VIGNETTES SERIES 7
Vignettes 23 – 25
Children appreciate classroom routines and organisation. Although young they like predictability. From experience I don’t believe young people despair of repetition but value ‘links’ with the day that routines reinforce. They like things to be predictable because that offers reassurance and extends feelings of security. Many children come from environments that are not always predictable. A settled, predictable school program where children know what is happening and what is coming next builds both confidence and trust.
Students who were part of my schools from years ago and with whom I have had contact years later, have told me how big and scary school was when they were little. Those who have come back to visit the schools of which they were student members talk about how little the school seems compared to what it was when they were in their primary, especially early primary years. An object lesson I learned from these disclosures was that children appreciated the security they were offered at school.
There are times when programs need to vary and when general routines and timetabled programs have to be set aside. If possible, we should avoid springing these changes on children ‘out of the blue’. It is important that teachers give as much notice as possible to children about changes and why they are being made. This can sometimes be done through forward notification to parents via newsletter or online contact. Letting children know beforehand is helped if school leaders give lead notice to teachers about changes.
Routines will be helped if children understand the following:
* What subjects happen on what days.
* Routines marking the beginning and end of each school day.
* Recess and lunchtime procedures including play areas.
* Understanding the times each day for maths, language and other subjects.
* Being clear about the days the class may have specialist teachers for subjects.
* Knowing what is where in the classroom, unit and school.
* Understanding the school facilities and knowing the school map.
* The names of teachers school support staff.
* Rules that are in place to make the classroom, unit and school safe.
* The names of and a little background about relief staff.
* Their right to be protected and feel safe at school.
There are many other factors that build into school routines, the above being a sample of what might be relevant.
Routines and procedures are important. Without them, children can become aimless, confused and lost within what should be the safe, supportive environment of school.
HOW YOU ARE KNOWN
Sometimes teachers get into a bind about how they should be addressed by children and students. Some believe that in order to encourage relationships, that first names are fine.
Under no circumstances would I endorse this approach. Teachers are adults, students in primary and secondary schools in a learning relationship under their guidance. Respectful address demands that teachers are addressed as Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms.
Surnames can be hard to pronounce. Teachers with difficult or indecipherable surnames often ask students to use their christian names instead. If this is done I’d strongly suggest the Christian name be preceded by Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms. Another method might be to have children use the first letter hard to pronounce your surname. In that case it would be Mr M, Ms S and so on.
Students in secondary schools tend to refer to teachers is “Sir”, “Miss”, or “Ms”. That may be a preference but personally I would recommend the use of names as outlined above.
Appropriate address of teachers by students helps when it comes to the establishment of a respectful relationship. Similarly, those relationships are in hands if teachers take the time and make the effort to learn and use student names when speaking to their learning clientele.
Interviews between parents/carers and teachers about children is one of the most important ways of keeping in touch with progress being made. It’s important that teachers and parents are on the same wavelength regarding student progress.
In many schools interviews are organised toward the end of term one and term three. This allows teachers to let parents and carers know how students are progressing to a particular point in time during the school year. These conversations also help to prepare the way for written reports that follow, usually at the end of term two and term four.
While these interviews are usually brief (around 10 to 15 minutes) they are a way of ensuring some contact regularity about teaching and learning.
At times, longer interviews dealing with more specific issues are necessary. I believe that interviews to deal with specific topics or being called for particular reasons need to be programmed. Arranging by phone or note for parents to come in as a mutually convenient time the best way to go. Similarly if parents ring requesting interviews the same should apply. It’s best for interviews to happen in privacy and after school hours.
Some parents will approach teachers at the start of this school day to deal with an issue “there and then”. This isn’t fair on to the teacher or the class. Interviews conducted audibly in front of children places teachers in a bad situation. These conversations can be quite embarrassing. When this happens and teachers are confronted, I believe it appropriate to “call time” on the conversation there and then and arrange for a mutually convenient time when the conversation can be pursued.
If the teacher is unsure how an interview will progress or if she/he feels undue pressure, it is advisable to ask for a senior to be present during the meeting. If the teacher feels comfortable about an interview and doesn’t need that support, to be under the gaze of others as the interview is progressing can be helpful. The venue may be an interview room, a classroom that is visible to others, or similar environment in which the conversation takes place.
A strong suggestion is the teachers take notes for their own personal records of interviews that take place. It is a good idea to spend time post the meeting to write these notes up in some detail. Notes can record positives along with matters being dealt with the more challenging context.
When interviews happen “off-the-cuff and the spirit of the moment” teachers are caught unprepared. They may also be dealing with parents or carers who are somewhat agitated and even hostile. To set a future interview time gives everybody the opportunity to prepare and to come into the conversation in a rational way.
When teachers catch students doing something good and want to offer praise, sharing that praise with parents and carers can help. That might be done through a phone call or a simple brief message of congratulations of the parents coming to the school. This policy offers a sense of balance about reasons why contact is made with parents and carers. Conversations do not have to be totally about poor attitudes or behaviour.
For students to be made aware of interviews taking place between parents and teachers can be wise. That can be done in a positive way. I think it hard on students when adults have conversations about students without students knowing or understanding why the interview is happening. Students are very imaginative and may have all sorts of things on their minds about matters. Misinterpretation needs to be avoided. Children need to know that meetings of this nature are about helping them overcome issues and grow in terms of both character and accomplishment.