On face value, this statement seems to stand up, but if we look at the reasons for doing this type of activity, you would see that is build skills within young people like no other method can.
I used to have an activity group in my special needs school It consisted of 28 secondary age pupils who were all at risk of exclusion through aggressive language or violent behaviour. In our school, they seemed to cope most of the time, but not always. I set this group up to challenge their own management of their own behaviour. It came under our guidance
You Own Your Own Behaviour
And in principle, this is true for all of us. Yes, there are always outside influence, but ultimately, we make the choices. Our behaviour is a reflection of our emotional state, but we still have the capacity to choose. So, based on this principle, we set a simple target. Avoid all the higher level behaviours for one week (excludable offences) and there would be an activity arranged. Initially, I trained as a climbing walls instructors in my own time in order to keep visit costs down, and took the qualifiers climbing. We did also take others climbing too, but this group would have never attended due to their poor behaviour - hence the 'rewarding poor behaviour' label. Danny was my nemesis. From a long family of traveller stock, cheerful, chatty, stocky and pretty intolerant. In fact I broke my finger whilst restraining him from another pupil - so we had history. It was probably 2-2 if we were scoring.
Danny had never done anything like climbing, so safety was paramount. Believe me, we took it slowly. As part of the programme, we like to put the pupils in unusual situations where they really needed to concentrate and actually care about what they were doing and what the consequences might be. Climbing is certainly right up there with the best.
The tower is an unfenced 13m high, 4m square tower with a central post for roping up to. Essentially we were going to abseil off the edge and down to the ground. I belayed for Danny. As be began to get past the balance point on the edge of the tower, it rang out loud and clear for all to hear
'F****ing hell, make sure you f***ing hold on'
I reassuringly told him I would do so, trying to hide a smile.
He duly landed and was at my side again in a flash. Barging through the queue he did this again and beaming, announced that it was easy. At that point, I told Danny that it was my turn and that he had to belay for me. I did think of repeating his call, but thought better of it and trusting him completely, lowered myself to the ground.
I never had any more trouble with Danny and I think he will remember that experience into old age.
Danny took on the dangerous, the impossible, the improbable and succeeded.
Something he didn't do very often
He also had the chance to kill a teacher, also something he probably didn't get many chances at doing and he passed it by.
Rewarding badly behaved kids - I think not.
How on earth could you recreate that experience in the classroom?
Please also read about the Voyager project - the Devon PRU based on just the same principle - TES article 1st Jan 2010
First published 30 Dec 2009