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Education is an Atmosphere

Found in: Leadership Blog

Education is an Atmosphere - I was thinking of this concept recently in terms of building positive environments and that students learn when they’re feeling comfortable and engaged rather than anxious and disregarded. This is profoundly important.

I’ve just sat down to write this article after speaking to prospective parents about enrolling their children in Year Seven. "How do you deal with student behaviour, with incorrect behaviour?", was one of their questions.

I spoke about an engaging lesson being the first and best encourager of positive behaviour. Young people are often not as tolerant as adults would be. If I give a poor speech, parents will generally listen quietly and peel off into the evening without comment. But teach a disconnected lesson and students will let you know.

I then broached the subject of clear expectations and consequences when it comes to classroom behaviour. A precise systematic approach is very important. It is important to keep parents informed at this stage if learning is not progressing well.

When student actions regularly butt against the expectations we share for respectful behaviour, the situation escalates involving the student, teachers with broader responsibility and parents, as well as the wider expectations of our community. We are not a one size fits all school, where behaviour 'management' is akin to stepping on to an inevitable conveyor belt of escalating consequence. This entails giving “choice” regarding improvement strategies and “voice” empowering their own involvement and progress.  

Here are some important considerations to keep in the mix:

  • While consequences for behaviour are essential, students cannot generally be forced into making better choices and improving, it’s up to them to make a personal decision they are willing to keep. We all need to responsible for own our behaviours.
  • Students need support, opportunity, and hope. Generally, behaviour is the outward expression of underlying issues that should be considered and addressed. Growing up is a challenging process, so staying the course and addressing and working through those issues is imperative. Escape and easy fixes - while tempting, are rarely lasting solutions.
  • School, parents and students are partners in a process, a long process.
  • While there are some behaviours that would result in exclusion from the College immediately; primarily the reason a student would be asked to withdraw from our community would be that after moving through a process of doing everything we can to provide support and opportunity, it becomes evident that the student does not want to work with us. It is a sad day when a student is asked to leave, but this is invariably the result of considering the broader needs of our community with little prospect for change.

I want to thank our teachers, counselling and support staff who help to contribute to building a positive atmosphere in which our students both learn and grow. I want to thank them for the positive changes they have sparked and inspired in so many lives. Good work.

Mr Rod McNeill