Behaviour: it’s about the simple, small things

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Classroom behaviour is an emotive subject. Effective behaviour management requires long term CPD opportunities for teachers as well as clear, simple whole school systems.  From experience, school induction procedures for staff are often inadequate, especially around getting to grips with school systems. I see supporting and challenging behaviour central to my role as a senior leader, but what can classroom teachers do to assert themselves in the classroom? For me, it’s all about simple, sustainable steps that focus on the small details. What follows are a selection of tips that I’ve found effective and come from a combination of at 15 minute forum last week and my own experiences. They are tailored to a secondary school experience.

  1. Meet and Greet.  The first 10 minutes of any lesson are vital. The secondary changeover can be chaotic so it’s important to welcome students to your domain. Try to greet each individual, over time it’s possible to get to know their individual interests, but a simple ‘how are you’ will do. I’m a fan of either handing work to them or having an activity to get on with straight away. This is an expectation and requires no input from me. Equipment out. Date and title. Work. It’s a pain, but check the uniform and insist on compliance. You’ll soon find that they start rolling down the skirts and tucking in the shirts on their way to you. Whilst you’re there, challenge any behaviour in the corridor of those not in your lesson. The shows you have ownership of your space. If everyone in a school did this, students would be in a settled quickly. Routine is your friend.
  2. Wander the room. Yes, we are about teaching and learning but young people also need to comply. Wander the room during the first activity. Lightly tough the table, praise those who are getting the activity right (remembering to call upon them for questions later) and challenge those that haven’t complied.
  3. Don’t be tempted to deviate from the whole school policy. It’s there to ensure teachers are supported.
  4. Don’t pass on problems too quickly. It’s a real pain and takes a lot of effort, but phoning home and tackling poor behaviour with sanctions is an important role for the classroom teacher. Yes, there are times where escalation needs to happen, but dealing with most things as a classroom teacher allows one to build relationships. If problems are passed on up too quickly, the young people get the impression that you can’t control them.
  5. Don’t let them out of the room. This, I appreciate, is a minefield. My own stance is that I aim to keep students in the classroom. No time out. No going to fill water bottles and the like. If they’ve left my classroom, they’ve won.
  6. Use the 3-part message. In the classroom everyone is watching your every move. Keep calm. I’ve found the following way of delivering messages helpful: name, description of reality, what I require. For example: David, you are talking and that is distracting. Face the front thank you.
  7. Tone of voice matters. Try to give out the impression of calm authority. Remember that most students will comply most of the time.
  8. Say thank you, not please. We expect pupil to act on our direction. It’s important to be polite, but we don’t plead.
  9. Contact home early on for positive reasons. This sends the signal that you value good work and effort. Good relationships with parents really help when a student becomes challenging.
  10. Give feedback. Like any aspect of learning, how do students know that they are meeting expectations and doing well? Many behaviour issues come about through anxiety which may be linked to not being able to accessing the work set. For some young people, school is a 7 hour ordeal to be survived. Going to five different classrooms with five very different teachers is scary. Don’t believe me? Shadow a Year 7 new recruit for the day and focus on the different expectations and messages that they get. Make them feel welcome, safe, valued as individuals and, most of all, give them work that is challenging but matches their level. Let them know that you care.

What are your top tips?

Photo Credit: Game Confrontation via Flickr and shared via a Creative Commons Licence

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