Friday, 19 April 2013

Interacting with students and managing behaviour

In our team meeting slot this week we were joined by Yvonne, the College’s new Head of Student Support. Due to her previous employment we wanted to draw on her experience of interacting with students and managing behaviour. Our plan is to hold a workshop with her on our next Team Improvement Day. The purpose of this week’s meeting was to discuss issues and concerns that we would like to cover in the workshop. The meeting was split into two so that Yvonne could first meet with our Front of House team and then with the Senior Team.

In our section of the meeting Yvonne asked us to think about the types of situations in which we personally struggle and would benefit from some training. I find that I struggle in two areas – first, what to do when I’ve gone up to speak to a student and they are intentionally ignoring or blanking me. This was raised by a few colleagues as something they also struggle with. We discussed what we do at the moment in that situation. I ventured that if the student was on their own I might try sending them a message via our computer booking system. If the student was in a group, try and focus on one or two individuals who are paying attention and use them to help attract the attention of the whole group. Yvonne explained that there is really no right or wrong approach to dealing with this situation but that it is important to acknowledge how it makes us feel and to reflect on how we have managed ourselves in each approach that we take. She also suggested bringing another member of staff in and approaching the situation as a pair. This is something I haven’t tried before – we tend to ask another member of staff to ‘give it a go’ rather than going in jointly. 

The second situation in which I struggle is to develop conversations further with students and be assertive in my decisions in terms of getting them to improve their behaviour.  For example, approaching a group of students crowded around a couple of PCs I would normally explain that it isn’t appropriate for them to behave like that and ask if they have any work they can be doing. However, I fail to build on that initial interaction and find out why they’ve come in (i.e are they on a break/part of a lesson etc.) and precisely what work they’ve come in planning to do with the aim of helping them to plan individually what they want to achieve from their time in the LRC. After my initial interaction I might have to then return and chase them along but again, at this point, I fail to really get involved. 

Yvonne also briefly mentioned how we must be fully aware of how we are ourselves before we approach a student - for example, are we already wound up or irritated, a feeling that could be passed on to the student – how a lot of communication is not passed on verbally but through our manner, and how we must build the confidence to approach a student in the first place. I would like to think that this is an area in which I am quite successful. I feel confident to approach students and I always approach situations calmly addressing students as ‘ladies’ and ‘gentleman’ (in the belief that they can behave as such – if the start to prove me otherwise then they come down to ‘guys’ or ‘girls’ and ‘boys’!). I also address them quite quietly so that it is clear I am talking to them but without bringing any other students nearby into the situation. 

From the initial discussion with Yvonne I have identified areas that I need to work on: explaining more why I want a student to do something; become involved in the interaction more and develop conversations; be strong in my convictions and build maintain the interaction so that a positive result is achieved on both sides. I’m looking forward to the workshop with Yvonne to see what new techniques I can learn.