Finding the best way to lead by example.

I have been seeing some amazing transition plans and ideas on various social networking platforms. I am really excited to see some of the fantastic activities that are happening and being created. They have all started to make me think though, do we need to think about going back to basics a little more?

Don’t get me wrong, every member of staff involved in transition has the best interest of the children at heart. We come up with lots of innovative ways to help the children settle into their new way of life. They are all fantastic and they do help many of the children who join our communities. As with most of my posts though, I want you to consider the lowest denominator. The disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the children that you have little or no information about.

Many of the children I have mentioned above may have had/will have little or no face to face communication with an adult outside of their own family since early March! On top of all the uncertainty around Covid, the lock-down, the release, the track and trace, the do I/don’t I go to school. We will soon be throwing new rules at them. New staff, new uniform, new ways of travelling to school, the list is endless! With this in mind I have put together a few thoughts on what we usually say to children in the early days of their secondary school career, and how we might need to make some considerable changes or at least considerations.

What we usually do/ask.Why might this be difficult?What can we do to support the children?
If you get lost, ask someone for directionsFor some children this might be the first time they have asked to talk to a stranger. All staff and children are strangers initially! They might not know how to approach someone.Model/give examples of how to speak to someone for the first time. Explain that it is difficult to have the confidence to do this and it’s OK to be scared or embarrassed. Could some yr.8’s or older share some examples of how they handled it?
Take the children on a tour of the whole school.For the majority of children, even just one part of the school could be 2 or 3 times the size of their old primary school and since there are no Induction visits it could be the first time they have stepped foot inside since the Open Evenings a year ago!Start slowly, take them on mini tours of small areas. Then back in a safe environment of the classroom have a look at a map and their timetables so that the children can start to put 2 and 2 together and begin to get their bearings. Build these visits up throughout at least day 1, if not longer.
You will need to follow all of the school rules or there will be consequences. These rules will all be new! We might expect that the rules will be similar to that of primary school but that will not always be the case. All phases and schools will have rules but they will all vary. The harsh reality is also that some children will have little or even no rules to follow at home and so have not been in an environment where they expected to follow them since March! This will be a huge adjustment and will take time.Explain not only what the rules are but why they are that way. If the expectations differ from primary to secondary it will help the children to understand why there is such a change. I think we all follow rules if we understand why they are there. If it is one rule for lower school and another for upper, explain why! Context is but also patience is key, habits take 6 weeks to become routine in adults. It stands to reason these will take longer to form in emotional pre-teens!
You have 40 minutes for lunch.Do they? What have they got to fit in in that time? Finding friends, finding where to eat, deciding what to eat, working out how to pay and if they have enough money! Then of course they have to eat and work out what to do with plates, excess food etc.Go through menus during tutor time. Give the children the opportunity to plan their food and ask questions in a safe environment with less time pressure. This is especially good for children working to a budget, not just FSM. Some of the food items may never have been seen by a child and they might benefit from an adult talking to them about what it is. It would be a good idea to ‘role play’ dinner hall expectations. It is a fast paced place and this will be alien to most! Can you get a group of yr. 8’s or above to ‘perform’? Is it possible to introduce dinner staff in the same way you would teaching/support.
If you have a question just ask.I always think this is a loaded sentence! I’ll just leave that idea there for a bit because do we always want them to ask?
I also think that it is far too simple an expectation for some children. Asking questions in public is hard! It takes an awful lot of confidence and admit publicly that you don’t understand something. What if other children laugh, what if I am supposed to know the answer and I get told off for it? What if I have asked it before and I still don’t understand, what will happen?
Ask some ‘silly questions’ yourself, get some very obvious things wrong when going thorough tasks. Show them how to get things wrong, admit it and handle the consequences. Let the children laugh at your mistakes,, laugh with them if you have to. Ultimately we cannot expect 11 and 12 year olds to not find things funny, what we can do is show the children ways of dealing with it. It is not enough to just say ‘ignore them’ that, we all know, is far easier said then done. So we have to show them how it’s done. We have to show children that making a mistake is OK.

I truly believe that every adult in a school understands that we have to lead by example, and try our very best to do so everyday. I am less sure that we all realise that in order to do in a way that best supports the young people is to think about the action or activity through the eyes of a child beforehand.

We all need to find the best way to lead by example and this could look different for each child!