VIGNETTES SERIES 17
BE VISIBLE TO STUDENTS and PRESENT WITH STAFF
In most schools, yard duty is a very important part of the “extra” the teachers and staff provide for children. The pros and cons of yard duty have raised themselves as issues over many years but this responsibility is still with us.
I believe that yard duty is important not only for insuring children’s safety and well-being, but to help teachers get to know children in and outside the classroom.
There are a number of things teachers on the yard duty should take into account.
* Cover all areas of the designated duty area. Don’t stand still in one place but rather be aware and move around the whole of the area to which care is designated. Children love to get away into nooks and crannies, not necessarily for mischievous purpose but because at times they like to be alone, and on their own. Be aware of where children are with in your area.
* Converse with children as you go but avoid staying in the one place talking to individuals or small groups for too long. It’s the whole area that needs your coverage during time on duty. To spend too long in one place talking offers distractions from the 360°”eye and ear awareness” for which you are responsible.
* School guards can become horribly rubbishy places. Children have a propensity to throw litter onto the ground rather than using bins, even if the nearest one is only 2 m away. If and when you see children using the bins, commend them on their tidiness and care for the environment. A little bit of praise can go along way when it comes to building the tidiness and civic pride habit.
* If a child has an accident or injury while you are on duty, and if you are unsure of severity, send somebody who is reliable to the office to report the matter straight away. It’s often a good idea to send students in pairs to ensure that the message is delivered. If you have a mobile phone, contact with the front office may not be a bad idea. When out on yard duty I always carried my mobile and if there was a need to contact the office, it was done Some schools have two-way (walkie-talkie) radios which are used for this purpose.
* If a child is injured while out in the sun, offer them shade if you can. That may mean you shedding a jumper, giving up your hat, or standing over the child in a way that prevents the sun from shining directly onto him or her. At the same time encourage peers to stand back and not crowd in on the injured child.
* It can be helpful and comforting for somebody who is distressed to have a close friend with them to talk to them. It’s usually easy to identify such a person. To allow that person close proximity to the injured child while keeping others back is a good idea.
* Most schools have hat policies and also students who at times either forget the hats or prefer not to wear them when out in the sun. When on duty, be aware of children who may not have hats and direct them into shaded areas if your duty is out in the sunshine.
While some teachers don’t like wearing hats (and therefor set a bad example to children by not wearing them) I’d strongly urge duty teachers to always have a hat on their heads when out on duty. Remember, we model for children. If we don’t do what they’re required to do that places us in somewhat of a hypocritical situation.
* In most schools, recess and lunch duties are shared between teachers. That means at any break period there will be two teachers who share the time to oversight an area. Always be on time if going out on the yard duty or replacing somebody already there. It’s important to not leave an area unattended, because if an accident occurs while supervision is not supplied, duty of care comes into question. There has been more than one court case as a result of poor supervision when children are at play.
* If your duty area covers toilets, make sure you keep an eye on activity around toilet doors and be aware of the behaviours of children inside. You may not feel comfortable (nor might it be appropriate) about going into a particular toilet block but eyes, ears and awareness play a very important part in this observation. Behaviour in and around toilets needs to be appropriate and not ignored.
* There is usually a five minute warning bell or chimes to alert children to the fact that recess and lunchtimes are about to end. If out on duty, make sure the children stop playing when the bell begins to sound. Directing them back to classroom via the toilet, hand basin, and drinking fountain is a good idea. Encouraging children to be ready and in line with the second bell goes can be a good habit to acquire in time management. Time awareness is very important. As well, duty teachers generally need to be back to take charge of their classes or groups when the second bell goes.
Yard duty is central to the care provision provided for students by school staff. At times it might be a little irksome and you may not feel like doing it. However in the overall scheme of things here for children is paramount and duty of care critically important. Yard duty should never ever be neglected.
STAFF ROOM CONTACT
If not on duty, my strong suggestion is that during recess and lunch breaks teachers spend time out of their classrooms, mingling with staff in the school staffroom is. It is important for teachers to have social contact with each other where that is not necessarily connected with professional learning and formal collegiate exchange. Sharing time together is important; teachers and staff members need to get to know each other.
Those who don’t intermingle miss out on a lot of conviviality and the sharing that goes with being in the company of others. Avoiding isolation and being regarded as an isolate is important.
Don’t focus conversation entirely on classroom issues. These matters will come up. However being away from the classroom physically should also support the need to be away from it mentally. There is more to teaching then classroom space and children within the class. If sharing outcomes, concentrate on the positives and things that have been good about a particular teaching session. It can be all too easy to focus on the ongoing challenges and continuing problems, therefore overlooking the good bits.
Avoid scandal, gossip and character besmirchment when sharing with colleagues. This includes picking children to bits and making comment of a negative nature about them. There is a time and place to have a conversation about challenging children. The social aspects of gathering together are important and again forgetting about what’s going on within the classroom for a period a useful device.
Cups and plates used during breaks should always be washed and placed in a drainer. Washing, drying and putting a way of utensils can help keep the class the staffroom neat and orderly. Many staffrooms provide dishwashers. Placing crockery and cutlery in them before going back to class helps ensure staffroom tidiness. There is nothing worse for support staff and those left behind to have to clean up after others. Messy teachers and staff quickly fall from favour with their peers.
Spillages on carpets and other floorcoverings can occur. To clean up any mess quickly is important. There are far too many school staffrooms where floorcoverings have been spoiled and the aesthetic affect of the room impacted because spillages have been left. Once dried on floors they are hard to remove.
Move on the first bell and aim to be back with the children when breaks are over and it is time to resume teaching activities. There’s often some distance between learning areas and the staffroom so giving yourself travelling (walking) time to get back and resume duty needs to be taken into account.
Mix with staff in a social context and don’t hide away from colleagues.