I love my fresh start each January. It’s my chance to begin afresh, to break old bad habits and establish new ones. We all need that fresh start, that second chance.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the more challenging pupils. They are the children who stand outside the Head’s office, waiting to confess their latest escapade. Look at them, with their eyes downcast, their shoulders hunched as they consider their fate. Or maybe they are glaring defiantly at passers by. What’s going on in their minds? What’s going on in their lives?
Some kids start off on the wrong foot in Reception class and their reputations follow them throughout school. Their names echo round the staff room as their crimes are re-examined daily over coffee and a custard cream. No wonder these children re-offend. Let’s face it, we expect it of them.
Maybe it’s time to give them a fresh start.
New Year is a great time to discuss fresh starts with these children, but so are new terms, new weeks…new days. After all, a year is a long time to wait to be given a second chance. Some children need a fresh start every lesson.
I was talking to a TA recently about her work with an older pupil. This child has a lot of negative stuff going on at home. As you’d expect, this affects his school work and his behaviour.
The TA told me how she has worked with this pupil to establish a trusting relationship. She described how she has helped him to identify the types of behaviour that are unacceptable. She helped him to draw up a behaviour contract, one that lists clear expectations and sets out consequences to unwanted behaviour. He took a major part in drawing up this contract and has said that he finds it helpful as a tool to remind him of the expectations of others.
This wasn’t done overnight. It takes a long time to build up that type of relationship with a child. It requires honesty, consistency, understanding and mutual respect. This child still has some major problems around his behaviour. His home life is still disruptive and unsettled and still impacts upon his school life, but he knows, and the TA knows, that every day is a chance for a new beginning.
A fresh start.