What is the most effective way to foster positive behaviour in your classroom and how can you manage your more “difficult” students? Here are some of our top tips.
Adhere to the behaviour policy
While you may not always agree with it, following the behaviour policy of your provision is important. This document ensures that the rules and sanctions of the school are followed in a consistent way by all staff. This is especially crucial if you work in a school where students work with more than one adult. Students in secondary settings might see lots of different teachers in a week, and expecting them to remember different sets of rules and expectations for each class would be unfair and unrealistic – so be sure to read and follow the school behaviour policy.
If you want students to behave well for you, then they need to see you as a person and not a robot. Be personable, take an interest in them and they are more likely to relate to you and listen when you need to address behaviour concerns with them. However, there is a risk of being “too close” with students and this can sometimes result in breaching child protection policies, so be sure to make sure that boundaries are clear. For example, you shouldn’t offer to pick up a child and drive them home because it’s raining, or be friends with them on social media websites. It’s more about building a trusting relationship with your class than about becoming their friend. That’s not to say that you can’t talk to them about your hobbies or projects out of school or what you did at the weekend – just be wary of never taking it too far or getting too close.
Be clear on your expectations
Ensure that your students know exactly what you expect of them. This can be a useful first week of school activity to get everyone started on the right track – discuss class rules and make a list together – then put this list on the wall. Or even better – get your students to make posters or decorate a page in their exercise book outlining your expectations in the classroom so that you know they are understood.
Praise the positive effort
Carefully selected praise can be an effective motivator. If you have a child who is prone to chatting when they should be working, there are two main things you can do to encourage the work over the chat. The first is setting them up for success. By this, I mean don’t sit them next to another chatty child or best friend! The are BOUND to want to chat and find it very difficult not to…which would be setting them up for failure. The second thing you can do is offer some positive verbal reinforcement when they are on task and working well. Try to be specific and individual with the way you praise and add a reason if you can. For example, you might say something like; "I can see how much effort you are making to concentrate on that piece of work, which is awesome! Are you enjoying it?" This is praise which is specific and takes an interest in the individual, which will also help with relationship building.
Be fair and consistent
If the police pulled you over and gave you a speeding ticket despite the fact you weren’t speeding – how would that make you feel? Angry? Cheated? Outraged? Well that is exactly how children feel if they are not treated in a fair and consistent way by the adults in their lives. So if you tell your class that they must stay in their seats but you then let the “usually good” child get away with it, but then sanction another pupil for the same breach of rules, don’t be surprised if they respond in a negative way!
Seek to understand
Some children have difficult home lives, are being picked on by other children or have medical or learning needs which may have an impact on the way they behave at school. It is therefore very good practice to seek to understand the root cause of undesirable behaviour – especially if the individual in question has suddenly started to behave in a way that is out of character for them – as this can be an indicator that there is an issue which needs looking into.
Avoid fear and promote discussion and reflection
Fear of punishment can be a great way to get children to behave the way you want them to. But it doesn’t necessarily help them on an emotional level and can cause problems to become internalised and stored up, which can lead to issues down the line. These days, this is even recognised when it comes to dog training! Many dog trainers will do their best to work on reinforcing the positives and ignoring the negatives (unless absolutely necessary) – so why would you treat a child in a lesser way than you would an animal? If we want compliant behaviour, we need to provide support and guidance, not fear and punishment. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use sanctions – they are still a very useful tool in the classroom – but think about the way you implement a sanction. For example, if a child loses a break time for getting 3 warnings in class, use that break time as an opportunity to talk about why the child behaved in that way and encourage them to reflect/discuss their feelings with you, rather than making them sit in silence or bottle up their feelings. It’s important for children to know that it’s OK for them to make mistakes – it’s part of growing up – the important thing is how they respond to those mistakes and plan to work on self-improvement afterwards, and this is what you should be teaching them as a responsible adult in their life.
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