The Desk

I was re-listening to an amazing book on audible today and it triggered and old memory for me. The story wasn’t exactly the same, but the mention of ‘The Desk’ did it.

A New Role For Me

Several years ago whilst I was still working as school leader and educator my local council decided that the next place for me was to work was within a nearby high school. I was given the brief to create an enhanced nurture space and approaches for the young people that may need that little bit extra support and education with emotions and therefore behaviours.

The powers that be felt I was the perfect fit for this role and it didn’t seem difficult or unusual for me as this had all been part of my job for many, many, years within this very same council. So I headed of to a school that I had worked in as a visiting teacher in the past, to be one of the Principal Teachers.

I think it is fair to say that from the outset that I, nor this concept, were not welcomed with open arms within the school. Change can be hard for staff and school leaders to wrap their heads and hearts around, particularly when it involves the controversial issue of behaviour management and discipline. However definitely not my first rodeo!

Shifting from Punitive to Positive

The hard sell for many was the loss of their current ‘sin-bin’, full of booths and literally hundreds (this is no exaggeration) of these red printed consequences reflections sheets, all neatly pigeonholed for young people that were sent to this room to complete whilst sitting in silence in those booths, for whatever duration of time was deemed appropriate by the staff and leadership, or waiting before a formal decision was made to exclude or get parents in.

This sin-bin space was now part of the whole enhanced nurture project and so I needed to make some changes. Getting rid of punitive discipline and man made discipline tools. The booths, those sheets, I thought maybe a bonfire was in order, but decided to be gentle as I knew many were struggling with the changes and loss of the sin-bin.

I could sense the unrest from some, but also heartened by the many that came along and expressed and interest in the room and other more nurturing approaches that I could share with them as part of the school and mindset shifts. I could write a huge blog on this another day!

Due to a lack of budget I secured some very cheap alternative furniture. A local charity eager to help when they heard the plan for a room to learn about and regulate emotions, as opposed to the previous punishment vibe. This furniture was delivered and this made the physical changes ALMOST complete.

The Desk

There was this typical ‘teacher desk’ at the front of the room.

Personally I have never been a ‘desk at the front of the class’ type teacher. More tucked in the corner and used to lay all the teacher type rubbish on, and usually pretty messy! Not a desk to block the teacher from the children.

But this room had a big desk which formerly gave the staff supporting the room a perfect view to give a teacher stare at the children and young people placed in the booths. It also had a computer on it where the staff could get on with their own work online and ignore and withdraw attention from children and young people where they felt appropriate. Again I could write a huge blog on this, but that is for another day too.

Neither of these option seemed to fit the nurture brief.

No good for me or the purposes of this room.

If I had a child or young person that needed to make use of this space, for whatever reason, then I would be engaging with them.

If a mistake had been made with any behaviours, if emotions had leaked out in unhelpful or unhealthy ways, if a quieter space was needed to complete coursework, if something at home was potentially triggering, then it was the job of the adults in the room to support the children and young people through this, and not from behind a desk and computer screen.

A space like this and people in this space always need to remain in a teaching and guiding role. Supporting those in need to get to the other side of whatever has happened or hold space for whatever is happening.

Being Brilliant 

Now I return to the book I was re-reading. The book was ‘How to be Brilliant’ by Michael Heppell. I would recommend anyone to read this.

Two things worth knowing for now. Michael encourages the reader of the book to not just be good or fantastic, but to be brilliant!

I wanted this nurture space and all the nurture approaches to be brilliant. Not just good or fantastic, but brilliant. This is always what I strive for as I believe the children and young people that I have worked with over the years, they deserve brilliant. Some have had so much to work through so really need brilliant people around them. I was following Michael’s advice then without even knowing it.

The part of Michael’s book that triggered my memories this time was his desk story as I had a desk story too. Not exactly the same but enough to have this flooding back to me as part of this be brilliant tale

A Step Too Far

I decided the teacher desk needed to turn. My thinking was so that we could all, as the teachers and staff ready to guide and teach, step out and be in and around the children and young people - a chance to be brilliant!

Alas it was a step too far for many, and even after lots of discussion and debate I was instructed that the desk had to remain in the front and centre position so that “the children could be watched and so that staff could get on with their important work while having to sit with these children”.

Be Brilliant Somewhere Else

Sadly this, and a few other similar instructions, which all together hindered my goals to be brilliant and create a brilliant space, well this led to me moving on to go be brilliant elsewhere!

There was a time following this where I felt I didn’t even reach a ‘good’ level, never mind fantastic, because I couldn’t shift this simple little rock (desk), but I really tried and couldn’t shift it, so I had to focussed on shifting me.

Sometimes there are things that hold us back from being brilliant.

If we can acknowledge them as our rocks then we can begin to break them down.

If the rock belongs to others, we cannot always move, shift, or break it, no matter how hard we try, these are not our rocks.

Thanks Michael for being brilliant and reminding me of that blooming desk. I am grateful for that desk now.