Reducing challenging behaviour in the classroom
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.22
In these ever-changing times for education, we are seeing the emergence of more challenging and complex student needs. With that comes a range of behaviour management programs to support teachers and students.
There's Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL), Essential Skills for Classroom Management (ESCMs), Classroom Profiling, and Bill Rogers’ Behaviour Management, just to name a few, all incorporating a range of strategies and techniques to help reduce disruptive and challenging behaviours in classrooms.
As teachers, we differentiate teaching and learning strategies and innovate to keep students focused. We continue to learn and undertake extensive professional development to ensure that our students have the best education we can provide.
In my classroom, building relationships played a major role in positive outcomes. My mantra at the start of the year was always “Connection before Curriculum”! We know that the majority of students find success in a mainstream classroom, but what can we do for students with additional needs (or SWANS as I like to call them), those students who just need a little extra?
Back in 2018, while I was teaching in Far North Queensland, our school realised we needed to do things differently, because our school was different. It had an ICSEA rating of 764, with 70 per cent of students being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, 18 per cent refugees and 9 per cent Pacific Islanders and other nationalities. For some students, suspension levels were rising, with engagement and attendance levels falling. Continual suspensions simply did not work. We were doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. As a staff, we came together and united for change. We had to think outside the box. We needed a program that individualised and tailored programs to help these students succeed.
After many meetings between the school and the region, our application to champion the region’s #whatever_it_takes priority was successfully resourced. In 2019, as part of the school’s student engagement explicit improvement strategy, the alternative learning program, better known as “The Hub”, was created.
The Hub, facilitated by a teacher and three aides, delivered approaches to the curriculum in response to students’ individual learning, behavioural, social and wellbeing needs, using trauma informed practices in a supportive environment outside of the regular classroom.
The program was guided by five strategies which positioned the school to innovate and to meaningfully engage with families.
- Family first – strong connected relationships were crucial
- Story matters – allocated time to listen and unpack individual stories
- Permission to innovate – whole school social-skilling program
- It takes a village – 27 external agencies providing programs and support, including a pediatrician on-site
- 100 per cent the best – weekly opportunities for training, development, and staff capability.
Support provisions for students included cooking, art, bike shed, gardening, robotics, sewing and sport. After breakfast, the morning would start with a yarn circle, a chance to talk about the different issues happening at the time and the day ahead.
Students ranged from prep to year 6 and access to the program was individualised. Some students came for one session a day, a few days a week, while others participated full-time. However, the highlight of the week was Friday, when students were able to “connect to Country” and to participate in a range of activities on Country. This gave staff and students a real sense of grounding.
The last two years of teaching in The Hub were among my most challenging yet rewarding experiences. Teaching in that setting was a privilege, maximising outcomes by connecting with students and the community to build strong and supportive relationships.
In its State Budget Submission 2021-2022, the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) re-affirms the need for alternative education programs and calls on the Queensland Government to resource the establishment of 25 positive learning centres (PLCs) across the state to support students and their families in achieving their education goals. We shall continue to lobby for these alternatives, because every teacher and every student deserves a great day at school.