Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Circle of Security Professional Development Day

Recently, the staff of Sacred Heart attended a valuable PD facilitated by our school social worker, Hilary Campos. The PD was based on the relationship-based program currently offered to our parent community called the Circle of Security.  The purpose of the PD was to form a better understanding of how we, as educators, can attend to children’s needs and offer security and emotional support.  It quickly became apparent how the principles of the Circle of Security highly complement our school’s Circle of Courage, which is embedded into our school’s vision to promote a sense of belonging. Our participation in the PD is instrumental in supporting our parent community as they attend to the needs of their children. 

It’s helpful at this point to look at the research that underpins the importance of creating secure children.  Hilary shared that secure children are more able to:

enjoy more happiness with their parents/caregivers/teachers
have increased empathy
solve problems on their own
get along better with friends
have lasting friendships
have higher self-esteem
know that most problems will have an answer
trust that good things will come their way
trust the people they love
know how to be kind to others around them. 
(Circle of Security, 1999)

With the above reasons in mind, we enthusiastically set out to develop our understanding of how we can help provide more secure children.

The PD centred on the Circle of Security, which looked at providing a secure base that supports children’s exploration, as well as a safe haven for children to return to as needed.  The below diagram was presented to staff so that we could better understand the relationship between these factors and how they influence each other.  

The Circle of Security is pertinent to our role as teachers.  We want to support our students in their exploration of learning and in their relationships with others. However, we also want to provide “safe hands” whenever they need it.  Fundamental to implementing the Circle of Security is the ability to identify the needs of the child.  The Circle of Security aims to help us to identify the particular need/s of the child in a given situation and whether we need to follow the child’s need or take charge.  A big part of being able to recognise children’s needs is to learn to stand back and watch oneself and the child.  It is important to not just look at what is happening but to actually see as well.  I found this crucial to my role as a teacher, as it requires me to analyse, understand and reflect on why a student is doing and not doing something and how this relates to the student's needs, so that I can better provide for my students’ emotional needs. As such, it highlights the need for me to look beyond a student’s immediate behaviour to meet his/her relationship needs with peers and teachers and to connect with students on a deeper level.

A great amount of learning took place at the PD. Overall, the knowledge gained, in addition to our school’s current social skills program, will help us as teachers to promote healthy emotional development, enhance students’ relationships, help build resiliency in our students, increase co-operation and optimise learning. 

The 3 pivotal messages that we took from the day, are: 

1. Be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind when supporting children’s security. 
2. Whenever possible, follow the child’s need and;
3. Whenever necessary, take charge.

We would like to thank Hilary Campos, our school social worker, for her leadership and expertise, and for providing an inspiring PD.  I am looking forward to applying the principles of Circle of Security to the classroom.

Carolyn Perlini
Year 2 Teacher

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Yet More Stories from the Circle of Security ~ 6th September

Wednesday evening was our final workshop - and work we did! The nature of the work required us to reflect, consider, acknowledge and then discover there is not just one option of how to respond to our children but many. Over the last week members of our group considered their children’s expressed behaviours and emotions that triggered their “Shark Music” (refer to More stories from the Circle of Security ~ 30th August ).

We watched clips from Romulus, My Father – adapted from the book by the same name written by the writer and philosopher Raimond Gaita.  After the death of his father, Raimond Gaita wrote his boyhood memories in his attempt to recount and understand both his mother and father’s struggle to be the best parents they could be given their circumstances.  Migrants to Australia in the 1950s, his parents struggled to adapt, manage and thrive in their new country.  We see their love for Raimond, and we see their limitations.
We see a father who, at times, used fear in order to instill obedience in Raimond.  This was the way of parenting he had learnt from his parents.  When the little boy did not tell the truth about stealing his razor his father beat him “for his own good”.  We see his mother suffer sadness and depression who, as a result, was often unable to be the grown up and look after her children.

Raimond experienced a style of parenting that involved meanness and weakness at the times his parents were struggling with their own demons from their past.  In other words, they were at times unable to “BE WITH” their son’s feelings of anger, sadness and shame because they were struggling with their own fears.  They were hearing their Shark Music at full volume. Raimond was left to organise his own feelings and often had to be the “Parent” of his parents.

The research is clear that a fear based relationship with the main caregiver/parent does much more harm to children than it prevents. We as parents were once children.  Our knowledge of how to be a parent comes from our experiences of being parented and from other adults who play a key role in our lives.  We know that our parents did the very best they could with what knowledge and experience they had. 

Ideas, laws and attitudes change over time and differ from place and between cultures.   What was acceptable as a method of parenting during one generation will alter to the next.  A thrashing with a cane administered by a teacher to a child was once regarded as reasonable behaviour management. It is now recognised as child abuse and reflected in law as such.

We talked about the importance of reflection.  Imagine how it might feel for our children to be on the receiving end of our words and actions when our Shark Music is triggered? Frightening.

We want our children to fear danger, not us. The more we know and reflect upon our fear, the easier it is to choose security.  When we can recognise our own struggles and seek help and support from another safe adult or professional, we are more likely to reflect and make changes that benefit our children rather than act-out our fear.

The Circle of Security is more about learning a way of being than a series of techniques.  When our children act out, they are actually trying to get help managing their genuine needs.  Underneath the challenging behaviour, a child is saying: “I need you and I don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling.”  

The quality of a relationship is the solution and to have this quality we need to be ready to repair any rupture.  If we consider a child’s behaviour is like a smoke alarm, we may grab the fire extinguisher and hose off the alarm when it goes off, by which time the kitchen might have burnt down.  What if your child’s difficult behaviour is an alarm trying to alert you to what they really need?

When we see our child as the problem, we take our hands off the “circle” and leave our child without “hands” to help them organise their feelings.  Children don’t feel secure because we never make mistakes. What makes children feel secure is the knowledge that when we make mistakes they can be repaired. Just imagine a time when you were upset and without any support and then a time when you felt understood and helped.

“Time Out “is often used as a punishment but in the Circle of Security we learn that “Time Out” is for us as adults to calm down.  Children learn best when they feel calm, safe and securely connected. Discipline is about helping children learn to make better choices not about making them feel bad.

So if “Time Out” is for us, it is a way of preparing “ Time In” for our children.  In this calm connection we can help our children have a learning moment not a lecturing one.  If there has been a rupture, we need to take responsibility for our part and help our children see what went wrong for them.  By reflecting with our children on behaviours and feelings, we can learn how to do it differently next time. With “Time Ins”, like many things worth learning, the first 500 times are always the hardest.  

I think the Circle of Security has provided the parents who attended time to reflect and consider what they see in a different way.  My advice is to talk with those parents and ask them how it has helped them to connect with their children and improve the quality of their relationship in safety and security.

Maybe you are ready to sign up for the next series of Workshops in Term 4.  I hope so! 

Hilary Campos
SHPSH Social Worker                

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

More Stories from the Circle of Security ~ 30th August

As the week draws to a close I reflect upon my work across my four schools.

I met with parents for a final workshop;  a reunion of parents who have completed the workshops in term two;  and on Wednesday evening met with parents here at Sacred Heart for our third workshop. I am excited to hear that children are noticing a difference in their parents!

Some comments from our wise little ones:
“I’m glad you went on that course Mummy, you’re much nicer now.”
“Dad didn’t shout once whilst you were away Mum.”
“It’s more peaceful and you’re not all shouty now Mummy.” 

Parents say they have been putting into practice the things they have learnt from the Circle of Security and guess what……….as they change their responses to what they see……..they witness change in their children’s responses. The outcome is different.

This week we learnt about “Shark Music” and yes it has got to do with “Jaws”. We watched a movie clip of a beautiful ocean scene on a sunny day.  The camera led us down a leafy track to a welcoming beach of warm sand and an inviting sea.  The background music was uplifting and quite delightful. We then watched the same movie clip, this time with the theme tune of the film “Jaws” playing in the background. 

We discussed how we felt as we watched the first clip and then noticed any changes in our feelings whilst watching the second clip .For the first clip, I heard “Peaceful, happy, relaxed, lovely day, no worries” . Words such as “ anxious, cautious, alert” were shared in relation to the second clip.“ I was worried someone was going to jump out of the bushes.”  It was difficult to believe the clip was exactly the same, only the music had been altered in each of the clips.

What has this got to do with us being a safe haven where we can delight in our children and from where our children can go out to explore and return for comfort, protection and receive help to organise their feelings? 

Well, sometimes, there are certain needs that our children express which trigger uncomfortable feelings in us. This is when we hear our” Shark Music”. For example, it’s the weekend.  You have a little bit of time to “Be With” your child before you move on to the next job.  You are curled up on the sofa, reading and watching your child play with her toys by your feet.  It is peaceful , so are you and your little one is happy . This is like clip one.  Your music is likely to be melodic, gentle and soothing.

However,  your little one cannot get her toy to do what she wants it to do.  She cries.  You don’t respond straightaway thinking she will be all right in a minute.  She isn’t.  The crying persists and gets louder and louder.

Cue your “ Shark Music”.  You are triggered and the scary movie begins. You are distressed and very uncomfortable and have to put a stop to the crying, by whatever means you have.

Clip two has begun.  Even though it is still the safe, happy scene from clip one, now your “Shark Music”  has begun to play you have lost sight of clip one.

It is important for us to recognise when our “Shark Music “ is triggered.

 Some parents struggle with “Being With” their sad child.

“ Don’t be sad, there is nothing to be sad about.”
“ If you are sad you will make me sad.”
“Stop it now otherwise I will give you something to cry about.”  
We often ask our children how they  feel  and then if it is a feeling we think they “shouldn't” feel   or we feel guilty because we think we might be the cause of this feeling, we tell them not to feel this way.

Then again, we may struggle with “Being With” our child when she/he is angry, in shame, frightened, curious or even in joy.

We “cue “ and “ miscue” each other throughout the day within our relationships.
For example: You are looking forward to seeing your child as you go to the child care.  When you get there, your child cues you with a big smile so you hold out your arms as a cue to come in for a hug.
You are looking forward to seeing your daughter as you go to the childcare.  When you get there, your child looks up and says, “I’m having fun.” And returns to the game.  Hearing your “Shark Music” you think your child is rejecting you, so you miscue her and turn away.

One of the primary purposes of the Circle of Security is to help our children learn what is safe and what is dangerous.

When we meet our children’s needs for exploration, we allow them to be separate from us. When we welcome them back for comfort and for help in organising their feelings, our child learns to fear danger and that is a good thing.

When our “ Shark Music” limits us and our children learn to fear either separation , closeness or both, our child is unlikely to feel connected to us or secure or confident that we are the grown ups.

The good news is that once we know what “ Shark Music” is and when it is triggered, we can then learn how to soothe and cope with our discomfort and still be able to be the bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder adult. 

That’s all for now folks. Listen out for Jaws and remember to turn onto a new channel. It’s never too late to change and we can choose to ask for help . 

We may be the grown-ups but we also need to experience other grown-ups “ Being With” us if we are to be able to “ Be With” our children.  
Hilary Campos
SHPSH Social Worker

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Techniques and Strategies to Reinforce Social Skills

Over the past few weeks in Year 2, we have been focusing on the school social skill: Encouraging Others.  To begin with, we taught the skill using the Y chart strategy outlined in A Clear Method for Teaching Social Skills.  Following a class discussion, the students made turtles to record their responses to the Y chart headings to demonstrate their understanding of what Encouraging Others looks like, sounds like and feels like. Below is a photo of the finished turtleswhich are currently displayed in our classroom.

We recognise that social skills take time to master and students need to have plenty of opportunities to practice skills. We have been working on a number of strategies to reinforce the Encouraging Others social skill in Year 2, which are outlined below.

Role Play -   Role-play is an excellent teaching strategy with many benefits including:
  • engages students
  • makes learning meaningful and relevant
  • builds confidence and;
  • teaches empathy.  
Our students have been involved in creating short role-plays that demonstrate how to encourage others, which they then presented to the class. They did a fabulous job!

A few tips to offer regarding using role-play with students are:
  • model role-play for the students
  • for the more reluctant role-players, do the first few role-plays in front of small groups of children (i.e., a smaller audience).
  • reassure students that all performances will be appreciated and respected and;
  • practice makes perfect: role plays are made for repetition.
Circle Time - A feature of our classroom environment is Circle Time. Positioning the students in a circle instantly creates a sense of community.  In Year 2 we use Circle Time to share and discuss thoughts, feelings and ideas.  The social skill Active Listening, the first ever social skill we taught to our Year 2 students, has lead our students to be respectful of the speaker and understand what it means to be a good audience member, as well as being proficient at taking turns.  In our most recent Circle Time session we asked our students to give examples of some of the comments they would hear, or have heard, from teachers and students encouraging others.  We passed "George", our class dragon, around the circle. Each student gave George an encouraging comment. 

Using naturally occurring incidents to reinforce certain skills - We recognise the importance of social skills being reinforced in authentic situations.  For this reason, we encourage our students to demonstrate the skill Encouraging Others throughout the day, in and out of the classroom. We regularly invite the students to share “success stories” of when they have 1) demonstrated a taught social skill and 2) witnessed others demonstrating the social skill.  In preparation of our upcoming school sports carnival, we have been practising the team sports as a whole-class. This has provided an excellent opportunity to practice the encouraging others skill and praise students’ efforts when they do.

As can been seen above, there are number of strategies we use to help reinforce social skills with our students.  We endeavour to teach and reinforce social skills in a supportive, fun and engaging way. We try to always think “social skills” in our interactions with our students in and out of the classroom. We are looking forward to trying new techniques and building our repertoire of strategies. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Stories from The Circle of Security ~ 7th August

On the 7th August, on a Wednesday Winter’s evening, a group of parents met with me for the first Circle of Security Workshop.  Even better, they returned the following Wednesday evening.  We have a break this week and then two more sessions together.

Guess what – We are all “hardwired” to feel secure, this need for secure relationships is “built in” to our most important interactions throughout every hour of every day.

The Circle of Security is a relationship based parenting/caregiver programme developed by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper and Bert  Powell.  They are three of the originators of COS which is internationally acclaimed.  I was lucky enough to be trained by Bert when he came over from the USA at the beginning of this year.

Two important messages from our first session:

“All my child needs is for me to be good enough” which means there is room to make mistakes in parenting.

“It’s never too late” which means as we learn new ways of parenting, good things will happen for both our child and ourselves.

The best way to understand our child’s needs is to follow their lead; to watch and to see.  Sounds simple but with the help of our smartboard – looking at lots of children and parents together on a big screen -  we learnt how easy it is to “miss” the things we don’t know we are looking for.  A child’s needs may be hidden in the everyday rush and bother of parenting. COS is about helping parents to know what to look for, and so more importantly, once we know what we are looking for, we can easily see it.

I hope using clips from some selected movies helped.  However, it did involve looking at the clothes I used to wear in the early 1980’s.  Kraemer V Kraemer.  How young  - Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep!  How old I have become! But with the years may there also be stores of wisdom gathering in my brain matter to share with you all.

COS is about seeing the importance of being a secure base and safe haven for our child. When this is a constant that is reliable, a child can go out on the top of our circle to explore with curiosity.  We can allow this child to do this by delighting in them, enjoy with them their exploration.  We can also learn to be at the bottom of the circle when they need to come back to us for reassurance, comfort and protection.

These circles of learning are going on all the time between all humans. On and off, up and down, round and round the circle.  And so we now talk about ”Circle Stories” at our workshop.

Sometimes a child will behave in ways that challenge us and it looks and sounds as if they are deliberately winding us up, are being nasty, attention seeking and sometimes plain horrible.

This is when they are saying but not in words “help me organize my feelings, please because I can’t do it on my own.  I don’t know what I feel.  I am frightened of these feelings and they keep changing.  I need my cup filled.   I need your safe reliable hands.  I need you to “be with me”, so that when these particular feelings  build up and become intense, I will have you by my side as subside and I will survive them with your help.”

It probably doesn’t feel like this as the parent on the receiving end of a child yelling, kicking and screaming and maybe even saying “I hate you”.   At these times it is easy to forget we are the grown-ups.   We may be expecting our little ones to articulate their needs and feelings in words.  Is it really likely or realistic to expect our child to say something like this:-

“Dear Mummy, I know that you have a very busy working day today and you need me to be mindful of this.  I will notice you are becoming anxious and stressed . I will realize that the last phone call was from the child minder ,saying she cannot pick me up from school.  I will know, you have to go shopping after work and cannot do it before picking me and my younger brothers up and so we will have to come shopping too.  I will know that you will be dreading this because we will be tired and hungry and so we will probably misbehave.  I also know that Daddy told you earlier this morning as he was leaving for work that he won’t be home until late tonight.  And so Mummy, I am so sorry for not getting dressed quick enough and helping my brothers.  I am so sorry for day dreaming and I know that my yelling is giving you a head ache.   I will change my behavior straight away and put my need for help and support away because right now you need me to think and act like a grown up even though I am 7 years old.”

Our children need us to be “Bigger, stronger, wiser and kind”.  Whenever possible: follow my child’s need.  Whenever necessary: take charge.

This is what we are learning about.  We can only use the skills we have in our social skills tool kit.  It’s a bit like trying to unblock the toilet u bend without one of those wonderful plungers.  If we don’t have our tools with us or we only have broken ones that can’t do the job, we have to make the best of it.  We all do the best we can with what we have and so it makes sense to fill up our tool kit with new, reliable tools of quality.

If we have learnt that to let someone know we are angry we need to yell and that is all we have then that is what we will keep doing.  If we keep doing this then our child learns this “skill” and puts it in their tool kit.  How wonderful to find some new tools.

COS helps us to reflect upon our own experiences of being parented. It gives us clues as to why we might find certain emotions expressed by our children difficult to manage.  It is not about blaming our parents but about understanding they too did the best they could with the skills they were given.  Self-reflection is a major part of this workshop.  We do lots of watching, thinking and sharing.

Yes, our children seek our attention because they have needs to relay to us.  When this is done in a kind, appropriate way we usually respond positively but sometimes a child may not be able to put into words what they need.  They may act out in an unsafe way.  Remember, it is likely this child is frightened and needs us to be with them in a way that creates a safe, secure feeling.

Perhaps when you begin to say this child is attention seeking, add on ‘This child is connection seeking”. We all want to feel connected to others.  We are hard wired to be in relationships with each other.  When behavior becomes unsafe it means there has been a rupture in the relationship.  There has been a disconnection. 

Both child and adult seek reconnection and repair in the relationship.  It is simply that not every child or indeed adult has the knowledge and experience to provide the repair and re-connection. That’s what we are learning about because our children need us to be the grown-ups with these skills.

Always remember the great news that we are seeking to be “good enough parents” who have permission to make mistakes to learn and grow from them.   “It’s never too late to learn new skills and make changes.”

I hope you can tell, I am excited by COS and looking forward to our next workshop.

Watch this space for more Circle stories. 

Hilary Campos
SHPSH Social Worker                  

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Heartbeat of Sacred Heart

This year we have introduced a programme called Heartbeat

This programme (officially called Drumbeat) uses hand drumming to engage young people. The drum used in this programme is a Djembe. 
  • It’s exciting  (cool) 
  • It’s easy to play (reduces fear of failure)  
  • It’s powerful  (demands attention) and;
  • Playing it is physical (releases tension)                                                                                                                                             
The drum is an instrument many people feel comfortable with and playing it with others is a way of communicating. 

The programme is taught to groups of 8-10 students over a period of 10 lessons and ends with a performance which gives recognition to their achievement
Sessions are structured and have specific themes that explore issues such as:-        
  • Values
  • Peer Pressure
  • Identity
  • Teamwork and;
  • Emotional Expression   
It provides a safe place to explore human relationships and practise the skills that enable healthy social interaction, connection and self- esteem.

Throughout the programme participants are involved in a range of practices to achieve outcomes such as recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for and understanding of others, establishing positive relationships, working effectively in teams and handling challenging situations constructively.

The drumbeat program is currently being delivered in over 500 schools and organisations across Australia and New Zealand and there is much evidence to its success. Further information about Drumbeat can be obtained from the website                                                                                                            

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Social Skills: Parent Involvement

At Sacred Heart, we recognise the importance of parent involvement when it comes to reinforcing social skills introduced at school. We currently encourage parent support and participation in a number of ways.

As mentioned in the previous post 
A Clear Method for Teaching Social Skills on our blog, Social Skills Y charts are sent home to the Year 2 parents for discussion and reinforcement. By doing this, parents can use the same language and students see the importance of applying the learnt social skill across different settings. The feedback from parents has been positive and it has been very encouraging to see parents actively involved in the teaching and learning process by discussing with their children the focus social skill and looking for opportunities to reinforce it outside of the school environment. 

Through notices in our school newsletter and posters around our school grounds, we have also been raising awareness about the social skills that we are focusing on as a school and have been encouraging the school community to take part in the The Ripple Effect Initiative by asking them to embrace the skills through role modelling. Another valuable feature of our newsletters is the regular links that we have been making to the articles written by parenting expert, Michael Grose, found at Parenting Ideas. This excellent blog offers advice to help parents (and educators) develop happiness, confidence and resilience in children. Our school also currently subscribes to a weekly newsletter from Parenting Ideas, which provides us with professional quality tips and strategies that we share with the school community via the newsletter. 

This very blog aims to not only document our journey and disseminate information regarding student well-being, social skills and engagement, but also to involve parents and the wider community in the process. It is imperative that as a school community we remember to always think "social skills" and use every naturally occurring opportunity to teach and reinforce social skills. We look forward to continuing this journey and we are excited about what the future holds. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Clear Method for Teaching Social Skills

In order for students to acquire social skills more effectively, students need to understand why they are learning the skills, ways the skills can be practiced,  how well they use the skills and how they can be improved. With this in mind, a clear method for teaching social skills is required. One approach that the Year 2 teachers have been using with great success involves the use of Y charts. The following Y chart was developed by the Year 2 students following a class discussion regarding the social skill: Including Others.

The method the Year 2 teachers follow to introduce, teach and reinforce a social skill is as follows:

  • Introduce the social skill. The skill is always one that is needed by the students in the current classroom context.
  • Hold a class discussion about the chosen social skill: What it looks like/sounds like/ feels like
  • Teacher records students’ answers on the Y Chart. Write what the students say – it needs to be in their language!
  • Display and refer to the chart as often as possible.
  • Practise/use the skill. A variety of strategies are used, including: role play, games, social stories. All specialist teachers and educational assistants are actively involved with reinforcing the skill. In addition to this, the Y Chart is sent home to parents so that it can be reinforced.
  • Evaluate students' use of the skill/provide feedback. Review and reflect: How well did I use the skill? How well was the skill used by others? How can I improve my use of this skill in the future?

Both Year 2 teachers recognise that social skills take time to master. Time is needed both for explicit teachng of the skills and for the informal practice of the skills in authentic situations. All of the above needs to take place in a supportive accepting environment, one where students feel comfortable to make mistakes.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Social Skills for Teaching

We believe that when making decisions about which social skills to teach, it is essential to consider the needs of our students as well as identify the skills that will support and develop our school's vision and circle of courage. In discussion with staff, we select social skills that we feel will benefit all of our students and assist us to achieve our school aims. Each class teacher also identifies skills specific to his/her class to teach and reinforce. To help us with our selection of social skills for teaching, we have drawn from the suggestion of social skills in Bennett, Rolheiser and Stevhan's Co-operative Learning: Where Heart Meets Mind (1991). A sample of these social skills include:

  • Active listening
  • Using quiet voices
  • Taking turns (equally)
  • Asking for help
  • Praising
  • Giving compliments
  • Receiving compliments
  • Moving quietly around the school
  • Expressing support – no “put-downs”
  • Staying on task
  • Being gentle
  • Saying kind things
  • Checking for understanding
  • Encouraging others
  • Criticising ideas, not people
  • Disagreeing in non-hurtful ways
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Occupying the same place co-operatively
  • Controlling anger
  • Ignoring distractions
  • Negotiating
  • Being responsible
  • Accepting differences
  • Being assertive in acceptable ways
  • Being a good support
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Reaching agreement/consensus
  • Acknowledging worth of others
  • Following through
  • Following directions
  • Being organised
  • Being confident
  • Showing persistence
  • Getting along
  • Asking questions
  • Summarising
  • Including others
  • Expressing non-verbal support/encouragement
  • Celebrating success
  • Being self-controlled (keeping hands and feet to yourself)
  • Making eye contact
  • Being positive
  • Respecting personal space
  • Playing fairly
  • Being a good winner
  • Being a good loser
  • Appropriate tone of voice
  • Suggesting (not bossing)
  • Offering help

What can you add?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Ripple Effect Initiative: Whole-School Approach to Social Skills

We see the teaching of social skills to be integral to achieving our school vision. At Sacred Heart, we recognise that social skills learning is most effective when it is fun, engaging and students apply what they have learnt to authentic situations. We also recognise the important role of parents, primary care givers and the wider community in helping our students to become proficient at using social skills. For this reason, we have adopted a whole-school approach to teaching and reinforcing social skills with our students. 

In 2013, The Ripple Effect Initiative was introduced and has been “making waves” through our school community. With each new social skills focus, students have the opportunity to practice skills and see the ripple effect it brings to people and situations around them. We began by focusing on the social skill: Giving compliments (as seen below). This particular skill links closely with the Belonging and Generosity elements of our school vision. We wanted our students to feel secure in giving and receiving compliments, as this is a powerful skill in counteracting criticism.  We set our students the challenge of giving one person a real compliment each day over a two week period. We also asked all the adults in the school community to play a part by modelling the skill to the students, with the intention of improving our own social skills as well as the students.

In the short time that we have implemented The Ripple Effect Initiative, we have been very pleased with the effect that it has already had on our students’ social skill development. We are looking forward to the implementation of our next whole-school social skill - Encouraging Others.

PEP Strategy: Proximity, Eye Contact, Privacy

One strategy by Mendler that provides a low-key response to behaviour is the PEP Strategy: Proximity, Eye Contact, Privacy. This strategy enables teachers to blend corrective and appreciative messages; this helps to create a more positive classroom environment and help minimise power struggles.

When implementing the PEP strategy,  Mendler advises that teachers need to move in closely to the student (proximity), establish a connection (eye contact) and then to quietly affirm or correct behaviour (privacy).

This YouTube video demonstrates the PEP strategy.

Brian Mendler Podcasts - Link and Key Points

Brian Mendler Podcasts
Brian Mendler
During 2010 Brian Mendler held a series of podcasts that outline key strategies and thinking behind dealing with and approaching student behaviour.
Below is the link to listen to the podcasts as well as key elements from each.
Brian MendlerPodcast - Sept 2010
1.      Helping parents is the biggest issue in education
2.      Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
3.      Relationships are so important – what are three things you know about your most challenging student that they do outside of school outside of school
4.      Know your students “unbelievably” well.
5.      Students listen to teachers only when you have credibility and their trust or a connection with them.
6.      If you value something…grade it – Lateness, uniform, manners, organisation. Get students then to help others with the problem.
7.      “What do I do when…” figure out what the reason is to why they are misbehaving. Then figure out the - what to do.
8.     4 Reasons children misbehave
Attention – not enough (desperate for attention) or too much at home (expect it at school) Ignore when you can, give private attention. (Bad attention in life is better than no attention)
a.       Doctor analogy - same symptom, different reasons.
Power/Control – (responsibility, autonomy, independence) make decisions for themselves. Other kids feel power/control somewhere else in their life.
Competence – feel good at being good at school. Contrive situations for students to succeed  - privately.  Build, scaffold opportunities for students to succeed.  Differentiate.
Belonging – relationships, being a part of something (altruism)
9.      Don’t focus on the behaviour, focus on the why. Figure out what is going on below the surface.
Brian Mendler Podcast - Oct 2010
      10.  Include all kids all the time
       11.  Mentoring  - give guidance and support. Volunteering.
12.  Consequences/ Grading what you value – should promote learning.
13.  Bullying  - Ricky story (19x)– When kids can’t help or control themselves. Practise by role playing to learn behaviours.  “I don’t care what you say”…then walk away. ..Kids are sometimes conditioned to react in a certain way. They need to practise to say and do the right thing.
14.  Bullying is not worse today than it ever was. It’s always been bad!
15.  Bullying education should be as important as other learning areas.  40 minutes of bullying practise and prevention…practise, practise, practise
16.  Follow up bullying forms (What I did, What I should have done what I will do next time) are good only if there is follow up practise and training. 
17.  Trace bullying in the school.
18.  Everyone plays a part in bullying. They need to practise what to do. The bully, the victim and the bystanders. There could be a curriculum. A bullying specialist.
19.  Retrain student behaviour.
20.  Consequences  - Doing the same thing and expect a different result. Headache analogy. Headache persists and keep taking Panadol…..
21.  Do what’s best for kids. Asking “is this working?” Is it making things better or worse.
22.  Talk to kids privately.
23.  Reward the whole class not just one person. Keep kids liking each other rather than rewarding just one or two. This pits kids against each other.
24.  Competition: good only if people are not forced to do it! Kids competing in a class is not good if they are not willing to compete.
 Brian Mendler Podcast Nov 2010
1.      Teachers should tackle discipline in the classroom without administration.
2.      Things “should be” different for vulnerable students.
3.      In regard to academic progress, worry about where kids are, not where they should be.
4.      Have a disciple plan to where you want to go, but a plan that is flexible.
5.      Look at what is right there, use the interest that the students have.
6.      In having a behaviour policy, allow for flexibility. Use judgement, have a policy but all final decisions are made by teachers/people involved.
7.      Rearview mirrors analogy for student misbehaviour: Three rearview mirrors in a car (rear mirror and two side view mirrors) so you can look behind you with different perspectives. Students look at their behaviour from different percpectives (their own, other students, teachers...)
8.      The front windshield is always larger because moving forward is the most important thing.