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Spotlight on behaviour — working with confidence

There’s no doubt that handling poor behaviour remains one of the biggest challenges for newly qualified teachers. Trainees often talk of their fears around behaviour and many seem powerfully aware of the apparently thin line between calm and chaos in our schools. But it’s crucial to take on board a few home truths when it comes to behaviour management…

It’s not personal

I remember teaching a particularly challenging class when on a placement during my training. Due to some confusion at the end of the lesson, some pupils left before I had told them it was time to. I felt devastated; I can appreciate now that feeling so upset was disproportionate considering what had happened but it felt personal. And that’s quite normal.

But it isn’t personal. Children misbehave, misunderstand or just take advantage for a huge variety of reasons and if we are able to acknowledge that, and not take every misdemeanour as a personal affront, we will have a far easier time! Some children may be too challenged by the work, others may have needs that aren’t being adequately met at that time, others may be pushing boundaries, others may be struggling with big emotions as a result of events outside school, the class size may be too big – the list is endless.

You won’t always be able to have a positive impact on the reasons behind the behaviour, but you can move forward in your relationship with each child through the way in which you both handle the situation.

Strategies, strategies

Regardless of the reasons behind challenging behaviour, when it happens in your lesson, you have to deal with it. While other, more long term solutions may be sought after the event, you need short-term strategies so that each child resumes learning as calmly as possible. It may seem unhelpful to say it, but despite the real need to encounter a variety of strategies while in training, these are best acquired, and put to use, on the job.

You will inevitably use the strategies that work best for your personality and teaching style and there are numerous sources of support as you find your way. The teaching unions are a good place to start. Primarily, though, you must know what your school’s behaviour strategy is and follow it precisely. Know who you can call on for support too, and talk to colleagues about how they transform challenging behaviour so that great learning can happen.

Relationships, relationships

I was relieved to see in the Initial Teacher Training Behaviour Working Group’s report on developing behaviour management for teacher training that relationships get a mention among the more common advice to build routines and focus on responses for de-escalating disruption. It is down to you to maintain an atmosphere in your classroom that is conducive to learning and that, in turn, is supported greatly by the relationships you build with the children you teach.

That’s not to say that poor behaviour is a result of poor relationships, but good relationships will allow you to navigate choppy waters more effectively. When low level disruption remains a common complaint of many teachers, the quality of the relationships in the classroom will be key in overcoming such blocks to learning. And never be afraid to abandon teaching temporarily to give time and space to building better working relationships. It will invariably be time well spent.

Being realistic

As an NQT, you can be well prepared, but you cannot be well experienced. It may feel that the pressure is on for you to know all the strategies and potential answers to solve every behaviour issue you come across, but that expectation is utterly unrealistic. As long as you are building on your experience and learning as you go, you will become ever more competent.

You cannot be expected to solve all the problems inherent in poor behaviour. Help is out there. Never struggle on alone.

6 thoughts on “Spotlight on behaviour — working with confidence

  1. Poor behavior at school was, is and will be a constant problem for a teacher. I am interested in any new strategy for surpassing this issue.
    Thank you for sharing with me your experiences.

    Ioana Musceleanu

  2. Thank you for this very interesting spotlight on poor behaviour in classroom. In the same time you highlight that many unpersonal reasons can make pupils misbehaved, you increase the importance of good relationship with students.Thank you too for the link : developing behaviour management for teacher training. I learned that preparation of tools for deescalating and routines are cruciales. I would like to read more about those knowledges to improve my own response to misbehaviour problems.
    A French teacher of French

  3. It’s really disappointing to read this sort of advice on behaviour. What NQTs need is practical guidance not useless homilies about relationships with students, which is painfully obvious. The best bit of advice I was ever given about preventing bad behaviour was to sit my classes boy-girl and it worked and has worked well ever since. There are plenty of other tips, which teachers at various schools have shared with me, and this is what we should be sharing with our NQTs. These will to give them ideas to prevent discipline problems and tips to deal with such problems when they arise.

  4. Why do we have poor behaviour? Simply because both students and the parents of ill behaved students know that nothing of consequence will happen to them as a result of their poor behaviour.

    When poor behaviour is challenged, the student runs home, complains about being bullied by the teacher, and, of course, the parent storms up to the school to ‘sort it out’.

    In some schools, pupils poor behaviour is recorded on teachers records as if it is their fault.

    Teachers don’t need ‘strategies’ to deal with poor, or disruptive, or even viol nt behaviour.

    They need unquestioning support from senior leaders and decent cooperative behaviour from both students and their parents should be demanded, not wished for.

    I would say this to all NQTs. Remember, your students are not doing you a favour by being there, you are doing them a favour by obtaining your degree, and entering into a profession where everyone, government, (some) heads, governors, students, parents, and the often I’ll informed ‘advisors’ all have far more rights than you will ever see.

    I have taught in some of the most ‘challeng’ areas in th country. They all have one thing in common. Poor behaviour stems from the parents and problem families are treated with velvet gloves rather than the hard line they deserve. Heads and governors need to meet poor behaviour head on and adopt a ‘not in my school’ approach.

    Believe me, I know that when this approach is adopted it works….every time.

  5. Thank you Chris for your comment. I totallly agree with you. I have got experience in the harder way and it works better than velvet one.

  6. the comments are insightful, however i must say that the sugarcoating of bad behaviour will always have a negative impact, therefore we need to address it. take the bull by the horns

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