How can we maintain good standards of behaviour?
A half-term under our belts and the reality of the new term is starting to bite. The sickness bugs are sweeping the school, the nights are drawing in and some of your students are starting to challenge your authority.
My top behaviour tips
Now more than ever it is important to continue the momentum on behaviour for learning established on day one. So, what are the best ways to do this?
1. Show you love your job
This is the opposite of the old adage “don’t smile until Christmas’ and may be a strange starting point. This may be particularly difficult in the next cold, dark and wet months ahead but ‘show your bright face’ suggests Doug Lemov in ‘Teach Like a Champion’. The bright face says that you are happy here, you know that students will behave and any non-compliance will addressed with the minimum of fuss. This becomes a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. Maintain routines
Lining your class up, handing out books, recall tests and setting homework are all routines that can fall by the wayside as we juggle other responsibilities. It is vital to maintain routines even at the expense of other parts of a lesson. These routines allow us to teach better for longer and once embedded free us up to catch up anything missed in the early stages.
3. Keep looking
Scan the class regularly for any low-level disruption or off task behaviour and avoid the very real temptation to check that email or get too involved in protracted conversations. Put some thought into where you stand in the classroom, can you see all the students all the time? Even when you are working with small groups, be sure you can scan the room from your position. Anything nipped in the bud now with the minimum of fuss will establish the culture of your classroom for the year to come.
4. Recognise compliance
Most of the students will be keen to follow routines as they know this will help them to be successful. Recognise a couple of students who have followed the direction to reinforce its importance and the benefits.
5. Reactions and responses
I had the privilege of listening to Tom Bennett again recently and his report ‘Creating a culture‘ is essential reading for all teachers. He talked about understanding when and how to react to inappropriate behaviour. For example, the Year 8 boy desperate to show he knows when the Battle of Hastings shouts out the answer despite being asked for hands up. If you take his answer this disrupts your classroom system.
The skill of developing your repertoire of possible responses is key in the early months of teaching but never ends. In this case tactically ignoring and taking the answer from a compliant student would send a powerful message to the class. Other responses can include standing closer to a student, the eyebrow raise or the dreaded stare.
6. Don’t be scared to use sanctions
I am not advocating the widespread use of punishments but now is the time to establish what is and isn’t acceptable. Your school will have excellent systems in place to deal with this and full training to support you.
It is much better to use sanctions early to establish your boundaries, especially if you are new to the school. It is much easier to back off later than to suddenly start using a system later on. Students have been told there will be a consequence to any action that is unacceptable, you must make sure this happens particularly early on.
7. Tell students what they should be doing not what they shouldn’t
Try not to be drawn into any debates regarding any of the rules and routines you have established.
Avoid any possible opportunities for students to question your rules and “Stop that” and “your behaviour is unacceptable”. Be precise in your expectations, repeating if necessary. Make behaviour and compliance the path of least resistance.
8. Make allowances whilst maintaining high standards for all
Some students may struggle to meet behaviour targets. I personally teach many students with identified SEND including behaviour issues and it is important to ensure as much assistance as possible is given to these students. Policies must be followed. However adjustments should be made and behaviour modelled and scaffolded if necessary. It should be unacceptable to accept behaviour from any student who is capable of modifying their actions but high expectations for all should be our aim.
9. Stay steady at the helm
Doug Lemov talks about staying calm and steady and he is right as usual! However, this can be easier said than done particularly this term. This term take care of yourself and make sure you are feeling well, it is much easier to stay calm after a good nights sleep. Don’t suggest to students that they can get a rise out of you with comments such as “If you talk one more time, I will be annoyed!”
10. The power of relationships
I have read many books where authors eulogise the power of relationships and how we must get those right before looking at behaviour. Quotes such as “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” are misleading in this context. The routines, structures, high-quality teaching backed up by rewards and sanctions will develop relationships. These relationships will be built on high standards, you care because you teach well and expect the best for your students not because you enquire after their favourite YouTube vlogger .
11. Don’t let your colleagues down
The last and arguably most important tip. You must make sure that whatever the schools behaviour policy is you follow it whether you personally believe it or not. If the school has a no mobile phone policy but you believe that mobile phones are useful additions to your students learning, resist your personal beliefs.
Every time you allow something that the school has said is not acceptable, you corrode the policy and let your colleagues down. If students are able to say “Miss x or Mr Y lets us” the system fails and the culture shifts. Be a team player and back your colleagues, knowing they will reciprocate.
Time and effort spent establishing these rules and routines is well spent. These are the foundations for your year, making the rest of the year much easier and smoother. It’s hard but its worth it!