Essentials: How To Build Relationships with Hard-to-Reach Kids (With Kevin Hewitson)

Essentials: How To Build Relationships with Hard-to-Reach Kids (With Kevin Hewitson)

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Teaching a difficult class - or students who are disengaged from their learning? Want to motivate your students and have a set of practical steps you can take to transform classroom relationships from negative to positive?

In this bitesize episode, Kevin Hewitson reveals the significance of belonging in the classroom and how it influences student behaviour, motivation, and overall well-being. He shares practical strategies (such as allocating responsibilities, encouraging feedback, and managing the student's voice) to create a sense of belonging that increases student engagement and paves the way for academic success.

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Get Kevin's book, If you can't reach them, you can't teach them.

Click here for the full interview from episode 18.

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Show notes / transcription

Kevin Hewitson  0:00  

Power to me is to have a voice to be listened to, and to be able to contribute to the learning experience. If we don't listen to pupils, then I don't think we will ever understand their needs or their behaviour drivers or to begin to understand the way they are behaving in teaching. The need for pupils voice should not be seen as a power struggle. And I think that's one of the challenges to teachers.

Simon Currigan  0:23  

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 students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs 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 a slightly longer but still bite size essentials episode of school behaviour secrets where I share with you one important strategy or insight from an earlier episode that can help shape the way you engage with the pupils that you work with in your classroom. In this essentials episode, I'm going to share a key part of my interview with Kevin Hewitson. Kevin is an educational consultant and author with over 40 years teaching experience and he's put together a four part framework P B, C, F for breaking down barriers and developing positive classroom relationships even with hard to reach kids. Okay, then tell us about how the P for power helps adults in the classroom build relationships with students?

Kevin Hewitson  1:50  

Well, first of all, power has got a bad press. So I want to distinguish that we're not talking about domination control, bullying, sarcasm, or that sort of thing. Power to me is to have a voice to be listened to. And to be able to contribute to the learning experience. If we don't listen to pupils, then I don't think we will ever understand their needs or their behaviour drivers or to begin to understand the way they are behaving in teaching. The need for pupils voice should not be seen as a power struggle. And I think that's one of the challenges to teach us. We know that whether sufficient energy or motivation to be heard, it can lead to a conflict because people get passionate, they have something they want to say. And if they don't feel as though they're being heard, we get louder. I'm always reminded of seeing a kid in a supermarket telling mommy gentle way that they wanted some of those crisps on that shelf when mommy ignored mommy. And then when mommy still ignored it was the crying tantrum tears through the door. Yeah, at the prom time. So yeah, we have to be aware of that. If we're not listening, then we can actually be building up energy, which can you know, like a volcano explode? If you're in conflict, there'll be no progress in developing relationship at all. And that's key. So conflict is not always an outburst or noisy either. Conflict can be internalised kids can switch off. So we have to be aware of that as well. What's the point? Nobody ever listens to me? Yeah.

Simon Currigan  3:24  

So what kind of practical strategies can teachers use to help improve power in the classroom? In your part of the framework? What would it look like in the classroom,

Kevin Hewitson  3:34  

achieving power can take the form of mastering a skill or a subject or acquiring responsibility, often as a reward for an action over time, it's preferable in schools, I think that ultimately pupils reach the understanding that knowledge and learning can bring a form of power that satisfies their need. So common strategies, allocating duties and responsibilities to pupils, even for things that you would normally do. It's useful to engage with the pupils and offer them an opportunity to be involved. asking for feedback, or suggestions as to how to improve the lesson to help them engage more is also a very, very good practical way of doing it. So encouraging a managed voice. So managed voice is important. Sticking your hand up as a form of non managed voice, you know, the kids who quickly put their hand up.

Simon Currigan  4:27  

What would you say to teachers who are nervous about increasing the sense of Pupil parent agency?

Kevin Hewitson  4:33  

Don't be there's a whole bit in my book, which is about the confident teacher, I think you've hit a key point. The Confident teachers one who doesn't avoid pupils challenging what they say or what they're doing, but uses it to their advantage. Give you a quick example, one of my mentors said to me never ignore the red herring question because what kids are doing is giving you a view into their world use it. You might see that as being a challenge you You know, the kid trying to put you off track, but what they're doing is trying to reach out to you. They're trying to establish a relationship with you. They're trying to have a voice. So the red herring question, don't let it go. You never know when it might come in useful. Okay, so

Simon Currigan  5:12  

let's move on to the next part of the framework, it was B, which stood for belonging. What's the impact of belonging in the classroom, especially here for hard to reach kids?

Kevin Hewitson  5:21  

Well, without welcoming pupils into our schools, in our classrooms, building any form of relationship is almost impossible. We all want the feeling of belonging, a sense of belonging some way, and a feeling a sense of belonging drives many of our social behaviours and decisions, you only have to ask anybody how did you see the football last night, you know, people have opinions about this club, or that club or the cricket or whatever, there's lots of topics where people will associate themselves with and to gain a sense of belonging. So we have to create that sense of belonging in some way. Even if the behaviour in school challenges what school wants in terms of behaviour, policy, or expectancy in terms of social rights and wrongs, pupils will still adopt the behaviour, if the need to belong is strong enough, it's one of the key things that a teacher has to be very, very careful with. That's why you as a teacher, you must create that sense of belonging, when I used to say to teachers stand at the door, and the face and expressions and your actions have got to say, Welcome to my world. It's exciting, interesting and challenging. But I'll hold your hand all the way. And if we can do that, then we've got a better chance of forming relationships, and improve pupil engagement in learning and reducing conflict.

Simon Currigan  6:38  

So practically, how do you develop that sense of belonging with kids who are opting into groups where the norm is, school isn't for me, what kind of practical things can you say and do

Kevin Hewitson  6:49  

meet up outside the classroom, so it's on neutral territory, almost, you got to think of it that the classroom can be a toxic environment for some pupils actually going in there sets up their anxiety and stress levels, even before they start, it might not need much to kick off. So meet up outside the classroom, be at the point where you'll know kids will pass by, and you can start the engagement in conversation, foster school trips, and take part in school trips. It's one of the great things I mean, the number of times I've taken kids on trips, who the school will say no, you can't take them because their behaviour hasn't been good. You know, you're getting on the school trip. I know the best kids in the world. So I exclude them from it, show them as a positive side to you as well help build that relationship, organise and attend a school event or after school club, we've got to find opportunities to do that. So if you can't, you know, you're not running the After School Club meet and greet in the corridor or in the lunch queue. Just be out and about be that smiley friendly face that is approachable.

Simon Currigan  7:49  

So we're saying you sort of form relationships in the cracks between more formal times those informal spaces, the minute here the minute they're bumping into someone in the corridor? Yeah,

Kevin Hewitson  7:59  

I do want teachers that unlock a glance, a word can turn a kid off forever. So just that kid coming up to you might have took months to approach you. So although these things impact on your time, I think you've got to balance that out against the time spent with dealing with pupils who lack engagement or motivation, or demonstrate poor behaviour is never wasted.

Simon Currigan  8:20  

Okay, so we've covered power, and we've covered belonging, the next part of your framework is C, which stands for choice, why does choice matter? And what do you mean by choice in this context, in the context of the classroom choice is

Kevin Hewitson  8:33  

a difficult one, we need to manage choice, because so much of the teaching and learning environment involves making choices. But these choices are often made in terms of the topic, the content, the delivery, the levels, the pace, the assessment, the seating, the grouping, the guidance, just to name a few. However, things are school or teachers choices are not the choices of the learner. So important lesson to earn is that choice brings consequences, and therefore a sense of responsibility to our actions. That's why we have to build it into the choices we involve the pupils in because once we develop the mechanism for choosing by offering choice, and guiding that choice, we also then develop a sense of responsibility for the choices we make. So choices may help us deal with learning challenges, because it might allow us to take a different course of action.

Simon Currigan  9:28  

Can you give us a practical example of that? Yeah, I

Kevin Hewitson  9:30  

mean, staying with only one way of doing something is limiting. That's true and learning as in any other activity, an example teacher of history, the students who demonstrate they have an understanding of a particular event in history, typical way answer some questions, yeah, test, or they could write an essay. But could we do a newspaper article? Could we record an interview with somebody? So you know, could we produce a play? There are lots of ways we could do that. But that's how has to be carefully managed. I'm gonna give you an example of where a pupil might fail in that because they take choice not understanding the consequences. So David says, All I'll do the videos, because he hates writing doesn't like tests. And so says doing the videos, the easiest way of doing it doesn't understand that involves writing a script and getting to grips with the video equipment and getting people organised to be the right place the right time in order to do it. So after the first interval, where we're doing the signposting, how far have you got, what progress are you making, or have had some difficulties with the camera, you can imagine excuses, which will be trotted out, and we get to the end, and David hasn't got a project, he hasn't got anything to show. So whilst there is options, we can build options in the bill of creativity, we have to be careful that the pupils are aware of the consequences of the choices that they make.

Simon Currigan  10:52  

And I guess as well, because our pressure of time and just the quantity of content teachers have to deliver, we've often strip those choices right back just to get through everything, what we need to do is actually give them the skills to execute on those choices. Plan ahead how to think about those consequences. Know that I need to do a and b before I get to see

Kevin Hewitson  11:12  

Yeah, that's right. And if we don't do it, how can we expect pupils to make good choices later on? Even in life? It's critical for relationship, isn't it? You know, making the right choices in order to stay an extra hour at the pub and have another pint? Or do you go home?

Simon Currigan  11:26  

Okay, so we've looked at power, and we've looked at belonging, and we looked at choice. Finally, F in your framework stands for fun. Can you give me an example of how using fun has helped you improve classroom relationships and the behaviour in the classroom as a result?

Kevin Hewitson  11:40  

Firstly, fun is one of the greatest challenges for teachers a great challenge because they need to associate fun with achievements. And a lot of achievement at the moment is grade level, exam, etc. And these are really alien to learning. So we've got to come back a few steps. And we've got to take the time to associate them with achievement. But teachers are not standard comics, and neither should they be but in many ways, lessons are learning a theatre and we have to remember the elements of fun within theatre, why'd you go to the theatre, you got to be entertained, to be engaged? Well, we want the engagement aspect of that, don't we as teachers, another warning, unless the learner is meeting their need for fun within the lesson with you and with the subject content, then there's an increased possibility that they will search for it elsewhere, we need to have that sense of fun met, especially when we are trying to engage something where we might be nervous or anxious. How individuals will respond to lack of fun or very fun is often the best reason we have for doing something. So my question would be why leave it out at learning.

Simon Currigan  12:52  

And that was Kevin Hewitson discussing the four parts, power, belonging, choice and fun of his framework for building effective relationships and giving examples of how this model can be built into daily classroom life. I put a direct link to Kevin's book if you can't reach them, you can't teach them in the episode description. And if you'd like to hear more information, of course, you can head back to Episode 18. To hear the entire interview. I'll put a direct link to that in the episode description as well. If you've enjoyed listening today, please remember 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. That helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got your podcast app open, remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets

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