Our aim is to support young people to develop the values, skills and strategies that enable them to play and work with others in a respectful and cooperative way, and who can manage conflict in a constructive manner. The NZ Curriculum identifies these as ‘key competencies’ – capabilities for living and lifelong learning. We aim to develop a sharing, caring attitude in our students and respectful behaviour towards others is expected at all times.
Classroom rules are collaboratively developed in all classrooms with the aim that they are safe and considerate places for children to learn and play, and teachers to teach. At the beginning of the year, teachers and children work together to build a framework of guidelines within which to work. We also expect children to play in a way that is considerate and safe to ensure everyone’s physical and emotional well-being.
If situations of conflict arise, a ‘restorative’ approach to solving issues is used.
When a ‘mistake’ or ‘muck-up’ occurs, this approach aims to have individuals take responsibility for their behaviour, find a way to make amends, and restore relationships so harm is minimised and skills are learned for future situations, even when differences prevail.
There are different levels of support (or intervention):
Restorative chat – is a ‘chat’ facilitated by an adult to help children “hear” the situation as it is for all the participants with the aim of finding a solution to the situation that has occurred. Many times, children can reach a solution for themselves with only a little guidance – at other times it is an opportunity to learn some other strategies to use in the immediate (and future) situations. Often these situations take only a few minutes and are of a relatively minor nature.
Restorative conversation – this is similar to the restorative chat between those affected by the incident. It may involve a more complex situation and can sometimes involve a greater number of people. Usually an adult has talked individually with each person involved before facilitating a ‘restorative conversation’. A number of strategically sequenced questions are used with the ‘wrong doer(s)’ and the ‘victim(s)’. The aim is to find out what happened, “ hear” how each person was affected, how the situation can be put right, and seek a reassurance that the participants have the skills and strategies to handle a similar situation in the future in a more constructive and acceptable manner. Again, some coaching for future situations may be appropriate.
Restorative conference – this is a forum for attending to issues of a more serious nature. A restorative conference involves a structured formal process. It is designed to address the harm caused by one or more wrongdoers whose behaviour has been seriously inappropriate. It involves careful preparation and may involve family members. An agreement with plans for monitoring and follow-up are part of this process.
Behaviour development is viewed in the same way as we look at the teaching of other competencies such as problem solving in mathematics or articulation in english. If children are unable to solve a mathematics problem, threatening to punish them will not help them solve the problem. Behaviour is no different. The goal is to educate children about how to work through behavioural problems. We focus on helping them understand the consequences of their actions for themselves and those around them, and help individuals take responsibility for their own behaviour through social skills, empathy, and understanding for others.
At Ōpoho School a number of other programmes are used to support children to develop positive relationships, social skills and emotional intelligences.
Circle Time is an holistic approach to promoting positive relationships and creating a caring and respectful ethos. It helps children develop their self-esteem and self-confidence while promoting the social and emotional development of children of all ages. It is a formal construct used to give each child a ‘voice’ to express his/her experience/views/opinions about various topics related to relating to others, managing oneself or participating and contributing to the multitude of children’s experiences.
What children say.., The best thing about Circle Time is:
- ‘how much it helped’
- ‘letting my feelings out’
- ‘we give ideas to each other about how to make friends’
- ‘seeing that you have things in common’
- ‘if you have a problem you can talk about it’
- ‘getting to tell people your problems and they listen’
- ‘sharing somebody else’s problems’
- ‘you can speak out and it won’t go anywhere else’
- “During Circle Time we learn how to help and be respectful of others and how to co-operate with them”
- “I got the chance to talk about things that were really bothering me and I got help and support from my class mates, I feel so much better now like a big weight has been taken off my shoulders”
From: Otago University New Zealand Research Nov 2008
Play is the Way
Play is the Way is a way of teaching social and emotional skills through guided play, classroom activities and an empowering language. It aims to develop children who can control their thoughts, feelings and actions, that in turn helps them develop abilities and skills for success. More information about this on our Play is the Way page.
Whānau and Buddy Programme
Each older student at Ōpoho School has a younger ‘buddy’. Ten or so buddy partners form a ‘whānau’ group which meets regularly to participate in a structured programme facillitated by a teacher. Over time, each ‘whānau’ group works with each teacher in the school so children get to know all the teachers as well as their own class teacher. Buddy partnerships are usually for a school year. The emotional and social culture of the school is enhanced by this programme.