Over the years, people have commented on how calm my classroom appears to be. Believe me, I don’t feel that they are anywhere near as calm as I would like them to be at times…
However, I have been reflecting recently on why this might be, and what it is I do when working in a special classroom. These are in no particular order.
Keep these as simple as possible. For many years, my class rules have been ‘Kind, Quiet, Work’, and that goes for the adults in the room too!
Easier said than done, particularly when Mary is trying to throttle Joe, but resist the desire to shout, unless it’s as a safety warning (e.g. ‘That’s hot, put it down’). It doesn’t help students who are probably already feeling anxious, and a stream of angry shouting about why you shouldn’t throw your shoes is not going to sink in.
Mind your language
If you are working with students who have functional understanding at a two or three word level, then that is how much information you should be giving them at a time. If Shane has been acting in an inappropriate manner, it is better to say ‘No, don’t touch Sam’s bottom’, rather than giving a long list of why it is inappropriate and what dire consequences may occur.
Also, be wary of a students’ processing time, and avoid repeating instructions over and over, as this will act to ‘reset’ the instruction, taking longer for it to be followed.
Where you have one or two students who find learning difficult and so display some challenging behaviours, it is better to try and remove that particular child from the classroom and to a safe space/outdoor area while they calm down. This means that the rest of the students can stay in their known classroom and get back to the work that has been set without having to walk the corridors looking for another available learning space.
Catch them being good
Goes without saying, doesn’t it? Lots of praise for all sorts of things builds positive relationships which you can then build on further. Students (and adults!) love being told that they are doing a ‘good job’.
Have consistent expectations
Don’t let a student learn that kicking off will get them out of their least favourite activities. If Joan is going to hide under the table every time it’s class reading (even though she is very good at reading), calling you all the names under the sun, work with others who are doing what they are supposed to be doing, while reminding Joan at appropriate intervals that it is time for reading, and when she is ready you will come and work with her.
Establish routines, and stick to them. This helps when support staff (or the teacher) is away, in that students will know what is going to happen, regardless of who is in the room. It might be a routine for the way lessons go, the morning/afternoon ‘circle time’ and/or getting ready to go home at the end of the day.