Essentials: Creating The Right Mindset For Managing Challenging Pupils

Essentials: Creating The Right Mindset For Managing Challenging Pupils

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When it comes to supporting kids with social, emotional, mental health and behaviour needs, your mindset is everything.

Join us in this Essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets as we uncover three crucial mindset changes that can transform your approach to supporting challenging behaviour in the classroom. Discover the power of mindset in fostering a positive learning environment for all students.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan

Teaching kids with challenging behaviour, look, no doubt, it can be tough. It's a role that can be emotionally and physically draining at times. But here's the thing. When it comes to supporting kids with social, emotional, and mental health and behaviour needs, your mindset as the adult is everything. That's why in this episode, we're sharing 3 crucial mindset changes that can make all the difference. So sit back, relax, and let's explore these essential mindset strategies together. Welcome to the School Behaviour Secrets podcast.

I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton, and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and, of course, whole school strategy, and more, all with the aim of helping your students whole school strategy, and more, all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world, so you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. Hi there. Simon Currigan here, and welcome to another essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets where I share with you one important strategy or insight from an earlier episode that can have an impact for the students that you work with in your school or classroom. And in this week's essentials episode, I'm heading back all the way to 2022 when my co host, Emma Shackleton, and I discussed ways that teachers can protect their mental and emotional well-being when supporting challenging pupils in school.

But before I press play on that episode, I'd just like to remind you that if you find this episode interesting or valuable or useful, don't forget to subscribe and please share it with your friends or colleagues. Let them know about the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. When you think about how you learned about the podcast, it was probably through a friend messaging you or a social media post, so share the love.

Emma Shackleton

So what we're talking about here then is we're actually managing students' behaviour rather than controlling students. And in order to do that, you've got to be incredibly flexible. You've got to know where you're starting from and where you want to get to, but you've got to be flexible along the way. So, of course, you're going to have an idea in your head of the learning that you want the children to gain that day or that week, But children are not little robots. They are people with their own personalities and their own free will. So we've got to be reactive to how they behave and how they're receiving the learning and how they're engaging with the learning. So although we'll have a plan we'd like to get from a to b, we do need to be able to meander along the way, and to recognize that there's more than one way to get there.

So being flexible about the route is recognizing that sometimes you will go from point a to point b, but sometimes you'll have to pass point c, point d, point e along the way. So you might go round in a bit of a spiral and then get to your destination. It's a bit like trying to shepherd sheep across a hillside. You'll have an ideal route, and you'll know the destination that you want to get to. But they'll kinda choose how they get there, and it's the ultimate destination that's important. It's the getting to the final point that's important, but being flexible about the way that you get there.

Simon Currigan

So as a teacher, we might be thinking about how we can be flexible about how the task is done or how we present the task. We might have to make adjustments to enable the students to access it and have some choice about how it's accessed. So if you're working with a pupil who has a strong sense of control, you might say to them, you know, here's a writing task to do. You need to write 2 or 3 paragraphs. Would you like to do it in pen or pencil? And it's completely down to you. You might give them the option of using ICT.

They might get a laptop and use a word processor or iPad with a word processor on it. You might give them choices about where they sit or who they work with. So we know we've got a piece of work we want them to do. We know what roughly we want that piece of work to look like at the end of it. We have to ask ourselves, does it really matter about how that work is done if that enables the student to get their head down and be focused on a task? Then this is a completely different way of thinking. Often, we think about how does the student need to change to engage with the work.

But often with high needs pupils, we have to think about, okay. how do we adapt what we're giving them? How do I adapt to the task to make it accessible and successful? How do I adapt the instructions I'm giving them to be successful? I might be giving them choice about the work, but I might also be saying, you know, using things like limited choice if they're bringing in a ball and I want them put it away instead of just having, like, this standoff confrontation, you must put the ball away and they're saying no. Perhaps I give them some choice about where the ball goes so they feel in charge. I'm being much more flexible for those children with high needs to help them engage with school and be successful and follow the instructions in a way that works for them.

Still getting them from point a to point b, but just being flexible about the route. And the next shift kind of ties in with that. It's focus what you are in control of. You're not in control of the kids, but there are things in the classroom that you can change and that you are in direct control of. It reminds me of this. Is it the serenity prayer? Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And we know from research that when we focus on areas of our life that we can control, we feel more relaxed, we feel more successful, and we feel more confident. So if we're constantly looking at the kids, I'm thinking about they should be doing x, y, and zed, and this is a reflection on my capacity or professionalism as a teacher, when we're looking at the children's actions about whether they're doing the work or whether they're being respectful, well, a, that's all out of our control, and, b, that's very, very stressful. There are things in the classroom we can change and do. There are things about the way we speak and the way we act that we are in control with, and we're much better off focusing on those than things that are beyond our direct control.

Emma Shackleton

Yeah. And we want to associate the outcome the child chooses with our own professional competence, and that's a bit of a dangerous game because we aren't fully in control of what happens with the children. And that's where I think teachers get frustrated when they want something to happen, but then for whatever reason that doesn't happen, we've got a bit of a tendency as teachers, I think, to take that very personally. And we take that as a knock, and we start criticize maybe the things that we're doing. But the truth is we are not solely responsible for children's behaviour. We've got a secondary influence. They choose how to behave.

What we can do is offer good guidance about making good choices, and the outcome is out of our control. Focusing on the things that we can change is how we feel empowered.

Simon Currigan

So what sort of things can we focus on? What sort of things in the classroom are within our control that will make an impact usually on classroom behaviour? Well, the first thing we need to do is look at our classroom routines. Are the way the kids coming into the classroom, is that helping them settle and be on task? What about the way we set the workout? What about the way we expect the children to work? What about how they access resources?

The way the tables are set out, are they able to access the work easily? Are they easily able to turn and listen to the teacher or work from a board at the front of the room if they need to? Have we set up the environment for success, or, actually, is the environment getting in the way of good behavior on task learning? Are the tables so crammed in together that everyone's seatbacks are touching and everyone's getting very, very frustrated? Have we looked at the way we differentiate the work? If children can't access the work because it's too hard, they'll get off task and we'll get low level behaviour. If the work is too easy and the kids finish it quickly and they have nothing to do, you're gonna get off task, low level behaviour.

We need to think about how we present the task. 1 of our key roles as a teacher that we don't often think about is how he presents, but, actually, you know, that's a primary function of teaching. Do we sound interested in the work? Do we sound like this is the first time we've taught Henry 8th and his 6 wives to the children? Do we sound enthusiastic and excited about it even though we've taught this every year for the last 20 years? For them, it's their first time. And if we sound enthusiastic and interested in what we're talking about, then we'll sweep the kids up with us.

Have we thought carefully about the social groupings in class or about how the children are sat? Are they sat on their own? Are they sat in twos? Are they sat in social groups of 6? I personally don't believe there's any such thing as a bad child, but I certainly do believe in bad combinations of children. So have we sat the child where they're likely to be successful socially? Are they surrounded by positive role models, or are they surrounded by children that are likely to negatively impact on their behaviour?

We have to think about where our lines in the sand are and what we're willing to be more flexible about as the task progresses. So these are all things we can look at and take control of. And when we do this, when we focus on these things, it gives us agency. So we can look at the results of our changes and think about what was successful and what wasn't. We might try moving a few children around in the classroom, and some might have been more on task and some might be less on task. And then we look at what worked, and we keep the things that are having an impact, and we throw away the rest, kind of almost like an experimental approach to improving classroom behavior step by step. These are things we can take control of, and that's gonna make us feel more confident and feel like we have agency in the classroom.

One way of thinking about this is lead measures and lag measures, so lead and lag measures. A lead measure is something that we can take control of, something we can do, and a lag measure is something that happens as a result. So to take an academic example, children's exam results would be lag measures. By the time we've looked at their exam results and they've done the test and we know what they've got, it's too late to do anything about it. The result's already there. The lead measure would be like the revision classes we give them and the extra input we can use this approach in the classroom. Here, the lag measure is the child we can use this approach in the classroom.

Here, the lag measure is the child's behavior or the children or the class's behaviour. By the time they're engaging in the behaviour, it's almost too late to do anything about it. What we need to do is focus on the things that are preemptive. What's going in beforehand? These are the things that we can influence and make choices about, and then hopefully we'll see, as a lag measure, improve behavior in the classroom.

Emma Shackleton

Okay. So the next mindset shift that we can make is to always remember that teaching is a team game. You are not solely responsible for how the child performs in your class. You are part of a team. So firstly, there's the people who have taught the child before. Or if you're in a secondary school, there may be teachers having this child right now where the lessons are more successful. What have people tried in the past that's failed?

Learn from those mistakes and avoid repeating those mistakes.

Simon Currigan

And that's just one part of the chat Emma and I had where we talked about 3 key mindset changes that we believe are essential in helping you to protect your emotional and mental well-being as the adult if you are feeling stressed working with pupils who present challenging behaviours in the classroom. To find out the other 2 essential mindset changes, simply click on the link at the bottom of the episode description, and it will take you straight back to original episode number 62. It's definitely worth a listen. If you found today's episode helpful, please also take a moment to rate and review us. It takes just 30 seconds. And when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend School Behaviour Secrets to other listeners. I know I say every episode, but it really does make a difference.

So please, let's continue to work together to help to grow the podcast. Thanks for tuning in, and I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)