Kicking goals towards positive behaviour
When Michael Nunn, a teacher at Walloon State School, came up with a unique idea to improve his football loving students' behaviour, he had no idea it would lead to a surprise visit from NRL legend Cameron Smith.
Last year, when Michael was grappling with some ongoing behavioural issues related to playground squabbles, he came up with the slogan 'Be like Cameron Smith' and introduced it to his Year 2/3 class.
He began by showing his students videos of Cameron's calm demeanour during games to prompt a discussion about positive and negative behaviour. He then reinforced the message with posters and a daily 'incident-free' count on the classroom door.
"If they didn't like football or know who he was, it wouldn't have worked. It was relevant to them. It resonated with them straight away,' says Michael.
With the program having an instant effect, Michael wrote to Cameron to ask for a letter acknowledging his students' achievement, but instead Cameron decided to pay them a surprise visit, turning lessons learned into treasured lifelong memories.
"The ultimate effect was him being here." I said, 'Look guys, this isn't just any one
that's popped in here – this is Cameron Smith. He's the Australian captain, he's the Queensland captain, he's the Storm captain. He took time out of his holiday to come to your school'.
"They rose to that, they realised it was a pretty big deal. It made the front page of the paper and everything … they were pretty proud of themselves."
While that initiative was a headline grabber, it's only one example of how Michael engages his students and brings fun into the classroom.
"You're going to lose them if they're not enjoying it. If they don't want to be there, you'll struggle to get them to learn. They need to know that you care about them and that you enjoy being there too," says Michael.
"I think teaching's probably one of the few jobs where if you're not enjoying it, it's almost impossible to do. It's not a job where you can do it for 40 years and not enjoy it. I try to show them that this is where I want to be."
Michael demonstrates this by being genuinely interested in their lives and by giving them glimpses into his own. Calling his class a team, he is always looking for fresh ways to lead by example and motivate his students.
"This year, a few of my students are into cars, so I have a system where I give them a car card every time they do the right thing. When they get a certain amount my dad brings up one of his vintage cars for them to sit in.
"For a bit of fun, I made an 'I've been Nunnbelievable' shirt that the student of the week gets to wear on Fridays. The kids love wearing it."
Michael says that while he enjoys having fun with his students, he takes his position as a male role model pretty seriously.
"Being a male primary school teacher, particularly working with lower grades like I do, is pretty rare. I think my role is important, especially when so many kids come from homes without a dad.
"I try to be a good male role model through the example I set and what I teach them."
Michael says that the best thing about being a teacher is playing a small part in making a difference to his students' lives.
'Sometimes it mightn't be for 10 years, and they're long gone or you're long gone. But it's nice when you run into kids and they stop and chat to you and they're at uni or they're nearly finished high school or whatever, and you realise you've played a small part in that."
"I'm happy at the end of the year if the 25 kids walk out and they're better people and students. I like seeing that social change in them, as well as academic. I think that's my favourite part of it."
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Article originally published on Teach Queensland News and Jobs, October 2016.