Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Equity in all things: Relationship backfire

I talk a lot about the importance of relationships. Something that happened the week before last week is still bugging me. No names given obviously but I need to think out the situation and clear my head a bit more to fully think about how to resolve it further.

Y10s had just had PE and had come in all ramped up. As usual I could tell. I did a couple listening activities to refocus them - a simple TK cue of my hand up signalling focus and when that didn't work the trusty 321. Even that didn't get any attention - asked them to all stand up and do a couple of star jumps and then sit down again. Told them that I knew they'd just had PE and they needed to settle down and focus now.

They did. Marvellously. The learning was humming. We were doing collaborative work on our NZRA novel - final analysis really - using Class Dojo for recognition of behaviour, learning and leadership. Using CD in their groups added even more competition - with CD on my phone and the banner and sound popping up on my laptop and projector. Most of the kids were humming. It was at the transition time between that and the next task when rubber bands started flying with bits of paper scattered everywhere. I told them all off... and went to collect them all. This is an extension class by the way - this kind of behaviour is just unheard of for them.

Told them all off once again. Those that didn't give their rubber bands put them into their pockets and didn't touch them again.

The whole class were made to stand up and tidy the class up. They did. We carried on the work. Issue sorted.

And then... one of the most mature, focussed and potential leadership material girls threw something - just a copied behaviour. Moments too late. I snapped. I told her she'd be cleaning the class by herself. I was furious. She got up and picked up the ones she'd thrown and grumbled while she did it but then sat down. It was at this moment I made my first real mistake. Other than yelling and snapping... I thought the issue was now resolved also. I was very very much wrong.

What frustrated me the most was that I'd specifically told them all off at once. We'd tidied up. It was all over with. Then she'd sent one flying. Right after I'd told them all not to do any more.

What made things worse was the grumblings continued. Her peers at her table said I was being unfair singling her out. Yes they were right. But I still tried to explain my perspective. Which just wasn't the go. I tried to apologise to her in front of the whole class. At this stage there was still ten maybe five minutes left of the lesson. Super awkward.

Kids start packing up and getting ready in anticipation for the bell. As the bell goes I call her over to try talk after everyone goes like I do with all the students who don't listen or need some support in some way. She wouldn't have a bar of it and said no and walked off. I was so taken aback. I actually was in shock I think. I don't think that that has ever happened.

I've had angry girls before in class or angry boys who take off because they're pissed and don't want to hit something. But usually they come back and apologise or talk it out.

This girl didn't come back. I stayed in my room all interval waiting too. Just in absolute shock and kind of hoping she'd come back. I heard students outside who I thought were about to wag... I asked if everything was okay. One of the girls asked me if I was Miss Le Long. I said yes. She said, "Oh... I just heard about what happened in your class with ************ and the rubber bands. That wasn't fair miss. She's really upset." I was shocked that some student I hadn't ever met already knew what had happened and that I was getting told off by her too. I asked her to pass on the message that I was waiting in class to still talk to her...

After this I felt the urge to contact all the teachers of this student. Partly because this kind of behaviour both the immature act of the rubber band and paper and the storming off was absolutely out of character for her and also because I was wondering whether she was being picked on in other classes due to information her friend had given to me outside class.

No response back yet from that but at lunch I got asked by the Head of House for that student about what happened and for me to realise how upset I'd made her. Luckily at that moment one of her other teachers came up at that time and reinforced the issues I was talking about and the HOH believed the situation a bit more in depth. I said I tried to talk with her but she stormed off and said I'd try talk to her on Monday when we had class next to sort it.

There I was all Friday, all weekend thinking about this.

Last Monday - she positively refused to talk to me. I tried the hard approach where I would pull the HOH in if I had to... then gave her a bit of space. When she sat down, I sat beside her and tried talking to her. I talked through the situation. Tried all my ways of getting answers from students in a restorative chat... and yet nothing. She wasn't budging. I apologised profusely for making her feel singled out or uncomfortable and made the point that I really didn't want the rest of the year to be that awkward or strained because I thought prior to this one incident we'd had quite a good relationship. Maybe we didn't. Maybe that's why it still hasn't repaired.

I left her to her work... trying to think it all through.

Since then her body language has told me so much more than ever. She is physically turning away from me whenever I'm in front of the class, circling and helping... she will continue talking to her peers long after I've gained the attention of everyone else. I wonder whether she's trying to get me to call her out on it. Or wants me to feel her frustrations.

When discussion became a bit heated this week it was the first time she'd actually spoken in a discussion since the rubber band incident and I made sure that everyone was being respectful, no matter whether they agreed with what she was saying or not.

She didn't speak to me directly but she did talk to the class. That's a change.

Today though... she walked away as I sat at her table group to help one of her peers and wouldn't sit back down til I'd left.

I am at a loss of what to do. Some girls I can crack easy as. Others create massive friction and have big grudges for days and days. I just wonder what else there is I can do to try and fix things. Maybe there isn't anything I can do.

I absolutely miss the days when she'd come in early and say Good morning and when she'd say thankyou on her way out. She didn't always seem that interested in what we were doing but she was respectful. I lost her respect that day. And I don't know to get it back.