Thursday, 26 February 2015

Catching children doing things right!

When I first arrived at Pinelands North, children were disciplined the traditional way. Corporal punishment was being outlawed in schooling so luckily I was never subject to 'administering corporal punishment 'on behalf of the school'. Children who didn't do their work were kept in - during breaks and after school, and if you really misbehaved, you attended 'detention', either after school or over weekends. One of the first meetings I ran in 1997 with my staff was a meeting on were we going to jointly discipline the children at Pinelands North. I remember then trying to convince staff that detention wasn't really necessary......
Over the years, South African schooling and the world have rethought the way children's discipline should be handled, and now my ideas are not seen as 'radical' any longer. A few schools continue to administer corporal punishment even though it is outlawed, and most schools continue subjecting children to detention, the writing out of rules and lines, and to negative reinforcement. 
At Pinelands North Primary we practise positive discipline. This means that we focus on the positives that children do rather than focusing on the things they don't get right. Classrooms still agree to rules of 'engagement' at the beginning of the year, and these govern what is fair and right in each classroom. For example, when children show good manners, we praise them for remembering to do the right thing but we ignore 'bad' behaviour. When children are noticed and praised for doing something well, they naturally try to replicate that behaviour often. So, the reason our school children are so well behaved, we believe, is because we continually praise those who do the right thing. One of the ways we do this in the whole school, is by 'catching people in the act'. This can be done by children, parents and staff. If I therefore see someone doing the right thing, I would go to reception to find the little slip of paper to complete. The slip looks like this:



    __________________________________  Grade _____  was caught in the act of:


    Caught by _______________________________  Date   _____________________


After completing who I caught, and what they did right, the slip is placed on my intercom by the 'catcher' and then is read out to the whole school before breaks or after school. Everybody loves the public reward for doing the right thing! When these notes are read out daily, they remind children about the behaviours that the school community values: kindness, support, sharing, good conflict management and trying your best. We have noticed that it also builds self confidence in children - they love catching their teachers or the cleaning staff in the act, and bravely complete the forms for me to read. Focusing on the positive also creates a happier atmosphere for the school!
So please try to do this in your own home or in your business environment. You will feel less stressed by your children's behaviour and they will start to show you that they really do know how to behave. Try to catch your colleagues at work doing the right thing - adults also love the positive affirmation this brings!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

ASHOKA accreditation

Early in 2014 Salma Seedat, a relatively new parent to our school, emailed me to ask if we would be happy if she nominated us for ASHOKA accreditation as a Changemaker School. ASHOKA is an international organisation which seeks to create and encourage world change through the development of core skills like teamwork, empathy, creativity and leadership. After agreeing to the nomination, the school had to fill in a very lengthy questionnaire, be visited by  three ASHOKA 'fellows', and finally four of our staff attended a four hour interview process! 43 schools in South Africa were nominated for this accreditation, 14 of those schools were visited and 7 schools went through the interview process! Only 4 schools in the Western Cape were eventually chosen - us being one of those 4! And so, on the first of October last year, Pinelands North Primary was awarded ASHOKA accreditation after this lengthy process. ASHOKA Changemaker schools all around the world are expected to teach empathy, critical skills in leadership and problem solving to solve social issues currently facing the world. As Pinelands North is inclusive, in the broadest view of the word, all our children are taught conflict resolution skills, and team work, and are expected to do their 'bit' to make the world a better place! Following up on our Ashoka accreditation as a Changemaker school, Ashoka made funding available for Maggie Lemere, an oral historian and storyteller, along with Nathan Golon, the director of Photography with  Goodfight Media, both based in Washington DC, to make a movie about our school. Pinelands North was chosen to represent all Changemaker schools in Africa, to show what is possible with limited resources and a  brave commitment to educating the whole child!
So, for one week in late November, they observed everything that our children and staff do, that makes our school the empathetic, creative, problem solving, socially aware school we are! 
The movie, with the main story line focussed on David White, the first pupil with special needs who was enrolled at Pinelands North in 1998, tells the Pinelands North 'story', and is now available on YouTube, Everyone a Changemaker: The Story of Pinelands North at The movie has been a hit with has had more than 4000 views in just six days! I have received emails from complete strangers, all around the world, who have seen the 7 minute clip and been so impressed. Past pupils of the school have written to us to say how glad they are too, that the school from their childhood, is still making a difference in children's lives!

The movie has been playing in the school foyer for a few days, and several children have commented on their feelings having watched it:
"I think the video is amazing as it really shows a great view of the school and how we all work together!" Temwa Ngambi
"I think the movie was a great hit because everyone was happy and having fun, as this is the most amazing school!" Chane Thompson
"I found the short film spectacular, as it really showed the true beauty of the school and inspired me to make a short film myself!" Christopher Jehring
"The movie shows how the school guides children to achieve what they thought they couldn't!" Kaden Meyer
" I think the movie gives people the clear understanding that we are a happy inclusive school in a quality learning environment!" Matthew McFarlane