Make no mistake, getting children to learn is simultaneously an epiphany of satisfaction and a process akin to sliding up a banister. Good behaviour is absolutely fundamental to good learning.
Here’s my experience of what makes the difference between a teacher in charge and an adult who just happens to be in the same room as them:
1 Be prepared
But, not too much. For your first real teaching job, if you haven’t got to grips with the schemes of work, the syllabus, the content of your lessons, then you’ll look as dumb as you deserve. Get on them. They’re the tools of your job. That said, you can only plan so much. Don’t pop a vein, it won’t help.
2 Know the school behaviour policy
I can’t stress this enough. Behaviour management isn’t rocket science; it’s mostly nuts and bolts. No one can ‘control’ another’s behaviour: all we can do is persuade them to act in a way we desire. If you show you know the school rules on behaviour, and what’s expected of you, what’s permitted and forbidden, what happens if they agree or dispute the rules etc, then you show them you’re part of the school body, and not some lone nut with a dream.
3 Make yourself clear
In lesson one you need to set your behaviour stall out, and tell them with clarity and vigour what you expect of their conduct. Of course, they know how they should behave, but that’s an abstract concept for many.
Spend some time going over your rules: write them on the board, get them stuck into a book, whatever presses your buttons. And don’t negotiate the rules with the kids – it sounds like you’re getting them to take ownership of their behaviour, but that’s a deception. You wouldn’t allow a rule you disagreed with, so the retention of your veto only indicates that it isn’t a democratic process. But then, classrooms aren’t a democracy – no one gets a vote. You are the adult and the teacher of the room.
4 Have the guts to give them a safe learning environment
That means sticking to the rules you set, and praising and punishing as circumstances dictate. Never, never, never be inconsistent, and let kids off one day, not the next, then off again the next, because you can’t be bothered, or you’re tired. All that does is teach them you’re inconstant, and your rules apply sometimes. Think you’re tired now? You’ll be tired all right, when you spend the rest of your career dealing with exactly the same guff every day, every lesson.
Your behaviour management is an investment in their future and your sanity. Both parties deserve the effort you outlay in order to reap the dividends of rule-driven stability.
5 Recognise your room won’t be built in a day
Children resent change, and they certainly won’t all automatically take to you simply because your heart is pure and you believe in them. What do they care of that? As far as some of them are concerned, you’re a stranger invading their territory, and it’s going to take time for them to learn to trust you as an authority and a presence.
So don’t start off firm and be surprised when they’re not jumping through flaming hoops for you by October break. These things take time. The very worst thing a new teacher can do is try to instil calm, then give up after a week or two when they’re still gaily pooping on your shoulder like Long John Silver’s parrot. Recognise the timescale we operate in; not a sprint, but a marathon, sometimes in a frogman’s suit with leaden feet.
6 Never walk alone
You are not a lone wolf, you are a pack animal. You pull the plough in a team, so use the adults around you for assistance. Don’t shy from involving others, especially because you don’t want to look bad, or incompetent. Believe me: you will be far more incompetent if you don’t.
So ask your line manager for advice. If a pupil fails to attend your detention, get others involved – form tutors, pastoral heads, heads of year, whoever is next in line to help you bring some tender mercy into their lives.
Resources & advice to help deal with behaviour problems
Read Tom’s pedagogy blog on the TES website
Get your questions answered by Tom on the TES Behaviour forum
Download resources that Tom has contributed to TES Resources
Read other behaviour articles on TES New Teachers
You can download the resources listed beow for free by registering and logging into our sister site TES Resources
Check out the latest behaviour resources and advice from Tom Bennett
Download Tom's sample whole school behaviour policy
Download Tom’s classroom rules template
Teachers TV video featuring behaviour expert John Bayley on how to establish the classroom ground rules
Another Teachers TV video – this time it’s Sue Cowley with lots of invaluable classroom management advice
Check out the TES Resources behaviour collection
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