Casey lends her advice on writing an incident report and how it should be approached by teachers.
The role of a teacher is incredibly diverse, and we go to work each day knowing that as educational providers, we are responsible for the whole-person learning needs of our students – academic, social, emotional, cultural, physical and spiritual learning. We often need to take off our ‘teacher hat’ and to employ a wide range of skills when we are confronted with situations inside or outside of the classroom that may involve the pastoral or welfare support of students. This may be an instance where a student exhibits irrational emotional behaviour towards us, or perhaps present as a discipline challenge as a way of seeking attention. In some cases, we need to ensure the physical safety of surrounding students, as well as ourselves, when we deal with behavioural incidents in the school setting.
When an incident occurs which disrupts the learning environment, teachers are often asked to write an incident report in order to communicate the sequence of events to middle management and welfare support officers, and also as a form of documentation. If a request to write a report occurs immediately after the event, we are often still feeling some level of emotion about what has occurred, especially if it has involved an upset student who has directed their anger towards us personally or who has intentionally caused disruption to our lesson. As a result, we often use emotional words in our report, which may not necessarily reflect the event which has occurred. In this instance, a teacher may also label students or give their opinion about an incident. Again, this does not support the process.
The following inappropriate emotion/opinion/labelling words and phrases are sometimes used in incident reports by teachers when describing their students:
- A bully
- Class clown
- ‘Tough guy’
- Bad attitude
- He lost the plot
We need to take the time to find ways of describing an incident in terms of the events that occurred, using the facts only, rather than the emotions that it elicits. I know from experience that this can often be a challenging and daunting task, and I have found that waiting 24 hours before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) helps me to develop a clearer perspective of any incident. I have found that the following prompts always help me to find the most appropriate language:
- What behaviour did I observe?
- What did the student do or say?
- What did I do or say?
- What reactions did I observe from the other students?
As much as possible, I always try to be involved in the follow up process with the student, whether in the form of a mediation or similar action, so that the student knows that they have my support regardless of the behaviour they may have exhibited in front of me. This allows a fresh start when the student returns to class.
Teaching can be a demanding job, and our lessons do not always go to plan, but as the adult in the classroom, as long as we can keep a clear head in challenging situations, we will be able to role-model to our students the appropriate ways to deal with conflict, and this is all part of educating students to develop into well rounded young men and women.
What advice can you give a fellow teacher? Email Megan (firstname.lastname@example.org) on how you could share your advice.