Top Ten Tips for Behaviour Management

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This article mainly refers to behaviour management for the classroom, namely the management of student behaviour for teachers, however its principles can be applied in other contexts.

1) Be consistent

Whatever you do make sure you are consistent with your rules, the quality of your lessons and even your mood! Students tend to take an “offish” mood personally, they do not consider that you might just be having a bad day, or be slightly unwell, or highly stressed, instead they expect you to be consistent in your approach. Consistency is important and it enables students to feel secure and safe in your presence. If children feel safe they will trust you and a trusting relationship creates a healthy, positive rapport which reinforces the idea that learning from you is worthwhile.

2) Reward frequently

Adults like rewards and so too do children. Certificates, postcards, merits and prizes are brilliant for morale boosting, but the best reward should be you and the praise and attention you give. Use your attention cleverly. Never ignore children, but make sure you distribute your attention effectively - not just to the louder or more demanding students but to the students who deserve it because they are taking their learning seriously. Your attention can be used effectively as a reward and students will respect you for it.

3) Praise often

When your praise alone makes a child smile you have developed a very strong and positive rapport with that child. Students will do whatever it takes to please you if they trust you. It is crucial to praise students for positive behaviour, not just for the conformity to certain generic school rules but also for good behaviour and actions that directly contribute to their overall attainment. Praise acknowledges a child in a positive light and reinforces the belief that their self-worth is tied to doing positive things.

4) Punish appropriately

The notion of punishment in a teaching and learning context has almost become a dirty word. The idea of “punishing” behaviour brings up draconian images of old, miserable, unenthused teachers stuck in the dark ages. However, the purpose of a school is to reflect the true values of society. Most people agree that certain behaviours are punishable by imprisonment or even capital punishment! So is it not unrealistic to have a behaviour policy which solely relies on positive reappraisal if in the real world this is not the case? Children actually like boundaries. They expect adults and authority figures to give them appropriate boundaries because ultimately all humans want to learn. The students who challenge your authority the most will continue to do so if boundaries are not clear, transparent, fair and acted upon. Teachers should refer to their own school’s behaviour policies to know which forms of punishment are appropriate, and punishment should reflect those of society which involve some kind of ‘cut off’ such as detentions and isolation rooms or being moved away. Students should be absolutely clear about which behaviours will result in what punishments - and this should be in line with the whole schools behaviour policy.

5) Never ignore behaviour

Even when you get tired, fed up or despairing try not to ignore children or their behaviour in the hope they might eventually get tired of acting up, in actual fact they are likely to take it personally and may act up even more to gain your attention. Children have not yet developed the same kind of ability to empathise the way adults can - so they are likely to take ignoring them or their behaviour as a sign that you have given up and they will trust you less because of it.

6) Know your style

Know who you are and know your style. Teaching provides an opportunity for a fascinating journey of self-discovery. Whether your style is quirky, funny, strict, aggressive or friendly be aware of it. Your style comes from who you are and it’s difficult to change your style consciously, plus kids appreciate authenticity. Whatever your style is be aware of how it may affect your interactions with different kinds of students and their own personalities. An aggressive style might motivate the cheeky class clown who is less sensitive, however it may appear threating to the student with low self-esteem who may instead interpret it as confrontational. A friendly style may work well with self-motivated, able students, but it might work less well with students who lack focus who will ask you inappropriate questions in the most inappropriate way at the most inappropriate time. Know your style and use it to your advantage.

7) Have fun!

Have fun and the students will have fun. All humans want to learn but no human wants to be bored to tears. Learning can be fun for students and students can learn whilst having fun. Include games at the end to motivate students throughout the lesson or as a reward for good work during the lesson. Playing games and having fun will make you seem more human and the students will appreciate you for it.

8) Have a seating plan

A defiant student will try to challenge all the decisions you make, and they will try to make decisions not only for themselves but also for their classmates. One of the first decisions a defiant student will attempt to make is where they and their friends sit. You must absolutely insist on a seating plan. Even if it takes 20 minutes at the beginning of the first lesson to implement you must have all students stick to your decision on a seating plan. You must try to convince students that allowing you to make the decisions is actually in their best interest. A period of challenging your decisions will happen initially but as long as you are consistent and relentless it is likely to dissipate after a while.

9) Never take things personally

If you take things in the classroom too seriously you will be seen as weak and fragile. Grow in confidence and you will enjoy teaching a lot more. Remember that students really do not care about you as much as it might appear between 9am and 3.30pm - and this is a good thing! Things are not so serious and students will forget most quarrels by the next day, students have far more peer, personal, family and relationship issues to focus on than a quarrel with one of their many school teachers. Students do appreciate the work you do even if this does not seem to be the case on a day to day basis, but you will notice it at the end of the academic year or if you decide to leave the school, or if you go on maternity/paternity leave. You may even notice it if you are ever off sick and return to work after a period of successive days off - it becomes really clear that they appreciate all of your efforts! So never take things personally, learn from kids and "get over it!".

10) Be engaging

Continually work to be the best teacher you can be. Continue to learn and always evaluate your lessons - even if it is just mentally. By caring about the quality of your teaching you will create lessons that are far more engaging for you and your students. Once students are engaged their learning will become embedded and is more likely to be remembered. By being the best teacher you can be students will be the best students they can be, for you.

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