Without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges facing teachers in the classroom is behaviour management. With the haunting nightmare of the unruly class, you cannot control looming over us all as we reach the end of the summer holidays I’ve decided to publish my own Top 10 Behaviour Management Tips.
1. Plan for Behaviour Management
As someone who has many borderline OCD tendencies planning comes naturally to me, however, for many teachers the word ‘planning’ simply reminds them of the daily grind of teaching, and in a world where work-life balance is key, it isn’t necessarily something teachers cherish. You can plan a well thought out lesson and within five minutes you find yourself throwing that plan out of the window as you adapt to the needs of the class, however, a behaviour management plan is something a whole lot more rugged, something that if done well can last year a whole academic year or beyond.
Planning for behaviour management is key, knowing what your expectations are, preparing your responses when students aren’t meeting those expectations and ultimately planning the consequences for students who continue to demonstrate undesirable behaviours will allow you not only to consistently manage behaviour but also feel confident in doing so. The plan needn’t be overly complex or arduous, @TeacherToolkit’s #5MinBehaviourPlan is a good starting point, you may over time develop your own.
2. Share Expectations
Take time during your first lesson to share your expectations with the class, demonstrate how you want them to behave and explain why these expectations are important. I base my classroom expectations around three rights, the right to learn, the right to respect and the right to safety. Students are pretty good at recognising that in a classroom environment these are basic rights that they all have. Each right has associated rules with it and I display these as A3 posters in my classroom(s) for all to see, an example is shown at the top of this post.
3. Establish Routines
Ever joined the gym to find yourself slump back into your lazy couch potato habits a few weeks later, frowning as the direct debit goes out each month? Like all new routines, it takes time to establish them, there is no use enforcing your expectation of listening to one another for the first two weeks to then give up and not worry about the two at the back whispering amongst themselves (they’re only interrupting their own learning, what’s the harm right?). This will only signal to the rest of the class that you accept people talking whilst others are and subsequently more and more of your class will join in and before you know it your class will resemble the Houses of Parliament with almost constant jeering and interrupting. Your first term is crucial in establishing your routines, your students will test you, push the boundaries and in some schools will try to break you! Take the time and what will seem like a constant effort to follow through with your behaviour plan, it will seem relentless, but your efforts now will pay dividends later in the year. After a while the class will accept that you are a metaphorical behaviour management Duracell bunny, at this point in the year you reap your rewards of a calm and settled class who know the rules!
4. Relaxed Vigilance
All too often you hear that teacher bellowing at students, “HAND ME YOUR PHONE, NOW!!!” or “I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK ABOUT THOSE EARRINGS, TAKE THEM OUT THIS MINUTE!!!”. Whilst that teacher should arguably be praised for supporting their school on it’s stance on phones and jewellery, is this an effective way of managing behaviour? Or will they simply rile the students into outright defiance and rude comebacks?
Relaxed vigilance is a term I came across in Bill Rogers’ Classroom Behaviour (a must-read for all classroom teachers). Essentially the idea is that you consistently address behaviour issues or rule flouting (as opposed to the non-vigilant teachers who are perhaps too lazy and ignore misdemeanours and rule-breaking) whether in your classroom or in the wider school environment but in a calm and composed manner (as opposed to the over-vigilant teacher who barks orders and loses their rag over the most minor transgression). A relaxed vigilant teacher often utilises tips 5 through 8 when managing student behaviour.
5. Rule/Behaviour Reminders
When challenging student behaviour we often fall into the trap of asking students why they are behaving in certain ways. “Johnny, why are you talking when I’m talking?” The obvious truth is that we don’t really want the student to answer our question at all, what we do want is for them to acknowledge that they were not meeting our expectations and amend their behaviour appropriately. When students do answer our question, “I was asking Sam what he’s doing after school Sir” we identify this as being rude and disrespectful (yet conversely in-class discussions we expect students to engage and answer our questions!). Clearly, we need to find a way of addressing poor student behaviour by more effective means. One such way is by giving the student a rule or behaviour reminder… “Johnny, we listen when others are talking.” or “Johnny, you need to be facing this way and listening thanks.” For most low-level disruptive behaviours these rule or behaviour reminders are enough to refocus the student, for them to acknowledge their behaviour and correct it, in some cases even with an apology!
6. Time to Act
No one likes losing face, especially in front of their peers. Remember that within a classroom setting you are inevitably going to be challenging student behaviour in front of a class of the student’s peers. Expecting students to alter their behaviour instantaneously at your whim is only going to lead you to conflict, instead, you should provide the student with time to act. Provide them with a behaviour or rule reminder, adding in a ‘thanks’ at the end to show the expectation that they will follow your direction (rather than the merciless plea of ‘please’) and then give them time, move back to your teaching allowing them a few moments to amend their behaviour without peer attention and focus.
7. Directed Choice
In the past, I too have become the victim of painting myself into a corner, putting myself into a win/lose situation by making demands of a student. “Pass me the phone here, thanks.” Fortunately, I work at a pretty good school where most students would hand the phone over, but on occasion, I have been met with the classic “No, you can’t make me!”. Directed choices are about providing the student with a choice, therefore providing the illusion that they are not doing as they’ve been told and so appearing to not lose face in front of their peers. Directed choices are not free choices, you the teacher dictate what the options are but provide the student with an element of choice. “Nicole, you can either put your phone on my desk until the end of the lesson or away in your bag, thanks.” The important thing is that you are providing the student with a choice rather than an outright demand, hopefully, the student will then choose to do the right thing.
8. Certain not Severe Consequences
Sometimes despite our best efforts of reminding them of the rules/behaviour expectations, providing them with directed choices some students will still choose to not meet our expectations. It is at this point you provide them with a consequence, “Charlie, if you do not put your phone on my desk or in your bag I will have to follow this up with you at lunch.”. Having heard teachers, frustrated with student behaviour shouting “Charlie, put that phone away now or you’ll be in afterschool DT for the next month!” I cannot emphasise enough the notion that consequences should be certain and not overly severe. Anyone reading the above exclamation will know that the teacher, school or parents are never going to agree on over 20 after school detentions for having a phone out in class. Consequences are important, but they need to be certain (you have to follow through with the proposed consequence, each and every time) and not overly severe (does the consequence fit the crime?). Of course, there are occasions for severe consequences, isolation and exclusions, however, these issues should be referred to senior staff and not dealt with in isolation by classroom teachers.
9. Seek Support
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. Talk about the class or student you are having difficulty with, ask a member of staff who you trust and find supportive to pop into the lesson to observe and perhaps offer you some pointers. Ask other staff members who you know to have good behaviour management (if you’re unsure as to who would be a good bet, generally any teacher the students describe as strict but good!) if you can pop along to one of their lessons to pick up some tips. As teachers we should not struggle alone, or indeed see asking for help as a sign of weakness, do you consider a student coming to you at lunch to ask for help a sign of weakness? Or a sign of a student who is confident enough to ask for help in order to move forwards?
10. It’s not a game of Power
N.B. Many of the ideas discussed in this post have been adapted or taken from Bill Rogers’ Classroom Behaviour, anyone pondering behaviour management of responsible for whole school behaviour management really should read this book!
The defining moment of me taking control of behaviour management was actually the realisation that you cannot actually take control of students. You cannot make them do anything; you cannot physically force them to stop talking, you cannot remove items of jewellery from them or indeed make them hand their phones over. Behaviour management is about reminding students of the expected behaviours, giving them the opportunity to choose an appropriate course of action with the fair certainty that should they not do so they will face appropriate consequences.
Behaviour management is not about winning, having the last word or punishing a student for defying you. It is not a game of power; realising I do not control my students was both frightening yet revolutionary, but it doesn’t stave off the haunting nightmare of the unruly class, I just know how to approach them now.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by @WhiteboardWoes and published with kind permission.
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