Having been party to the teaching input in two local universities for both undergraduates and postgraduates, I am aware that both groups receive guidance on behaviour management, at least in an overview form, which is then refined within the approach of their practice schools. No university can equip every student with a full toolkit of skills to be able to manage every eventuality. The initial training needs to be supported and developed with experienced practitioner mentors.
Over the years of ITE tutoring, where behaviour management has caused an issue during teaching practice, this has often been as a result of misunderstanding and misapplication of communal rules, or a personality clash with individuals in a class.
“Low level disruption” might be classified as teacher distraction from the intended purpose of the lesson. It is important that, should this occur, all aspects are, or have been considered, including teacher actions, which will have a bearing.
If I was seeking to provide a simplified set of mantras, I’d begin with an overview approach and seek to refine to the needs of a situation.
- Catching them being good and acknowledging that is important, so that positive messages support good behaviours.
- Have a clear rewards scheme in place, so that there is benefit in being good.
- Decide whether rewards are to be intrinsic or extrinsic. Organise properly.
- TIC (Team including the Child; sorting things out within the lesson, or at the point of problem)
- TAC (Team around the child; involvement of internal expertise to support and restore)
- TOE (Team of Experts; in extremis, the need to involve counsellors, psychologists etc)
- Within boundaries and a framework that fairly emphasised that choices could lead to consequences, with consistency across all practitioners.
- This leads to a fair but firm approach.
- Possible to get things wrong, but need to admit and remediate.
- Following up and following through as an essential element of good BM.
- The ability to engage in restitution, or restorative justice approaches should be encouraged. There has to be a clear scheme for resolution.
Like the laws of the land, the school rules have to be clear, so that the majority of children adhere to them, whether they know the exact nature or not.
Schools are collectives, and, as such, will be subject to rules, in the same way as society has rules and laws used to hold individuals to account, where behaviours are determined to have transgressed certain boundaries. If these are agreed and communicated widely and regularly, their awareness is the baseline guide to expectations. Children and adults work within these rules; they don’t make them up as they go along. Some schools have long lists of articulated rules and sanctions, others don’t. It will depend on the philosophy (and the need) of the community. Of course, all rules can be subject to review, as the need of the community changes, but, in essence, they are likely to have the same outlines.
“Being a teacher”. There are a few key teaching standards that address this, 8,7,1 and 3, professionalism, behaviour management (theory), expectations, subject knowledge. These are the intrinsic aspects of the parts of professional status. Looking, sounding and acting as a teacher.
Organise your space and the resources. Some will want to say that this is not behaviour management, but, over years, it has become clear to me that it can have a significant impact. Your classroom should be a place where ease of movement, and ease of accessibility of necessary resources will support both you and the learners. This will vary to some extent with the age range being taught and the needs of the teaching. Where furniture arrangement allows for bumping past each other, there is the potential for low and high level disturbance.
Not having the necessary resources to hand causes a hiatus in a lesson, “down time”, during which children become distracted. Most teachers have experienced what happens when the technology fails.
Books, paper, pens, pencils, etc, are all basic needs in a classroom. Keeping these topped up is essential, if that lesson and perhaps a neighbouring lesson are not to be disturbed. Never a lender nor a borrower be… sort the stock…
If you are using photocopied sheets, make sure there are enough and that they suit the purpose of the lesson. Poorly designed worksheets produce requests for interpretation, causing distraction.
Visibility and personal awareness is important. There’s a need for visual oversight throughout a lesson It is easy to turn your back on a class, at which point there’s the possibility that someone will take advantage. At an early stage in my career, a PE inspector gave some simple advice, which applies as much in a classroom as in a PE hall. He suggested that moving around the outside of the hall gave maximum oversight, that to get pulled to the centre enabled accidents to happen and they needed to be avoided.
It is so easy to get distracted into the needs of one group, especially one with a specific focus and to lose oversight of the rest.
The ability to spot and deal with issues as they arise is ultimately the most important point, as to leave low level disturbance will probably lead to escalation, through exaggerated behaviour or copying. Children need to know that you are looking, or are aware of what is going on. The “eyes in the back of the head” or “tune antennae” approach is needed.
Knowing the children (TS2), including their home circumstances. This aspect underpins a great deal of behaviour management, especially for the “outliers”, those with known conditions, where specific approaches might be needed. As an ITE student new in a school, this is a missing part of their knowledge, which, applied to classes, has an impact on their planning (TS4) and their ability to think on their feet and adapt to identified needs (TS6&5), these latter issues being the most significant, as children can then “get away with things”.
This point also applies to NQTs, supply teachers and can apply to staff covering for each other with classes not normally taken, including SLT, the latter two categories perhaps covering a subject or year group other than their own. The normal precision of their “expert” teaching approach can be compromised by lack of pupil awareness.
Keeping records, the bane of a teacher’s life, can become necessary for specific children whose needs appear to be profound and sustained. The lack of records can lead to inappropriate decisions being made, or an inability to apply for external support, often meaning that records are started too late, when a problem has occurred.
The essential approach to behaviour management, to me, would seem to be summed up as follows;
Constancy and equity should be bywords across all staff groups.
Articulate school expectations clearly and regularly.
Know the school rules and approaches to behaviour issues.
Know the children well, especially individual needs.
Spot and deal with issues as they arise.
Involve parents as appropriate.
Report and record as needed.
Even when you think you have “cracked” behaviour management, the chances are that a new cohort of children will include a new “outlier”, whose behaviours may need to be described, recorded and discussed in detail.