Sorry is like toilet paper…

I was watching Educating Yorkshire last night, this week’s focus was Robbie-Joe. There is a Robbie-Joe in every year group, usually flagged up from his primary’s concerned SENCO.

There are some pupils you just can’t help but like. Even the most difficult can be sensitive and show their vulnerability. As Head of Year, you will see sides to some pupils which other teachers can’t, won’t and will never. It is hard when the Head of Maths is jumping up and down with fury to balance it with your knowledge of a pupil’s home life and implement the school’s behaviour management policy. So what do you do?

1) Tell your colleagues a little background about the pupil’s home-life. I am sure someone will yelp  ‘what about confidentiality?’ to which my answer is this: we are all professionals and if helps a child to flourish, to find support, share it. But not all of it and not in a public sphere; the information should be relevant and used only to enable support.

2) Tell the pupil, that whatever punishment the Head of Maths is giving, you are supporting. Make this statement in front of both parties. When staff are faced with a barrage of unruly behaviour, they also need the sanity of a supporting pastoral leader. Remember your ‘likable rogue’ is considered by the majority of staff to be a ‘rude little so-and-so’ and your colleagues will not thank you or support you if you undermine their issues or concerns.

3) The pupil needs to know what they have done wrong but speak to the pupil quietly and alone. Don’t embarrass them in front of other pupils or staff. Explain how disappointed you are in his behaviour, ask them to explain it to you and ask what they could have done to prevent the situation entirely or its escalation.

3) Share with staff strategies to help support pupils like  Robbie-Joe in their classroom. You need to be proactive in your support, offer behaviour management strategies, refer to agencies, offer to attend meetings with teaching staff and parents or pop into particular lessons. Be consistent with your efforts.

4) Ensure you always follow-up no matter how small the issue might be. Parents, staff and student need your integrity and honesty. Don’t let any situation fester until the next day, even if it means a quick email or phone to say you are dealing with it or are at the very least aware of it.

5) Apologies go a long way, you will never get it right 100% of the time and students like Robbie-Joe will always say sorry. What works one week won’t work the next. You have to accept the apologies and move on. I remember saying to my Robbie-Joe in the Maths corridor once, “Sorry is like toilet paper, you should only use it once!” The then Head of Maths chuckled as I carted the kid away, with him mumbling “sorry, I won’t, I promise, I didn’t mean to, I am sorry, please don’t tell my mum, sorry.”


About milkwithtwo

A blog about my experience as a Head of Year, looking at some of the issues faced by young people and teachers in the UK. Offering straight-talking child-centred advice.
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