I have a tutor group of 15 year 9 boys. They are an excellent group, on the whole, they are all academically doing fairly well, setting realistic goals for themselves and are compliant.
However, over the last few weeks I have noticed that two of the boys have started to isolate themselves. They have stopped getting involved in group games and exercises and spend a lot of time in and out of school together.
This week I received a notification that one of the boys had received his second detention of the year, and would be seeing the Head of House as a result.
I believe, strongly, in restorative discipline, not punitive, especially for low level behaviour or when you can see, from the bigger picture, ways to help the young person restore their behaviour. I think as a tutor, this is especially important. The school, the Head of House and possibly home will engage this boy with some form of punitive discipline as per the school rules. Therefore, the most important way to support the student from slipping into shame, resentment or defensiveness is to come at the problem from another angle.
I always try to make sure I speak to my tutees before contacting home. I think it is important for three reasons:
- It encourages the parents to see that action has already been taken to overcome the issue, that you are not ‘passing the buck’
- It helps preserve trust in your relationship with the young person, as they feel they are being treated in a just and trustful way.
- It makes conversations with both parties more meaningful.
Therefore in this instance I followed the following process:
- I contacted my HOH to give him some background on the student, in order that he could have a meaningful conversation with him. This led to some very good conversations between the two of them, one which was more punitive in nature and a follow up encouragement which helped the boy see how he was progressing.
- I contacted the teachers involved in the incidents to ask them for their version of events, how the student could improve and also to give them some background on him which might help them when building relationships. This was useful when talking to the student as I was able to relay to him how his behaviour had affected the teachers, making them more human and therefore encouraging empathy.
- I sat down with the boy and asked him about his version of events. He was quite emotional in this conversation and communicated that he felt misunderstood by his teachers and disrespected at school, in general. This led to a really good conversation with him about building relationships and respect and that this is a two way process. The student agreed to try harder to integrate in tutor time to see what impact this would have on his self esteem. He worked hard on this, and we followed it up with a really encouraging conversation after his second talk with the HOH. He was proud of himself, was integrating more, had a raise in self-esteem and better behaviour in class.
- I contact his parents, relaying the issues, the conversations we had had together and his action plan for moving forward. I followed this up with an encouraging email informing his mum of how he has progressed in the following two weeks. She was happy with his progress and asserted that she would also speak to him.