Behaving Yourself

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!

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

4 thoughts on “Behaving Yourself

  1. Hi Sarah

    I so agree with your observation about needing to enable young people to be self-sufficient and adaptable. These are quite complex skills that someone with too much time time on their hands might want to capture in a checklist. The problem with checklists is that they all too often masque the level of emotional and social investment needed over time and the sets of supporting relationships to build those capacities in young people. So, do checklist breed a mindset that ticks the box and invariably misses the point?

  2. I am not sure that technology makes young people “inhuman”,in some ways they are more aware of what is around them than they would otherwise be. However I do believe that people in general are more materialistic, that values are different across the age ranges and cultures and that parents feel that they are not doing a good job if they do not provide what their child thinks is necessary. I think people are losing sight of what is valuable for children , I come across children in my school that are unhappy because they dont have family time.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Rosie I completely agree, difficult to reconcile a range of complex issues with a simple checklist, but with ‘discipline’ being such a current buzzword what else could the government do? Debra I agree, I think ‘inhuman’ is too much of a stretch but it is interesting to consider how new technologies are changing our social interaction. Very much agree with your ideas about values, hugely concerning that material goods have bypassed the need for quality time. What can we do about this?

  4. As a parent I see it as MY responsibility to set the mold. The very values that I prioritise are the ones I instill in my “little adults”. As you point out, it seems as though the educational system has been made to take responsibility for these points as in is monitored and parents aren’t, but I really see that as passing the buck. It is true that each child is a world unto it’s own and has to be treated a different way when it comes to behavior issues. What works with one child most probably wont work for another. There is no way you can cover this in a classroom full of of separate identities and characters, it must be done on a one to one basis. At home. They way I see it, as a teacher, all you can and should be doing is reinforcing a set of life rules that should already be being instilled by the parents and their families. Maybe I see things differently, Spain is still very family oriented and the upbringing and development of a child is carried out by the parents, the family and in some cases almost the whole village. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

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