Sweat the Small Stuff!

Reading time: 4
shutterstock teacher behaviour child hands on face


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

This is a blog about managing behaviour in your classroom, and doing it consistently in line with whole-school policy.

There is no place for the maverick teacher who ignores a whole school behaviour policy, who manages behaviour within their classroom, totally isolated from the rest of their colleagues. For a school to move towards outstanding behaviour, it is important the ‘every teacher sweats the small stuff!’

“Outstanding = Students’ attitudes to learning are exemplary.”

Every teacher must prioritise consistency in their lessons to ensure low-level behaviour is not tolerated. By addressing every single detail (the small stuff), this will help sustain a culture of self-regulating behaviour from students, as well as a degree of consistency from all colleagues. Of course there is a need to be flexible, and treat each child as an individual, but when it comes to behaviour management, it is essential that students are crystal clear that you (and every teacher) are following the whole school behaviour policy and supporting yourself, as well as your colleagues.

Challenging Schools:

This is a blog about every single teacher, sweating the small stuff.

shutterstock teacher behaviour children classroom rowdy

Image: Shutterstock

Low level behaviour, day-in, day-out; how best can teachers manage behaviour when working in challenging schools?

And I mean, very challenging schools …

Developing attitudes to learning so that exemplary behaviour is evident, day-in-day-out, is no easy task; especially in your classroom. Do not kid yourself for a moment that it is. Textbook behaviour takes years and years of practice. My best advice here for teachers new to the profession, is to stick to the behaviour policy religiously. Learn it inside out and use the language in all of your conversations with students.

You could also observe a colleague whom you hold with high esteem, someone who (in your opinion) manages behaviour really well. Where possible, speak to them afterwards and asked them to explain the cognitive process behind what they did, and why they did it. And as a further development, you may want to ask them to model this in a pre-planned specific scenario so that it you can learn from the situation.

Of course, you can also learn from observing colleagues who do not manage behaviour very well. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself why this may be happening …

Avoiding Poor Behaviour:

So, how do we as teachers avoid poor behaviour creeping into our lessons? Especially in those lessons when we are feeling a little below-par, or the lessons that we‘ve not planned as thoroughly as we could; after all, we know it happens to most of us, and it certainly still happens to me! How do we ensure that standards do not falter?

The answer?


Even on the bad days.

Those lessons where we are feeling low. Or perhaps when the teaching has not gone well and/or according to plan; or during the lesson when in most instances, the situation arises from a student(s) forcing the lesson to move in another tangent without your consent … even if this is a destructive one!

To ensure that all students learn and thrive in an atmosphere of respect and dignity, great behaviour management relies on consistency across the whole school. From every teacher and adult within the school, every single day; and in every single lesson.

On a controversial note, and perhaps contradictory to the purpose of this blog post, I argue, that good behaviour management can also be achieved in your own domain, no matter how poor systems are across the school, or what kind of day you are having. But this is not the ideal situation and is not something we should all be aspiring to, particularly those who have worked in schools in challenging circumstances, where whole-school behaviour is less than desirable!

If you find yourself in this situation, a whole-school approach is needed as soon as possible. You cannot go it alone, and you certainly cannot survive long-term. It is vital your school has plans to train staff and to develop a common approach towards consistent behaviour management. We cannot work in silos in our classrooms, not matter how experienced or good at behaviour management you are. Teachers must work together.

If we do not work together, students will find and expose the gaps. They always do. They will avoid systems and play teaching staff off against one another if teaching strategies are inconsistent. With this in mind, how can you sweat the small stuff, whilst maintaining a level of sanity in the classroom? Especially if you feel that other colleagues are under-mining the whole-school behaviour policy.

shutterstock Sweat Armpit Man Suit

Image: Shutterstock

Textbook Consistency:

How can you aspire towards textbook consistency in your classroom?

How can you sweat the small stuff?

  • ALWAYS promote courtesy and be polite.
  • ALWAYS quote the behaviour management policy and abide by the procedures.
  • ALWAYS follow a systematic, consistently applied approach to behaviour management.
  • ALWAYS uphold collaboration and cooperation no matter what. Stamp on those who hamper peer-to-peer learning.
  • ALWAYS offer a choice, and include praise where possible. This must also be followed up with a consequence.
  • ALWAYS focus on the primary behaviour. Do not allow you or the student to be distracted by the details.
  • ALWAYS ensure your lesson has an element of learning to capture very high levels of engagement. Differentiate over time!
  • NEVER allow a lesson to proceed with any kind of interruption. Nip low-level behaviour in the bud! It’s tough to drop the curriculum.

You will have to fight a few battles. Some with students, some with colleagues …

As a good friend once said to me; “you will need to sweat the small stuff.” Be consistent. Always be consistent. Every lesson. Then on those off-form days, you will notice nothing.

Teaching Tip:

Don’t be afraid to sound like a parrot, or a broken record-player.

You can use this to your advantage by generating your own interesting slogans. Do not be afraid to repeat instructions, expectations and your vision for learning time and time again. You will know when you’ve ‘cracked it’. How? Because students will repeat your catchphrases after a good ticking off. And one day when you find yourself speaking to them, before you know it, they’ll be chirping back at you, one of your very own (or even whole-school) behaviour mantras!

You may even dash outside the classroom to fetch a ream of paper from the office. You notice there is no fuss. No nonsense at all. Or supply teachers come out of their way to say ‘thank you’ for their cover lessons, providing feedback as ‘a pleasure’.

My advice: get sweaty!

Still feeling isolated? Try The 5-Minute Behaviour Plan.

You can read more here.


shutterstock broken record

Image: Shutterstock

7 thoughts on “Sweat the Small Stuff!

  1. Great Post, when you are talking about observation of teachers to learn behaviour management techniques, have you any thoughts on self observation and evaluation of own practice. This could be through videoing your own lessons, sometimes this may give an insight into how you react etc.

  2. When I was at school many years ago I learnt the most from the ‘maverick’ teachers who were different funny and taught really well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.