‘X is for… (e)Xercise’

After an extended break from my usual exercise routine as a result of a significant injury followed by the contracting whooping cough which lead to getting out of the habit of regular activity I feel compelled to write this post after getting back to the gym, on the bike, in the pool and out running again.

It all began after expressing my disappointment with my supervisor about feeling flat and low after having yet another cold towards the end of last term. Her response to me was a clever one; she asked what it was that I would recommend to someone who came to see me with the same concerns as the ones I was expressing – what strategies could I implement to increase my feelings of wellbeing?

The answer to me was obvious – getting more exercise. Not only would this most likely boost my immunity it would also give me the opportunity to connect with nature, clear my mind, reconnect with friends as well as improving my fitness and sleep.

Having only exercised sporadically my return to an exercise routine was deliberately tapered but I’m pleased to say that 12 weeks later I am enjoying a number of the benefits of having made the effort to exercise again. Riding my bike the 12 kms each way to school has been my favourite way to incorporate exercise in to my work days and has been great. I really enjoy the ride to and from the school through mostly quiet and pretty suburban back streets between my home and the school where I’m working. I need to get up earlier to ride my bike in but I definitely don’t miss being stuck in city traffic and amazingly it only adds an extra 15 minutes to my travel time. I also really enjoy the experience of being outdoors and feeling the wind in my face.

I have also taken advantage of an offer which my current school offers, a subsidised gym membership. As a way to encourage staff to remain physically fit and healthy the offer is a subsidy of $77 per term. Initially I thought this was a phenomenal outlay but once I did some quick sums discovered that the cost to the school for a year’s worth of subsidies per staff member was actually less than the cost of a relief or casual teacher wage (per day) so it’s actually a sound investment, especially if those staff who take up the offer and engage in regular physical activity are healthier, happier and more productive in their jobs.

Especially with the improvement in weather at this time of year I really recommend seeing if it’s at all possible to incorporate some exercise into your commute to and from work. Some tips I’ve learnt through trial and error include:

–        Planning – your route (the shortest route may not be the safest or prettiest), change of clothes, breakfast (will you have it before you leave or when you get to where you’re going?)

–        Hygiene – are there showers you can use if you happen to arrive all sweaty? Remember deodorant too!

–        Transport of materials to and from work – the last thing you want is to sustain an injury from carrying a heavy bag too far. Can you take food, changes of clothes and shoes on one day and keep them at work for when you need them? What about marking? HOT TIP – a rear basket is marvellous!

Regardless of your commute to and from work, now that the weather’s improving and the days are longer, I think that now is the best time of year to be getting out and enjoying it. The mental and emotional benefits are significant! What exercise are you able to engage in during term time and how do you find it affects your lifestyle?

Dobbing VS Reporting

dobbing versus reportingAlthough we want our students to be well connected and have a solid social foundation and network at school, the allegiance they can have for their peers can sometimes be detrimental, especially when the result is adults not knowing that their children/students are engaging in some inappropriate or dangerous activities. I understand this reluctance to tell on friends and to potentially get them into trouble because of the perception that it could destabilise the relationship. This is especially the case between girls where trust is the foundation of all friendships. However I’ve seen time and time again how adhering to this unwritten code can lead to serious outcomes for students which could have been prevented if some adult support had been sought before things went too far.

So what to do about this issue? Today whilst perusing some Child Protection material I found a possible solution.

We all know about those students who seek an adult at any and every opportunity to tell them about what other people are doing wrong. Often called dobber cats or tattle tales, these children tend to annoy other students (their telling on others can and often does fracture relationships) and they can be perceived by teachers as lacking resilience because they have not yet developed the skills to at least have a go at sorting out their problems themselves. Such children may present as needy, anxious and/or dependent and attention seeking/needing. I would think that what we want to develop in students is the ability for them to at least attempt a number of assertive strategies to solve conflict with others before seeking adult support and assistance.

Reporting on the other hand is a different story. I would expect teachers to report an occupational health and safety hazard if they came across one, with the intention being quick action resulting to reduce the chance anyone coming to any harm. Using this term reporting (or getting adult assistance or support) is a more useful way to frame telling as it implies an intention to make things safer and improve outcomes for others. Giving children the responsibility to report issues (especially as they relate to the safety of themselves or others) can be a really useful way to alleviate anxieties about disclosing information about peer behaviour to adults.

When disclosures have been made its important to thank the child for taking the risk and the time to do what they consider to be the right thing and also (if possible) to maintain an air of confidentiality in regards to the source of information when speaking when the other student/s involved. Doing so has the potential to reduce the levels of harm that could unfold and also protect the relationship between the students from deteriorating.

What is your experience of student loyalty and the unwritten codes they abide by? Do you have any thoughts or ideas about how to best manage this common issue in schools? You might also want to share what the unwritten laws were for you when you were at school. Have things really changed that much since then I wonder? How?

Punishment VS Consequence


Let’s just say I’ve had an interesting week.

Without going in to details I spent A LOT of time (more than I do most days) working through an issue with a number of year 4 boys. I was shocked to learn as my investigations developed that not one of the students I worked with had told an adult what was happening for fear of the ‘punishment’ they thought they would receive and the ‘trouble’ they thought they’d get into. The sad reality that for one boy, some serious trouble has occurred, some seriously bad trouble which could have been avoided if only one of his peers had spoken out and got some support in managing the situation in its earlier stages.

What none of the students seemed aware of was the difference between consequence and punishment. As I often work with staff who seem to also confuse the two I ‘m hoping the information below might provide a useful reference for staff wanting to improve their practice and behaviour support skills and/or support parents with managing their children’s behaviour at home.

So let’s start with punishment…

Punishment is something that someone (usually in a position of authority or power) imposes upon another. It usually involves shame or humiliation and to me implies an element of pain or suffering with the most obvious punishment that springs to mind being smacking. The child’s behaviour doesn’t necessarily cease because of an understanding about why it is wrong, but can change instead as a result of wanting to avoid it. Punishment is often considered by those who receive it to be illogical and unfair and teaches the child to be fearful and afraid.

As opposed to consequences…

Consequences on the other hand occur when rules which have been explicitly discussed (and which everybody involved is aware of) are broken. They are the natural solution to a problem that should make the situation better. Examples include replacing something that has been broken, apologising to someone who has been hurt or removing graffiti from a wall. It provides an opportunity for the person who has wronged to make things right in a safe environment and gives the child an opportunity to learn from their mistakes (because in schools we are after all working with children who are as busy learning about appropriate social behaviour as they are learning how to read and count).

In addition, logical consequences allow children to take responsibility for their behaviour without being fearful of getting punished or in trouble which means they are much more likely to tell the truth about their involvement in an issue. If we are wanting to teach children about the importance of both being honest and from leaning from their mistakes then applying logical consequences when set rules are broken is the best way to achieve this.

Sometimes children may say you are punishing them when you impose a consequence. The reality is that they may perceive it that way which is why it’s so important to remain calm and even kind (firm but fair) when working through issues where rules have been broken. Useful ways to quash this perception is to explicitly tell children that you are not angry (instead I say I am concerned). I also ask them to tell me how they know that I am not angry (they invariably say because of the tone of my voice and my facial gestures) and to involve children in the process determining what the consequences of their behaviour should be. You may find (as I have over the years) that children are often much harsher on themselves than they need to be which I find is interesting in and of itself.

What logical consequences does your site use to support behaviour issues as they exist at your school? And what punishments do you see imposed which cause more harm than good? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.