In this week’s waffle I’m going to attempt to do something I haven’t done before – although people often ask me about it. Whenever I go into school to observe a student teacher teaching, I always look for two things – their rapport/relationship with the kids and their behaviour management. I consider that if these two are in place, then anything else can be worked on. The latter of these two is definitely something that can be learnt and, through my very first initial teaching practice, I was lucky to work with an excellent practitioner who demonstrated effective behavioural management techniques which I have successfully adopted throughout my career. This waffle is about the techniques I use.
When I started my first job, I lost count of the number of teachers who told me that if I smiled before Christmas I would ‘lose’ the class. Although this might be good advice, I would recommend a slightly different approach.
- Start as you mean to go on – Once you have ‘lost’ a class it is very difficult to get them back to where you want them. From day one, it is important to establish expectations. These have to be clear, short and easy to understand. Even when I am working in higher education I start new groups with a talk about expectations. Remember to start with what the children can expect from you. You are going to be work in a partnership with the children for the rest of the year so it is important for them to understand what they can expect. These expectations need not only relate to behaviour, but can relate to what they should expect from your teaching – and always ensure that you have the word fun in there somewhere! After you have told them what to expect from you, tell them what they need to do. It is essential to keep these short and to the point – often teachers consider this like a legally binding document and the expectations turn into paragraphs of exceptions and clarifications – avoid this totally! Also, try to ensure that ever child is able to achieve the expectations – having to deal with exceptions can cause problems later on.
- Positive rewards – Once expectations have been identified, then you need to talk about what happens when expectations are achieved. (Yes I did say that correctly). What will happen if the children do everything as you have asked. I always used ‘golden time’ on a Friday afternoon to reward the class and individuals and had a class point system that they could work towards getting a treat which they wanted – usually extra playtime on the coldest day of the year I seem to remember. Rewarding is so important with behavioural management. Fulfilling the expectations lead to rewards – not fulfilling them will not. It is important to mention at this point that I personally do not believe in removing time or points that children have gained. If they didn’t hand in their homework – one of the expectations then they just didn’t get a point towards the golden time. I did not remove a point. Everything was set up to gain…not to lose.
- Not meeting expectations – Positive behavioural strategies are key to effective behavioural management. Within a lesson, anyone observing you should be able to hear positive language used the majority of the time. But there are times when expectations are not met (and remember you have set your own expectations) and something needs to happen. Setting up a series of events that will occur is essential here. Set them up and stick to them! Do not alter them unless there is a time of calm in the class when you can say to the children – “from now on this will happen”. If you change things it not only makes some children anxious and removes the consistency from the approach. Implementing these events is not an opportunity to shout and have a rant. Coming from a family of five children, I always remember that once on of us got told off those immortal words – “and you need to buck your ideas up as well” would echo around the house, even though I was just sitting quietly reading a book. (well maybe not all the time:)). When something goes against the expectations deal with it quietly and without emotion. I always suggest saying – to the individual child if you can – ‘You have done this, which is not what we expect, so you understand that this has to happen.’ It sounds very clinical but I think it has to be. In that way we maintain our relationship with the child and can continue with the lesson. If needed I would even say – “Name – can you please see me at playtime so we can talk about this” and then move on. There are so many posters/signs saying “Keep calm and (fill in a random phrase) well with behaviour management I would say ‘Keep calm, and continue to teach’.
I don’t want to turn this into a fourteen page waffle post about behaviour. In this waffle I have tried to communicate the basics which I consider lead to effective behavioural management. I am not saying that they worked every single time, and there are always exceptions but they have always been my starting point with a new class. To conclude I would suggest that you keep two very important points in mind when developing your behaviour management strategies – 1) Know your children and 2) work with them, not against them.
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Have fun and catch you later!