This is a blog about teachers individually managing behaviour, but unknowingly doing it together.
Teachers up and down the country are delivering thousands and thousands of pep-talk to/for students, every single day. These pep-talks happen before, during and after school in lessons and in corridors, and are guaranteed to happen moreso in the playground.
They are generally served as motivators or for behaviour reminders and are prevalent at this stage of the academic year.
This is a simple 10-step reminder to help teachers plan pep-talks with students.
When teachers deliver pep-talks, especially conversations outside of their own lesson/classroom, in essence what teachers are doing, is not just reminding students about the behaviour policy and right from wrong; they are promoting lifelong skills and values. Longer term, teachers are actually supporting one another to help develop a coherent behaviour for learning policy and the implementation of it across the school.
If teachers ignore the behaviour, they condone it.
If you choose to do it alone, in isolation and do not follow the behaviour policy, this teacher is a maverick and is not supporting colleagues.
Today, and increasingly moreso in my new role, I deliver pep-talks to my students every day. This blog is not about what actually happens, but more about the structure of delivering a coherent pep-talk in line with your schools behaviour policy and vision for improvement. The blog is also designed to ensure you can deliver the simplest messages, in difficult situations with ease and precision.
I have previously shared our Behaviour CPD plans, Brilliant Behaviour and Blindingly Brilliant Behaviour; two training sessions for our staff that highlighted the need for clarity, coherence and consistency. Below is my own simple aide-memoir for approaching a pep-talk with students; it’s simply the approach I take and what works for me with my students.
Step By Step:
1. Approach any situation calmly.
2. Always aim to have a quiet conversation with the student, away from their peers. This avoids losing face for the student and on your part, ensures other students cannot intervene with comments/reactions. If the student refuses to come with you – even if it is just 5-10 metres away – have the conversation later.
3. Approached the conversation in a non-threatening body position, adopting a position where the student’s vantage point is restricted. If necessary, ask the student to turn around and face away from any supplementary audience. Then approach the pep-talk in three parts; What? Why? How?
4. Before commencing any conversation that may spark any sort of reaction, set out your expectations for the pep-talk before you start. You will need to communicate WHAT has happened and that the student will have an opportunity to respond at the end. Explain WHAT the behaviour is.
5. Provide the student with a reason WHY you have needed to intervene and have a pep-talk with them. At this point refer to two or three keywords (and no more) from the school’s behaviour policy and explain WHY you need to.
6. Once a reason is provided, explain HOW the student could make this better. The most effective strategy I have found to consistently work over the years, is being able to remind students of the expectations of the school community, as well as your own. Show HOW (through explanation and modelling) the behaviour will be perceived by other students, other teachers, visitors, and most of all their family.
7. Finish by ending the pep-talk with a question. Ask the student if they would like you to feel proud of them? Every single time I have asked this question to a child, their response is always a ‘yes’. Who wouldn’t want admiration? Using this choice of language can make all the difference in any pep-talk to encourage students to self-regulate their behaviour. If needed, refer to previous incidents but do not dwell on them.
8. Most importantly keep your message simple. Focus on the primary behaviour and do not let any other comment backtrack you from the core reason you have stopped this student for a pep-talk. An example of this would be when you are speaking to a student, reminding them of their behaviour and choices, the child suddenly asks you a question; “Sir, what’s that on the wall?” It’s as if they were not listening (and most likely weren’t)!
9. If you answer this question you will lose the impetus of your conversation. You can either ignore it, or inform the student that you will answer the question(s) after they have recognised their actions, accepted the consequences and above all, reconciled.
10. Finally, a bonus pep-talk suggestion: What If? The final addition to this pep-talk strategy I have outlined, is that you may want to consider what if? In most situations, a pep-talk can be rectified there and then with a simple reminder and an apology. In some cases, particularly the ones that escalate, you may need to give the child a reminder of all the possible outcomes (What Ifs?) as a consequence of their choice of behaviour.
At this point, you should list of all the possible outcomes/sanctions.
All in all, this type of conversation can be mastered and delivered in less than one minute! I hope this serves as a useful reminder during a demanding time for all teachers.