Our School’s ‘Firm but Fair’ Approach
At almost all our year levels we have enrolment waiting lists. That means that even though we might want to enroll more students, mostly our classes are full; capped at twenty-six per class so we cannot fit more students in. Despite that, more and more families are hoping to get their children into Melton Christian College.
Why is this so? Why is MCC a school of first-choice?
As an internal observer of schools and schooling for over thirty years, I think MCC’s appeal is attributable to several factors. One of those factors, and a most important one is MCC’s approach to managing student behaviour.
In general terms, our school’s approach to managing student behaviour could be classed as: firm but fair. In other words, our teachers are firm on the school rules, but they are fair in the way they implement those rules. Another way to put it might be: ‘strict, but not without being kind’. Our teachers are strict, and we are not apologetic about that, because we balance that strictness with genuine kindness. Our students know they are valued and that their learning is nurtured.
Students feel supported and secure when they know that their school has fair rules that are implemented fairly. In a school like that, you know where you stand. When learners know what the rules are, and they know that the rules will be followed up that’s when they feel secure. As a bonus, the clearer the expectations are, the easier it is to succeed.
Schools that take a ‘firm but fair’ approach give clear boundaries and expectations, and at the same time, their teachers are ready to listen. Being a person who listens doesn’t mean being weak, and correspondingly, being a teacher who listens does not mean surrendering the appropriate authority of the teacher. When a teacher is confident, she listens deeply and knows where her students are at.
In the ‘firm but fair’ classroom and year-level:
- Teachers implement the school’s shared standards on what kind of behaviours they accept in the classroom, and schoolgrounds.
- Teachers have conviction and therefore communicate kindly and yet firmly, using clear and direct messaging.
- Teachers are comfortable setting boundaries and are not afraid to say; ‘No, that behaviour is not ok, that’s not how we do things here.’
- Lastly, yet importantly, teachers are consistent and therefore fair, by responding consistently to any problematic behaviours.
When the expectations are clear and reasonable, when the fair rules are enforced fairly, and when the learners know they are nurtured by teachers who want the best for them, then a school’s reputation flourishes. I feel so fortunate to work in such a school.
David Gleeson, Principal