Guest blogger and Teacher of Sport and Uniformed Protective Services in the Further Education sector, Chris Wilde reflects on how taking on the lion’s share of childcare during lockdown enabled him to transfer lessons from “Dadding” to his FE practice.

The hammering on classroom doors jolted me from my lesson intro. As soon as I walked out into the corridor, I knew!    ‘

Ahhh, it’s you, ‘Ryan’, here we go!’

I’d had run-ins with him all year, so it was decided quickly…  I berated him, shouting loudest to display my dominance, and marched him across campus to the Head of Department.  I thought, ‘what now?’  I’d lost.  

Fast Forward to May 2020, two months into our first national lockdown: I had lost count of how many Lego projects I had been a part of, and how many Disney films on repeat I had endured. My two boys, 6 and 3 were up early and had made their way downstairs to the playroom. I followed shortly after to be met with play dough on the carpet, a Lego obstacle course, and chair cushion stepping stones… I had a choice about how my day would start, and my thoughts went back to ‘Ryan’ and how I got it wrong. I spoke, questioned, negotiated, reasoned. The playroom was tidied, we stuck Moana on again and all was calm.

‘What if I had been more rational with Ryan?’  I refer to this question when I need to challenge behaviour in the classroom, and I like to think that the situation informed my dad skills that morning, and now in turn they are adapted and practiced in my teaching role.   The realisation is, that when I react to negative behaviour by trying to shout the loudest and be the main aggressor, the young person will often get exactly what they want.    

During the coronavirus pandemic, where long days of lockdown shifted my time from teaching to full on ‘Dadding’, I quickly concluded that the above is the same with my two boys as it is with students in FE.  By not rising to bait, and by trying to use more positive framing in response to a behaviour, there is something to build on, a positive direction for the interaction.   By flying off the handle, the student/child is getting the altercation they want, often giving them an ‘out’ from something they didn’t want to do in the first place.  They win!    

In my attempts to be the ‘alpha-male’ in response to ‘Ryan’s’ behaviour, and when losing my temper when the boys turned the playroom upside down before 8:00am, I had chosen the wrong road. In taking the interaction down an authoritative and dominative road, I had lost all options. Any control or influence over promoting desired behaviour had gone, and the battle is lost.   

I am no expert or behavioural psychologist, and I still don’t get it right every time! But since the exchange with ‘Ryan’, and inevitable tests of patience as a dad during lockdown, I have found that matching the intensity of the young person with equal extreme leads to one outcome. There is nowhere else to go.