Behaviour management is a hugely complex aspect of teaching and one that concerns many trainee teachers. You may be lucky enough to find yourself in a relatively 'easy' school, where the children are naturally inclined to behave well (although not necessarily all that well for a trainee teacher). Alternatively you may be given the greater challenge of working in a ‘difficult’ school, where behaviour management concerns take up a great deal of your time and energy.
Learn from your mistakes
See your teaching placements as a chance to develop your behaviour management skills: an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them as you begin the process of becoming a teacher. You won’t get it right straight away, but persist and it will gradually get much easier.
Here are some top tips that you may find useful:
Yes I do know how hard it is, especially when you feel terrified inside. But if you look like you know what you’re doing (even when you don’t) this will communicate itself to the children and make them feel more secure about working with you. If you look scared and uncertain, the children will quickly notice this and try to take advantage. A lot of behaviour management is ‘bluff’. it’s more about the strength and clarity of the verbal and non-verbal signals that you send than the reality of your skills as a teacher.
Be well informed
Your school should have a ‘whole school behaviour policy’, hopefully an effective one. Before you start working with the children, take time to study the policy and to understand it as fully as you can. The key is to know what is and what isn’t allowed in the classroom and what you should do when children misbehave. If you’re not entirely sure the students will pick up on this and very quickly start to try it on. Make sure you're totally up to speed on the kind of rewards and sanctions that are available for you to use.
Make your expectations clear
Children need to know what is expected of them, to be told where they stand and what they can and can’t get away with. The key to keeping control is to show them that you have clear and consistent expectations of their behaviour.
Children seem to have an innate sense of when their teacher is unsure about their expectations. They are usually aware of the possibilities of ‘getting one over’ on the supply or student teacher. So talk to your class about what you expect, giving them as much clarity as you can. It’s hard at first because you probably are not totally sure about what you actually do want. It does, however, get much easier with time and experience.
Use ‘I expect’ statements
These offer a very useful way of establishing your expectations. Aim to give at leas three ‘I expect you to’ statements the first time you teach the class. Here are three suggestions that you might like to use:
‘I expect you to look at me and listen in complete silence when I’m talking’
‘I expect you to work to the best of your ability’
‘I expect you to stay in your chair and put your hand up if you need help’
Don’t get defensive
It’s the most natural thing in the world to become defensive if a student ‘takes you on’ or if a class is messing around and won’t do what you say. The problem is if the children manage to make the teacher defensive they know that they are winning. If you start shouting and getting wound up this will only give the students more reason to misbehave.
Keep it calm
In teaching a calm approach really does pay dividends. For instance it’s very tempting at first to give the children work that gets them overexcited, because you believe that this will make them like you. But until you are more experienced in classroom management it will often simply lead to chaos. Similarly aim to stay calm when you are managing children’s behaviour as well as their learning. A teacher who refuses to get wound up or angry will deal with behaviour issues much more effectively, it will also encourage the children to stay calm.
An assertive and positive manner demonstrates that you are a confident and decent person. When you are in a bad mood or not feeling particularly wall try not to let this filter through into the way yoyo treat the children. Consider how they will perceive your behaviour and attitude from their side of the desks.
Use your voice carefully
Good modulation is very important, especially with young children. For instance being able to move between a happy and disappointed tone . Avoid shouting at all costs, it can damage your voice and is very rarely an effective means of discipline.
Try to focus on rewards
When you're finding behaviour hard to manage, it’s tempting to dish out sanctions right left and centre in an attempt to regain the upper hand. Unfortunately this can actually make the situation worse because it will create a very negative atmosphere in your classroom. Instead of focusing on punishment try giving rewards to those children who are doing what you want. A quick word of praise to a well-behaved child can refocus the rest of the class very easily.
Keep a sense of perspective
It’s very easy to lose sight of what really doe and doesn’t matter. At the end of the day a few children messing around in your lesson is not a total disaster. The world really won‘t end if you don’t get it right the very first time.
Get help support and advice wherever you can
Teachers are brilliant at supporting each other and they will understand what you’re going through because they have been there themselves. Turn to the staff at your school for tips and suggestions if you are struggling to manage behaviour. Other sources of support will include your tutors at college, TES forums, and your family and friends. Don’t struggle on alone, it really isn’t necessary.
Resources & advice to help deal with behaviour problems
You can download these resources for free by registering and logging into our sister site TES Resources
Check out the latest behaviour resources and advice from Tom Bennett
Get your questions answered by Tom on the TES Behaviour forum
Check out the TES Resources behaviour collection
Read other behaviour articles on TES New Teachers
For more advice, jobs and support for new teachers subscribe to The TES. View our best offer for new and trainee teachers now.Subscribe