There is self-restraint.
I used to find that, when confronted with a difficult child or parent, I would naturally calm and quieten, which was disconcerting for the other, but also enabled me to think and talk clearly. It enabled early calm in discussion, allowed the child or parent to have their say and brought about a more satisfactory outcome.
My discussions with children were always premised on the principle that they would tell me “their truth”, that I would accept that this was how they saw the situation, but that I would carefully check their story, in case there were other views. They were then confronted with alternate views and my decision.
And then there’s restraint…
I’d been a teacher and headteacher for 32 years, when my first wife died and I took on a part time SENCo role to be better able to look after my teenage son.
This occasioned the need to undergo “Team Teach” training, more commonly known as restraint training, as the school had taken in a child, J, with a history of physicality in the Infants. He spent time in our Nurture group and seemed to be making progress. The restraint training was a just in case measure, or so we thought at the time.
The worst that happened initially was that he went off site and having seen him in the distance, I followed him until he eventually got to his home, where I was able to have a useful chat with his mother.
It was a somewhat disconcerting aspect of the time after the Team Teach training, that those who were trained were then on edge, as we were “on call”, ready to move at a moment’s notice and then the lad decided to pick up a chair and throw it at a window. Having evacuated the others, the three trained people were duly called for and spent time trying to talk him down. Eventually I managed to get close enough to hold him appropriately, while still talking and managed to remove him to a place of safety. Suffice to say that he was excluded at that point.
In thinking about restraint, though, it brought to mind B, a solid infant, arrived fresh from London with his family, we discovered later, as a result of a “moonlight flit”, to find themselves in a less built up area. No records accompanied the arrival, then, but, with some very detailed investigative work a bit later, we discovered more of the details, which every teacher might second-guess.
B didn’t like working, or at least putting pencil to paper, but he was a mine of information about every subject you cared to discuss. He got excited by oral learning, but then closed up when paper was put in front of him. Marks were careless and meaningless. These were perhaps significant dyslexia related warning signs, but they could, at times, be accompanied by another side, a stubborn withdrawal into himself, which was almost self-hypnotic, as he also uttered a low moan. At first this was merely disconcerting, but, after a few episodes, this became physical, with others in danger of being hit.
My instinctive reaction was to envelope him to make sure that he could not lash out, all the while talking to him positively and making sure that the rest of the class were functioning as well as possible. Being in an open plan school helped as a colleague could help to keep an eye on both classes. It took time, but, adopting the role of “whisperer”, feeding positive alternatives and considerable encouragement, B began to settle, to read in the first instance, then to start the painful process of tackling writing which was a couple of years behind his peers, who were quite amazing, taking him under their wing, making sure that he had friends and encouraging him in their own way. It took the best part of the year, but B settled and started to make progress, which in turn he found encouraging, so started to take his own steps, in a positive frame of mind.
Every teacher will have such stories. However well prepared you are for eventualities, there is always the potential for the episodic outburst, sometimes from unexpected places. I most schools these are rare, but, when they occur can cause a great deal of hurt, physically and mentally.
As a HT, if any event of this nature occurred, there was always a form of debrief, time out or time to calm for the staff concerned, whatever they needed. Keeping calm is challenging for a teacher in a conflict situation. The adrenaline runs and it takes willpower not to respond in kind.
Simple advice; know your children well, read the signs, spot and deal, keep calm, be firm, be positive.