How to Not Manage Behaviour a guest post by Jodie Reedman
I want to make the point that this isn’t written by an experienced writer, or indeed an experienced teacher. I have been teaching for 3 ½ years; these ideas and opinions are just that. Ideas and opinions. Ideas I have thought about, and strategies I have found useful in making sure I don’t need to manage behaviour in the classroom; I manage children. I manage the happiness, success and engagement of the children I teach. When these are secure, the behaviour begins to manage itself. You might disagree with my ideas; find them useless or even better, useful. Hopefully it will get you thinking either way!
It all started during my NQT year, I attended a training course all about behaviour management – a tips and tricks style 9-3 with a buffet lunch. We learnt how to diffuse difficult situations, with a particular child, or groups of children, within the classroom, and re-establish calm and order. These difficult situations ranged from low-level disruption; talking, fiddling, ignoring instructions, to more serious incidents including violent outbursts, vandalism, swearing. The list is endless; children differ, so too does behaviour. Teachers sat and discussed how “Bad” behaviour can be puzzling; frustrating; time depleting and drains you of every ounce of enthusiasm you have for being in the classroom. Lessons become Jeremy Kyle style conflict resolution and you find yourself spending more time “managing behaviour” than meeting learning objectives.
As I sat on this course, and during the weeks that followed, I thought a lot about the roots of this “bad” behaviour. Yes, we were given strategies to diffuse situations, but why are we letting behaviour get to the point where we need to “diffuse”? Why do we wait until the situation – or behaviour – needs sorting out? Why aren’t we being taught how to avoid it in the first place?
My favourite meal is beans on toast. I eat it most days. What I find is that I will time my beans in the microwave because I want them to be just perfect. I don’t walk away and leave them, haphazardly setting the timer; deciding if they burn; I’ll sort it out later. I prevent my beans from becoming orange bullets of burnt disappointment by setting the timer; by planning what I do. I have found behaviour is much the same, really. I try to prevent the “bad” behaviour in the classroom by planning and putting things in place that I know will mean that situations do not need diffusing, because they will not occur.
Here is my list. My tips for not managing behaviour
Know your children – really know your children
Sounds so obvious (patronising almost) but I have found this to be imperative. There is always a reason for the behaviour a child exhibits; good or bad. You need to know the triggers; what makes a particular child anxious, aggressive, noisy, fidgety and remove these triggers, or address them so that the child can manage them. Observe the children for a little while and see what makes them tick. It might be something so minor – like where they’re sitting – which takes a second to fix, or something bigger – like the arrangement of the classroom. Are they distracted and therefore chatting, because they can’t see the board and therefore detached from the lesson? I spent a while observing the children in my class – seeing when behaviour would flare up – and tackling the issue straightaway. Knowing your children and seeing when they work at their best will mean you can ensure they are always working at their best; engaged, happy and therefore behaving well.
I recently moved the tables in my classroom from groups of 4-6 to 2 large horse shoe shapes. The children are all facing the board; there’s no foot fussing under the table, no secret corner chats. I can see everyone and they can see me. I have found this really really beneficial. I am able to walk around the tables easily to get to each child. It stops the little “underground” chatter because I can see every child. All of the time.
Some children can become over stimulated by a busy classroom environment – loads of displays and more washing lines than the opening titles to Coronation Street. Some children say that they don’t always know where to look; it’s too colourful. Having a space in the classroom which is free of displays is really beneficial for those children who do feel overwhelmed by so much around them. I try to keep in mind sometimes that less is more, and that consistency is key. Have a set colour for each working wall display; make it simple, clear and to the point. The children understand it; they own it. When they understand, and can make sense of something, they are happier. When they are happier, they work better and behaviour is good.
Giving children independence to manage their own behaviour
There are particular children in my class who are distracted extremely easily. As a result, they produced little work, became restless and began distracting others. I sat with these children and came up with an “I work best when…” plan. We talked about what they found distracting and how we could overcome it; do you need a quiet space to work? Do you need to leave the classroom? Is there a seat you would like to sit in? Is there a pen you prefer? It’s little things but they can make a massive difference. The plan was in place and it was a success. He was able to work with fewer distractions because he had identified what distracts him and we had removed them. I used this plan with every other child in my class after that as it gave me a better idea of how the children wanted to work. When they’re happy in their work, behaviour is good.
A variety of learning opportunities
This links to the other point really. I find that “bad” behaviour in the classroom stems from children not understanding their work and therefore feeling confused or defeated immediately or literally not being interested at all. This lack of engagement, as every teacher knows, leads to the low-level disruptions which can mount up. I try in all lessons to have a bit of a mix; read, watch, make; practical activities as well as written. I will explain the structure of the lesson, at the beginning, so all children know what’s coming up and what to expect. This has helped behaviour in my class as the children feel part of the lesson – not that they’re having a lesson done to them,
Visual timetables are really useful for every child in the classroom. They are reliable, secure and let the children know what to expect each day. This can help anxious children , particularly, as they can refer to the timetable when needed to re-inforce routine. The idea of pictures/words or both can support all learners; they give instructions clearly and help them to understand what’s going on. Quite simply, children are calmer and as a result happier. When children are happy, they haven’t the need to behave “badly” Furthermore, other visuals are really useful; photographs of equipment in different trays; photographs of what is in cupboards. All children can access the information – no frustration, no fear of the unknown. Therefore, they are more relaxed and ready to learn. Sounds so silly! But works so well.
Some children need to fiddle!
Plastic spiked balls
Are all fiddly toys which make no noise, are discrete and therefore do not distract the other children. I have a fiddle box in the classroom where children can choose their fiddle toy for the day – with my permission (not all children need this). This has stopped the swinging on chairs, banging on desks and squealing – all things a particular child did because their mind was in overdrive. They have the fiddle toy in their lap and can use this whilst I am teaching. They’re happier – doesn’t interfere with the rest of the class – and as a result everyone is working