The biggest problem that we have had is the difficult behaviour from the children. We now have a regular base of between 25 and 30 children. Of those children I can identify at least 8 who have very specific learning needs. The environments that these children are living in, for many different reasons, are unstable. Their home lives mean that they bring many of their problems with them to the venue, which translates to erratic behaviour.
What has happened is that, just when we thought we were totally in control, we have a bad day. We have kids running around misbehaving and disrupting activities. It is actually great that it happens this way because it means that we can never be complacent. We have to work very hard on our systems and procedures so that we can maintain routine for these children.
So sometimes is it our fault that the children act irrationally. If we slip out of our routine, the children (who need constant action and stimulation) get bored and find ways to disrupt. If we are very structured and stick to our routine, we notice the difference in the children’s behaviour. For example, we were late two days in a row, due to several different reasons, in serving the food. These were the worst days we had. We have become very good at filling in gaps with little games and songs but the lack of structure seems to flick the switch that means it’s time to play up. (There are also many other factors in play that are out of our hands, like the moon and the weather)
It may sound strange but I am quite enjoying the challenge. It’s like making coffee. There are so many millions of variables involved in how the coffee tastes in the cup, so what we do is make sure that all of the variables that we can control, we control, and all the rest, well it’s up to luck really.
I have created a new behaviour management plan that we are currently implementing. The changes that I have made to our old systems and ways take time to put in place and for the children to become accustomed to. We have created some broad rules that the children had a hand in creating. It is important for them to help with the rules because it means they have more meaning to them and they feel involved. I don’t like having to many rules but we have found that they are necesary. These rules are in plan view for the children to see and we quite often refer to them so they are constantly in play.
There are a squillion reasons why a child will misbehave, but what we have found most common with these children within this environment is attention seeking behaviour. They are not concerned about whether it is positive or negative attention as long as they get it. So part of the new behaviour system is to eliminate attention directed at misbehaviour.
If the child isn’t receiving attention for a certain behaviour then he/she has no reason to do it again. From us it means letting the child know that we don’t agree with what they are doing and continuing on with the lesson with as little attention to that bad behaviour as possible. From the children’s perspective we are encouraging them to not pay attention to their pairs who are playing up. This is as big a challenge for them as it is for us.
Already we have had some good results. That is not to say it is plane sailing. This reminds me of a quote that was written in my friends cafe today. “A smooth sea does not create a skilful sailor!” Which means we are getting a lot of practice and hopefully getting better at sailing our boat on rough seas. So we will see in the coming weeks if the changes are making a difference. The beauty about this experience for us is that we are still learning, and for sure there is no chance of us getting bored!
Watch this space…..all aboard…