Australian classrooms are among the most disorderly in the world.
This is a finding from a recent OECD study of 15-year-olds about how much classroom noise and disruption drags down academic performance. Analysts say there’s a myriad of factors driving poor behaviour, including the lingering effects of COVID-19, technology, distraction, and lack of support for students with anxiety, autism, and ADHD.
This was discussed on The Drum (ABC: 27.10.2023) and Tom Bennett, Lead Behaviour Adviser to the UK Department of Education reflected that “no country has got this right now”. He said, “If children aren’t behaving, everything you want them to achieve in a classroom – safety, dignity, critical thinking, creativity, knowledge – all the perennials – none of this is possible”. He goes on to say that “the connection between good behaviour, and everything we want to achieve is enormous”.
Behave or …?
Mr Bennett identifies bad behaviour caused by trauma, neglect, abuse, violence, ADHD, and poor parenting resulting in some “spoilt and naughty children who are very entitled” and underlines the need to understand the causes of poor behaviour. Unfortunately, the only answers Mr Bennett can offer are telling children the explicit behaviours and habits that they need to adopt to thrive in the classroom environment, reprimanding bad behaviour, and keeping a boundary between the classroom and pastoral care. These sound very much like nineteenth century solutions to a twenty-first century problem and effectively increase the inequality between the student/family as the citizen, and the school as the institution. Inequality is a constraint to collaboration and in complex cases, collaboration is key.
Interestingly, The Drum discussion spoke only of relationships between the student, the family, and the school but as educators on the ground know, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
How Complex is it?
Teachers and educators are working with students with multiple diagnoses, multiple families in relation to a single student, paediatricians, psychologists, speech therapists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, behaviour support practitioners and multiple systems including child protection, disability, health, juvenile justice, and religious and community-based organisations. The level of complexity and demands at all levels of the education system are enormous and require a big picture answer that can take us into the future.
A Systemic Answer to a Systemic Problem
bower(schools) has been working in schools with complex needs’ students and families with excellent results. The bower(schools) programme has a comprehensive conceptualisation of complexity and employs clear protocols drawn from more than 40 years of clinical practice working with multi-problem, multi-symptom, multi-system clinical cases. It takes a whole of system approach and gives educators a framework to manage both crises and the day-to-day complexities and conflicts that arise.
Bower(schools) embraces Systems Theory which looks at individuals as part of larger interconnected systems – families, communities, societies. These systems influence an individual’s behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and changes in one part of the system can impact other areas. An understanding of Systems Theory in schools helps stakeholders to understand students in the context of their environments and relationships, rather than in isolation.
A systemic view tells us there are many effective possibilities to manage challenging behaviours in a classroom and bower(schools) provides the tools to do this, leaving teachers and educators to get on with the job they are passionate about – teaching!