Dear Mrs Gwennie


If you read my last post, ( you’ll need to go back and read the comment from my dear friend before you read this post. She raises some very important points and this is my reply.

School needs to be a safe place

Absolutely. Every child has the right to feel safe at school. I would never, ever suggest that any child has any responsibility whatsoever to ‘deal’ with violence or bullying or having their belongings destroyed. Sometimes it does work for ‘good’ kids to act as a buddy to one who is struggling, but only in consultation with that child’s parent and only if that child has the internal resilience to cope with that role.

Mumma Bear eyes

My kids are young. Under school age. I have not dealt with this stuff on a very personal level yet. If it were my son being targeted, or witnessing violent outbursts, I’m thinking I’ll be digging my pitchfork out of the garage. That mother love I am sure will dampen down any well intentioned political correctness. As a protective parent (like Gwennie), my job is to protect my children and I’ll do that with every last breath. When it comes to my kids, it’s my job to be their Mum, not to do my other job.

I wonder if the school environment is the best place to be 

It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that we started to change the way we thought about people with disabilities and their right to access education in a mainstream environment. We built ramps, Special Education Units, changed the curriculum, educated ourselves about disabilities and changed our teaching strategies. We don’t worry nowadays that our kids will be ‘exposed’ to ‘those kids’, and our kids know that the world is filled with different people who can do different things in different ways. Those kids are not hidden away and the sun kept on rising and setting. It’s not always successful but we have a legal and ethical obligation to provide the best opportunity for children with disabilities to do what all the other kids their age are doing. All children have the right to education, but sometimes the school environment is not right for them at that time, so we have the option of Special Schools.

I look forward to the day when we think about behaviour in the same way. When kids with behaviour support needs have their emotional ramp and are not isolated even more than they already are. How? If I had a tidy answer to that I’d be getting paid a lot more than I currently am. I am only one person with only a few ideas. I need the whole village to be in on this. For what it’s worth, here are the ideas I’m currently working on.

Teach protective behaviours, resilience and empathy

There is so much out there that can help. From recognising signs of stress in your own body, to practicing talking about things, to understanding other cultures. Talking about friendships and role playing problems in friendships is a great way of teaching social problem solving to your kids. Just google ‘protective behaviours’ as a start. This kind of teaching can help the ‘good’ kids understand and cope with experiencing the world as it is, confronting and different.

Do not excuse bad behaviour
I work with it every day and we do not allow the kids to just ‘get away’ with it. There are natural consequences for all behaviour, and the child and parent must talk it through with us. As hard as it often is, I try to sit them down and acknowledge the impact of their behaviour. But this often fails because the child simply cannot talk about feelings, their own or someone else’s. There should still be the same consequences as everyone else for extreme behaviour, but it can still be delivered in a way that doesn’t leave the child feeling worthless.
School Wide, Positive Behaviour Support
This is what I am talking about in my post ‘Behaviour’. We HAVE to teach behaviour. We have to. We have to teach it, reinforce it, understand it, do whatever we can to prevent what we don’t want to see and celebrate it when they get it right.
Sometimes, school is not the right environment and the child really does need to be somewhere else. But this should be an absolute last resort. Taking away a child’s right to education is very serious business.

We had a new boy in our centre today. I had the same reaction I have every time. Wanted to give him a cuddle (but didn’t). In a week’s time, he may well be throwing furniture, using truck driver level language and twitching at the corner of the mouth, but today was honeymoon day. He was lovely. And out there somewhere is probably a Mumma Bear with her pitchfork wanting the kid OUT. And all power to her, as Mumma Bear, that’s her job. But this kid may or may not have a Mumma Bear with the inner strength, loving energy and confidence that you have Mrs Gwenie. So he needs, and has the right, to have someone else fight for him to be understood.


One response »

  1. Thank you Pet, that has certainly cleared things up a little.

    My experience as you know was a poor one and is what I base my comments on. Our previous shcool had what seemed to be an unsatifactory behaviour managment plan. There were 7 steps to deal with inappropriate behaviour which most of the kids usually pulled themselves back in line by step 2. But for the other kids, it meant being put outside, then moved to another classroom, then up to the principal and so on and so forth. What I have found since moving schools is that a proactive principal with strong leadership, who gets involved and supports his staff seems to be a key factor. And at the risk of sounding sexist, a male principal seems to go a long way to helping too. As you said, some kids don’t appear to have positive male role models in their lives, so a strong male principal seems to be a great start.

    I’ve seen first hand how the school system can fail both the kids that need extra support and help, as well as the kids and families who do their best to do the right thing every day. I’ve seen them struggle to deal with the issues, dismiss parent concerns and appear to all but ignore the problem time and time again. It’s incredibly frustrating when it seems as though everyone is sitting on their hands, pretending and hoping the problem will disapate on it’s own. Of course it doesn’t. Then as a parent who gets dismissed, you learn to shut you mouth and put up with it all. Either that or leave for another school, which I painfully made the decision to do and it tormented me for ages. Although things are a lot better at our new school, I still see difficult kids being managed poorly. I’ve seen older teachers use old school methods of shouting, humiliation, intimidation and isolation, which doesn’t work either. This is what I based my comment of ‘is school the right environment’, because more often than not, there doesn’t seem to be the skills or resources to cope with kids with behaviour needs appropriately. These teachers are wonderful and giving women who are just spent and can’t cope with difficule behaviour. I suspect my experiences aren’t unique and it happens quite a lot.

    But I understand now why we need to do better and the system needs to do better. It’s not the kids faults, it never is. All children need love and respect. Sometimes though it’s hard enough to find the energy to get through the day and deal with your own crap without having to also find extra energy and tollerence for others who need it too.

    I also concede that I may be turning into one of those helicopter parents who hovers constantly trying to protect my child from all danger. When in fact he is probably more resilliant than I give him credit for and perhaps deals better with these types of situations than I do. I don’t doubt that these issues are more my own than those of my child. Perhaps in teaching my child to cope better, I too can teach myself.

    Thanks Petal, Love you heaps.

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