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Drop in bad behaviour at school

Lakeview School. PHOTO/FILE

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Setting boundaries, teaching mindfulness, and taking pressure off staff has helped the number of “bad behaviour” incidents at Lakeview School decrease over the past year.

Bad behaviour, which includes timeout at lunchtime, during class time, red cards, and black cards dropped by 248 incidents over 2019.

Lakeview School deputy principal Polu Luatua. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Deputy principal Polu Luatua said he had spent plenty of time looking at the data around Lakeview pupils’ behaviour and spoke about some of the strategies and ideas he found had improved pupils’ behaviour.

Number one on his list was for teachers to set clear boundaries and expectations.

“The thing I always think about is, if you go into society and you’re going over the speed limit, what’s going to happen? You get pinged.”

On the flip side is positives with staff rewarding behaviours they want to see.

“It’s important to have a balance of clear expectations and also positive reinforcements, which I believe our school has.

“We have a system called a green card system.

“If the kids keep their cards green during the week, their names go into a jar.

At assembly, a big deal is made about names being drawn and kids get to have a free lunch with the principal the following Monday.

“At the start, they’re trying to do the right thing because they get an award.

“But then they do it because it becomes habit and becomes part of our culture and doing the wrong things are not cool because if they do it, they know exactly what will happen.”

Relationships are also huge.

“Our staff know the importance of building relationships with their kids and get to know them, so when you ask Johnny to get his maths book out and you have a good relationship, he’ll respect you and follow your instructions.

“Relationships with home is massive. I’m always ringing parents I’m always visiting houses, and our teachers are doing the same.”

The school has also started a big push towards mindfulness and runs two programmes which are compulsory right across the school.

“We’ve been doing a programme called Knowing Our Emotions. We’ve been doing it all year, so kids know when they’re angry or sad.

“The students are learning the different zones and when they come to me, they know what zone they’re in – they’ll say I’m in the red zone – I’m angry.”

The second programme uses the acronym PBS – pause, breathe, smile – which gives strategies on how to breathe and calm their emotions.

“It provides students with tools to be able to manage their anger – a lot of it is incidents when they lose control, but once they learn to manage that, they know how to get back to the green zone and are ready to learn again.

“All these things have been in place this year. Hopefully next year it gets even better.”

Weekly Filemu groups [a Samoan word meaning to be calm or peaceful] teach kids who struggle with their behaviour more strategies to cope.

Behavioural data also plays a big part.

“I’ll look at the data and crunch it down for the week and I’ll notice a pattern for this week, for example, a student gets in trouble for not handing in her phone or something.

“So, we set a goal. I say your goal for the week is to hand in your phone each day and listen to your teachers’ instructions, and if that child can achieve the goal then I’ll give them their reward that we both agree on.

“And it’s massive because most of the time they take ownership of their goal.”

Looking after teachers – ensuring they’re not stressed or piled up with paperwork had improved the way they worked with pupils.

“A couple of years ago, we thought, let’s look after our team – let’s take away all the unnecessary tasks because I was a teacher for years and I know what it’s like.

“Don’t put high effort into things that give low impact.

“During holidays, teachers all around New Zealand come back in for teacher only days – our principal Tim Nelson said don’t come in for ours, go enjoy your holiday we want you to get recharged.

“It just means our staff meetings will be a little longer.”

In Luatua’s eyes, teaching behaviours was “so important”.

“We teach math and spelling and then we just expect a child to behave without teaching them these skills.

“We expect them to know behaviour, whereas we don’t expect our kids to come in the class knowing everything about maths. They need to learn these behaviours.

“One area I want to improve is teaching behaviours schoolwide.”

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