Thursday, 7 October 2010

What's The Biggest Bugbear? Oh Dear, Discipline!

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Great word - bugbear!

1580s, a sort of demon in the form of a bear that eats small children, also "object of dread" (whether real or not), from bug (n.) + bear (n)

As I go from school to school I come across the same thing with so many teachers - They love the idea of outdoor learning, love the whole thing - except actually going outside. I used to think it was because of what they rather shame-facedly confided - It's uncomfortable outdoors; the weather's cold, rainy, too hot, too cold, too windy, not windy enough!

But I have my doubts about such admissions. I actually think it is to do with feeling insecure in a variety of ways and the greatest of these is the feeling that Johnny and Adam and Susan too are going to tear away into the distance and throw themselves from the nearest cliff onto the road below, where a bus full of Ofsted inspectors is going to run them over and finally finish them off - with poor Ms White torn somewhere between shouting for help from the top of the cliff and helping Maylene and her best friend Walter finally squeeze into their wellies all the way back at the classroom!

Is that along the lines of it? I ask. Yes, that more or less describes it, I hear.

Everything works absolutely fine so long as you act accordingly. And the way to do that is to give very clear messages that you are in control and can be relied upon at all times.  But not by telling them!Shrieking at the top of your voice as they run over the crest in front of you, that you are in charge and they'd better come back only tells them that you are indeed, not in control at all. The 'messages' need to be practical, convincing and simple. They'll love you for it.

So what about the 'discipline' question then?

No matter how much some of us like to run about and jump up and down with the children, you can't get away from the fact that you are the adult - fun lover or not. In the eyes of the children they expect you to be the one responsible, the leader not the led.

5 Pointers
  1. Be the first out of the door. Be the first into the Outdoor learning Classroom, into the forest clearing. Make it your space into which you welcome them.
  2. Have things ready. This does the same thing as being there first. It shows whose space it is. It's a trritorial statement and one which the children will inconsciously respect. They are honoured by being welcomed into it.
  3. Think of a group of children outside as being like dandelion clock seeds blowing in the wind. If you want to control them you have to catch them as they come to rest. You need to create resting moments when you can catch them. This is why people have em run way and then back (ina thousand variations) It creates a rhythm of expansion - away and contraction - back and then at the point of contraction you have one of those resting moments.  They run up to you with eager anticipation. There's your chance. Show them how to sit, where to sit. Bring a moment of culture into the nature.
  4. Use games to capture their interest. What's a game? Routine, rhythm, rules, boundaries and a journey. Every game is a journey - a metaphor for something deep in our nature as people. Every journey is leading somewhere and children love a game for the security and the reassurance of it. We are getting somewhere.The game leads you to another moment where you can catch them again. Being the master of playing with the rhythm of the class life like this develops deep trust in you by the children. It eliminates the squabbling, bickering and immature, petty competitions of the group. It allows the group to flow and leads them back into being able to play - to explore, to discover and to work.
  5. Listen to the sound of their work and their play. The tones and the volumes will tell you when it is time to draw them in again. Do it before you need to. Practise the return. Reward them for their good work. Send them off again. Listen. Managing a group of children is a musical thing. It has to do with structure and with rhythm. You get a sense for it. You get to trust it. And the children learn it and trust it like a song. Like a well loved game.

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