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“Quite often I get asked how is it possible to practice kindness in a school regime that's all about being strict?

Well, the first thing you need to do is you need to worry about yourself and think about yourself, your own values, your own approach.

Do You Believe In What’s In Place?

This is not all about being maverick and rebelling against a school system, because if the school system that's in place is something that you can't believe in and you don't believe in, the best way to deal with that is to look for another school and to move.

However, what you can do is you can think about your own practice, think about your own relationships and you can also think about your own relational practice in the context of that wider school and those wider school policies.

If you do have strict policies in place that mean that children experience what you could perceive as hard punishments, then you can help these children by using relational practice, so that these children you work with don't need to fall into a cycle of perpetual detentions, isolations and exclusions.

They may need your help.

Be a Translator

Making emotional connections with your kids is vital because these connections allow you to work together so that you don't need to use the strict regimes that are set out in the school policies.

See yourself as a translator.

You’re looking to translate the behaviour into the emotions and feelings that sit underneath.

Understand the emotions and feelings and, deal with them as that prevents the unwanted behaviour and therefore, there's no need for the strict punishments that are in place and expected.   

Prioritise Connections

Children need to be understood.

This is the neuroscience that sits behind it because they're looking to make an emotional connection and sometimes, as teachers in schools, what we do is, we get tied up with academic connection. We want the children to come into our class and immediately make that academic connection.

Yet, actually what they're doing is looking for an emotional connection.

So, what you've got to do as a teacher is you've got to think about both. Yes, of course, we need an academic connection, but we also need the emotional connection too, because that's what the children are looking for and that emotional connection allows them to build their self-esteem and that's really important.

Without self-esteem, they can't be confident and they need to be confident when they're in your class!

So, when they're confident that's when they start to behave.

The Power of Love

So, they are emotionally engaged. They’re emotionally engaged with you and they're emotionally engaged with their surroundings and, in the broader sense of the term, they feel loved and when they're in that position where they feel loved that's when the learning happens.

So, what we're looking at simply is, if you're wanting to make changes to behaviour and you're wanting those children to behave with you in your classes, then that emotional connection is really, really vital and you could really say that the best way to understand it is make the connection before you make any correction!"

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About the author

Dave Whitaker

Dave Whitaker

Dave is an experienced and inspirational school leader who has built his career using kindness as his number one tool in the world of special schools, PRUs and Alternative Provision. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Kindness Principle for the Independent Thinking Press.

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