply as a punishment.
    • Pro-forma on p.160 can be very useful [Use this for detentions]
    • Link the actual activity in detention with the cause of the detention.

Classroom behaviour Ch 3: The language of behaviour management

Key principles:

  1. Keep it ‘least intrusive’ wherever possible e.g. non-verbal cue.
  2. Avoid unnecessary confrontation.
  3. Keep a respectful, positive tone of voice whenever possible.
  4. Keep corrective language itself positive wherever possible.
  5. Re-establish working relationships as quickly as possible.
  6. Communicate appropriate frustration assertively not aggressively.
  7. Follow-up with students on issues that matter beyond the classroom.
  • Skills (using principle of least-instrusive):
    • tactical ignoring;
    • tactical pausing;
    • non-verbal cueing;
    • incidental language e.g. there’s litter on the floor;
    • take-up time;
    • behavioural direction e.g. facing this way, thanks;
    • rule reminder;
    • prefacing (with a positive comment before disciplining);
    • distraction/diversion (focus on positive behaviour not negative);
    • directed questions (what, when, how or where rather than why or are you?);
    • directed choices (when…then…);
    • choice/deferred consequences (If you…then I’ll have to…)
    • blocking, partial agreement, refocusing i.e. diverting away from secondary behaviour;
    • partial agreement;
    • assertive comment/direction/command;
    • commands (short and authoritative)
  • Outside the classroom briefly address any rule infractions (e.g. wearing iPods). Discuss with colleagues what they do and why.
  • Discuss with each new class expectations upon entering the class. Avoid lengthy discussions as they come in. Don’t use questions but direct behaviour-focused language, and greet only when the class is settled.
  • During whole-class teaching, deal with disruptions by using names or ‘a number of students’, description of reality and behavioural direction.
  • When students are late, acknowledge it but deal with it later.
  • When tactically ignoring it can be useful to preface this with a rule reminder.
  • Strategies for an out-of-class follow-up on pp.106-111.

The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook: Ch 11 Form tutor

Use this time to have fun and get to know students. Ideas include:

  • What don’t you know that you would like to know?
  • What is your passion?
  • What do you dream about for yourself?
  • Get students to choose their favourite music and give a presentation on the musicians behind it.
  • On Fridays celebrate something that happened over the past seven days.
  • Ask someone you know to pop in and talk for ten minutes about what they do.
  • Pose difficult questions for class discussion
  • Use number puzzles from the paper
  • Have a board game championship
  • Get the students to write and perform poems.