By Brendan Corr
Teaching is a profoundly personal profession. Each day with each class a teacher “fronts” up to engage and educate a collection of students – and in doing so shares themselves in a unique relationship with each individual student and with the collected “personality” of the class. Favoured strategies and faddish pedagogies may come and go in the profession but this relational reality is the essential and enduring truth about teaching.
It for this reason that Dr Bill’s Rogers’ thinking, theories and practices on educators leading for behaviour management, developed by thoughtful reflection on the real experiences of his practice as a classroom teacher, mentor teacher, and school systems’ consultant over his celebrated decades-long career, remains so powerful and so effective.
Research shows that while teachers do carry personal and individual responsibility for their relationships with their students and for actively managing student behaviour in that context, it is also true that there is collective efficacy in consistently adopted school wide approaches. Where a community of practice in a school consistently holds common expectations of students and consistently employs common responses to student behaviour the orderly learning environment that has universally been found to be prerequisite for academic improvement is firmly established.
During the last inter-term break a group of over 200 educators from 4 different schools (Australian Christian College Marsden Park, Australian Christian College Singleton, Medowie Christian School, and Brightwaters Christian School), each operated in NSW by Christian Education Ministries, gathered at the Waterview Conference Centre at Homebush to learn together the “why” and the “how” of leading for behaviour management from the world-recognised expert, Dr Bill Rogers.
From experienced school leadership to first year out and early career teachers, the day held invaluable insights, instruction and examples.
In his inimitable style Dr Rogers drew on example after example of actual classroom experience and real-life anecdotes, brought alive by both his exquisite story telling skills and his engaging cartooning, to unpack the thinking behind and demonstrate the practice of grounded realistic strategies to empower teachers of any level of experience working with any age student in any KLA to control their own actions and behaviour to lead in their relationships with students’ to influence the students’ behaviour.
Feedback from the day reflected the value of the experience for individuals and for schools.
“Brilliant, said one educator, “Transformational,” another. Many noted the day was “So much fun.” Such were the common responses from across the collection of those in attendance.
One comment from a first year-out teacher was particularly noteworthy and so encouraging in terms of the positive impact of the day.
“I originally thought a day on this topic would have been best held at the start of the year so I could put the ideas in place from then. But I found that hearing this now - I could relate so much more strongly to the things I recognised I needed to change after 2 terms of trying things my way. This will definitely make me a better teacher.”
Following the full day program school leaders also report that their staff group are taking their own initiative in staff meetings to support each other in adopting common language and strategies, and for revisiting and reviewing their own practice against the recommendations they all heard together from Dr Rogers.
In terms of building personal and collective efficacy of teachers in the four schools that attended the event can only be considered an overwhelming success.
Brendan is the Principal of Australian Christian College in NSW’s Marsden Park. The ACC group is a network of nine Christian Schools in five states and is the largest provider of non-government, online distance education in Australia. Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system.