Here’s the best thing that happened to me today:
I’ve got this young bloke in my sub school, for now let’s call him Mike (not his real name). Mike’s in Year 4. Mike is well known to all staff and students at school, mainly for his high behavioural needs. You see, Mike doesn’t have a lot of boundaries in his life outside of school. Subsequently, when Mike attends he can be quite a handful with his behaviour. Even though our paths cross regularly (as Mike’s individual behaviour management plan dictates) and I usually have to be the bad cop, I like Mike and I’m pretty sure Mike likes me too.
Mike’s not too keen on specialist subjects. Since we only have Art/Phys Ed/Music/Library once a week it’s difficult for the teachers of those subjects to build rapport with Mike. As a result, I’m often called to lend a hand during those lessons if Mike’s behaviour has escalated to the point where it’s impossible for the teacher to deliver his/her lesson to the 23 other kids in Mike’s class. When you factor in that today was the first day back following two weeks of school holidays (largely unstructured for Mike), I wasn’t surprised at all to receive a message saying that Mike wasn’t too keen on doing the right thing during Music in Period 4.
When I caught up with Mike just outside the Music room he had just yelled and swore at the teacher and kicked a wheelie bin over. He’d also decided to take his shirt off and was rather agitated about the whole experience of being in Music. Mike probably thought he was going to get a serve from me or taken to the office or whatever. Instead I got out my phone and asked him if he’d ever seen a 1.32m barra. I then showed him a pic of one (caught by another young bloke and a mate of mine on the holidays) and then we talked for a bit. I told him I had a go at catching mud crabs during the holidays; He told me he got a turtle and a salmon when he was out bush; I showed him a picture of a 5 metre salt-water croc we saw on a tour boat; He told me that it was really only little and that he’d hunted (and caught, apparently!) much bigger before.
After a little while, I suggested we have a go at going back into Music. He said that he’d like to. So he put his shirt back on and we went in to the Music room. The Music teacher, realising that Mike probably wasn’t going to join in the recorder ensemble, asked if we’d like to play the electronic drums for a while. We said yes. And then for the next 20 minutes Mike bashed out a whole heap of beats, and released a fair bit of tension at the same time. I took a Vine of him, shared hear as a manually looped YouTube clip. Mike was pretty happy with the results when I showed him: Afterwards we did two pages of his CVC words English workbook, which was more work than he’d done in the 3 hours before Music. Then I went back to admin duties and he went to lunch.
Making connections, winning over, building rapport. Whatever your terminology for it, I experienced a bit of it with Mike today. Relationships are everything in this job – Without them, the prospect of education for kids like Mike barely exists. Even with the exponential growth in the use of ICT in schools, it’s the people-type skills that are important as ever.
And just in case you wanted to see the 1.32m barra (aka ‘horsefish’) or the 5m salty (Brutus the Croc from Adelaide River, NT), here they are…