A Fresh Start
The title of this first Newsletter for 2023 has been chosen for two reasons, it is the start of a new school year and the beginning of the next sequence of essays. In the last Newsletter, I asked for feedback and if readers found them useful. I was pleased with the response and motivated to improve the quality of up-coming additions.
One theme that came through in the replies was that some schools distribute each essay to their staff and one respondent used them as the basis of a professional conversation for the week. With this in mind I am attempting to present the content of each essay in a sequence that builds on the previous one. There will be times when I might address a specific issue that is topical at the time but by building the information in a rational way should make these more useful as a staff development resource. This progression will generally follow the thread that goes through my last book ‘ Neuroscience and Teaching Very Difficult Kids’ details of which are on the resources page of our web page Frew Consultants Group (https://www.frewconsultantsgroup.com.au). Here can also find a blog section that holds all the previous 223 Newsletters. An up-dated list of these Newsletters is posted in the resources section of our web page.
The series of upcoming Newsletters will be organised roughly following the sequence outlined below.
- Description of the brain
- Development and the impact of the environment on the function of the brain
- Abuse, types of abuse and the consequences of early childhood trauma
- Shame- the underlying dynamic of shame is fear of rejection
- Dysfunctional Behaviour – identifying how these manifest in the classroom
- Homeostasis how the need to maintain this in equilibrium drives our behaviour
- The ‘Protecting’ and ‘Seeking’ responses
- Providing strategies for teachers to manage dysfunctional behaviours
- The use of time-out and levels to modify behaviour
- Providing structure, expectations and relationships
- Changing school culture
Within each subtitle there will most often be more than one Newsletter.
The release of this Newsletter coincides with the start of what I believe will be a most challenging year. Regardless of the political discourse that occupies the media it is undeniable that teachers are working in atrocious conditions. The two factors that are always cited are the current teacher shortages and the crushing administrative demands. These are real and very significant. Those of you who have followed my journey know that I believe there is a third issue, student behaviour which is a significant challenge for teachers and an increasing one for teachers who work in low socio-economic communities and comprehensive secondary schools. Until recently, almost every staff survey conducted placed student behaviour as the school’s biggest challenge.
John Hattie, who was worshiped in the early part of this century pointed out the significance of the absence of disruptive student as the second most impactful characteristic of successful student learning, the first being the student’s ability to self-evaluate. The third was the classroom environment and it is obvious that the second and third category were interdependent. Hattie is no longer held in such high regard and has ironically become a scapegoat for the current condition of public schools.
Why I say ironic scapegoat is because Hattie capitulated and supported the politicians, bureaucrats and academics who latched onto the forth characteristic of successful learning and that was the quality of the teacher. By ignoring the problem of student behaviour and focusing on the teacher those in power had someone to blame for the failure of the education department; teachers became the scapegoats! You only have to listen to any news report, any proposed T&D, and comments from the academics or politicians and they will say we are going to increase the quality of the teaching service. This is an appalling insult to the thousands of quality teachers who are already in the system.
When we talk to teachers and executives of our schools they freely acknowledge that student behaviour is still an issue but gets no attention from the contemporary authorities. These Newsletter may help address these problems without required paper work nor cost that is associated with programs like Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Also, we are always available to help supplement the information we present.
If you have colleagues, either teachers or schools you know who struggle with student behaviour it would be a good time to get them on-board as we are about to begin a fresh start on the examination of this most difficult field.
So, welcome back we look forward to another year.