Forever I have been (still am!) urging schools to evaluate and shine up their listening systems. If children and adults are offered genuine, non-judgemental listening we know it boosts self-worth, self-esteem and self-efficacy. (Just touch base again with Carl Roger’s work, it is relevant as ever). Because today’s society is super-hyped up with technology the need for listening has never been greater. So for over 40 years now I have been rolling up my shirt sleeves and whizzing across the country to help teachers set up timetabled circle time once a week. Children love other children responding to them – they are powerful listeners and speakers, and, more importantly they have more energy than adults which can really enrich the experience for all.
There is a basic ground rule that no-one may be named negatively in a circle – this safeguards children’s and adult’s reputations … and they learn the biggest lesson of all … stick to the issue and do not get personal. So, they say “Someone calls me nasty names” … “Some people leave me out of games”. This stops the frightening perpetuation of the school creating labels for children through the self-fulfilling prophecy … so we set up Bubble Time. A chance for children to reach the busy teacher or TA and have a one minute sand timer of refreshing, totally focused listening. (For a handout on Bubble Time please click below this blog.)
Ah now – you would be forgiven for thinking that we have covered all bases, but we haven’t! Some children and adults do not like eye contact. It unnerves them, it feels intrusive, they are still finding their sense of self and directly staring at them makes them shrink back. So, a third listening system is crucial …
Think Boxes for Worried or Happy Thoughts!!
Think Boxes is a system where teachers put a beautiful Think Box in the class and some scrap paper next to it. Any child can pop in a thought for the teacher to read, so it is non-verbal listening. When I was a teacher I introduced it and a little girl had written “What do you do when you cannot sleep at night because you haven’t got a best friend” – She was too shy for eye contact so I brought out a big puppet in circle time who was also very shy and asked the children ‘how do you get best friends’. They gave the puppet lots of wonderful advice which the little girl listened intently to. Children though use systems as they need them. I had also told my class that they could tell me something interesting or wonderful. Once when I was teaching a year 6 I saw a lad nip over to the think box whilst I was teaching and put a paper in. Later, I opened it and found he had written “Miss, it is 11.30 and I am behaving incredibly well and you haven’t noticed. Whenever I don’t you do”!!!
So, I use Think Boxes even when I am doing training. Any delegate can scribble a note to me with any questions or thoughts on – my task is then to feedback the answer in the subsequent session. So, they will ask me about problems with individual children or systems that are not working within their schools so I can anonymously focus on it later. However, the other day I was reminded how lovely it is when you get a positive message. I got this lovely little scribble from an unknown person “I Just wanted to say thank you for such an inspiring day, not only for our school lives but also for our own selves. You have made me look at things in a new way that I haven’t before. I feel motivated and positive about my future and my school” … things like this make everything worthwhile and it is worth encouraging children to write a thank you sometimes – it cheers adults up amazingly!!!!
Here is one example of a Think Box – although it can be free-standing and it doesn’t have to be a posting box. However there is a ready-made box (made of card) in our Kitbag of Power that contains many goodies to help with your Circle Time systems. I have been known to rummage in antique shops and have found some lovely old wooden boxes that can easily be made fit for purpose – some of them are old cigarette boxes! Happy hunting!
Website Manager’s Notes:
- For information about Circle Time and the strategies associated with it, please see ‘Quality Circle Time in the Primary School’. The book used to be on all teacher training books lists – but teacher training courses are shrinking. Jenny met a teacher the other day who said that they do not have any compulsory training on behaviour or psychology – so people do need this book!
- Jenny Mosley runs successful and transformative positive behaviour for learning, circle time and social skills, and lunchtimes and playtimes training –Click here to see all forthcoming public conferences that anyone can attend.
- Many schools book Jenny Mosley for a training day, conference or a Working in School Day. For enquiries about training workshops, keynotes and open conferences, please phone 01225 767157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For all other training enquiries – better behaviour for learning, improved social and communication skills, circle times, working with parents as partners and more, phone 01225 76715701225 767157 or email email@example.com.
- Resources to support all Jenny’s training are available on our website www.circle-time.co.uk/shop