Updated: Jan 22, 2020
“There ought to be a national programme of lifelong learning, so all teachers are ready to work in troubled schools. But the sad truth is that your experience is seen as peripheral. Few are prepared for coping in schools like Eydon Vale,” I told the staff. It was the last day of the Christmas Term. The Head of my previous school - the most humane and effective I ever worked with - released me early, so I could lead the first staff training day on Guided Discipline at Eydon Vale. Its Christmas tree was still up in the hall, and the catering staff had promised us a turkey dinner. Everyone was there, including secretaries and teaching assistants. They listened intently, aware that all our jobs were at stake.
“You have shown enormous endurance just to keep on coming to school, as well as coping with day to day problems, like looking after your own sick children and parents. In the life journeys that have brought you to this stage in Eydon Vale’s history, you have had to be more resilient than I could ever be. What can I teach you that you don't already know?
“The quality of courage that it takes to implement Guided Discipline is quite distinctive. It is active and focused. It's like the strength of mind you see in frontline infantrymen. It is mainly to do with concentration on the task at hand. My old dad said that when his platoon came under threat, he would focus all his attention on the objective he’d set himself. If he was hurt or if a comrade fell, he would ignore it. He would blot it out of his mind.
“’Keep moving forward,’ he would tell me. ‘Don’t be distracted. If you stop and stare, even for a moment, you become a target. Your squad will be confused. They will lose momentum. Seeing your determination encourages your unit and discourages the other side. So, don’t let yourself be shocked or surprised. Hood your eyes, so they only see the objective. Muffle your ears, so all you hear are the orders you give and receive.’
“What we find when we put Guided Discipline into effect is that our experience of the here and now intensifies. For most of your life, you will have thought in terms of good days and bad days, good years and bad years. As soon as you start to implement this new disciplinary code, you will realise that life is made up of good quarters of an hour and bad quarters of an hour. The bad moments, the panics and the rages: they pass. Let them go. Don’t let yourself stare into the abyss. The good moments will reappear, when you and your pupils excel yourselves again.
“Anticipating the impact that your words will have on the children must become a habit. Be audacious. That will throw the disruptors off balance. You have to be the boss in your own classroom. There is no alternative. The children will continue to believe in you, only for as long as they think we are all headed in the same direction. Through every interaction, we will show that we will never back away. I tell every class I teach: ‘This is my domain! In my classroom, you follow my directions.’ We are the only adults in this situation. We define the boundaries.
“At the heart of Guided Discipline is the Discipline Plan. In the video that I will show you after coffee, you will see Discipline Plans in operation. The Discipline Plan is like a three-legged stool. The three legs that hold it up are Rules, Reinforcement and Sanctions. The School Council have already produced a menu of rewards for your approval and the Trustees have bought you all the Guided Discipline Bible. Read them over the holidays. Read every page. Don’t let me down.
“The first day of next term, we will decide the rules and sanctions.”