Just recently I have read some conversations on twitter about behaviour. Some of these I have found a little distressing. For example there has been chat around the use of the word ‘obey’. I’m not a fan of ‘obey’. This sounds to me like ‘Do as I say or there will be consequences’. As teachers should we not be about teaching children right from wrong. Teaching them why it is a good idea to behave in a certain way and not simply expect them to comply without question. It is fair to say that on occasions there is a need for the child to simply obey. For example, when faced with a busy road if I shout ‘stop’ I’m clearly wanting the child to obey immediately. That said I will previously have covered the rules of road safety with the child. A life threatening situation demands the child to obey. In reality how many of these does a child face each day in school?
Personally I’m a big fan of positive behaviour management strategies. In a fabulous post from @headguruteacher in January 2013 The Principles of Bill Rogers ‘Behaviour Management Strategies’ are set out. I’m not about to replicate this post as he has done a far better job than I ever could but do please have a read. Meanwhile, here’s how I run my classroom.
Each new academic year I’m charged with the education of a new set of pupils. Some of these pupils have severe challenging behaviours. Others in my class are very delicate and extremely poorly. It is therefore very important that I take time and effort to manage these behaviours for the safety of all the children.
My starting point is always respect. I take the time to get to know each child as an individual. I find out what makes them tick and what makes them potentially explode. I never ever raise my voice as this is teaching the child that shouting is an acceptable way to behave. I lfind out what motivates them and what prevents them from working. I listen to them. Really listen to them! Communication is generally the key to poor behaviour. Often the child doesn’t even want to behave in that way and is instantly sorry but they can’t find a way back. As adults we have to provide that way back for them, usually through communicating.
Having learnt all about the children I can then set out my ground rules for the year. I work with the children on this allowing them to set their own behaviour expectations. Again, by really listening to them I find their requirements for behaviour are generally the same as mine. We all want to be allowed to do our work. We all want to be free from bullying and we all want to know that help is there if we need it. Everyone wants a happy classroom free from shouting. We have our rules displayed on the wall and we all have ownership of them. Easier to adhere to them if we’ve got ownership.
Rules are in place and all is well. However, from time to time I do still encounter poor behaviour. Children with challenging behaviours can’t be ‘cured’ by a few rules they’ve helped to set. I still need a method for helping them. I use positive behaviour management strategies. I constantly look for the decent behaviour and give lots of praise. I find the child’s motivator and use it mercilessly. I am nothing if not consistent. A certain behaviour will always result in the same sanction. There is no room for manoeuvre on this one. In this way the child trusts me to do what is right for them. By taking the time to get to know the child and everything about them I can spot a problem before it emerges. If the worst comes to the worst and there is an explosion the child trusts me enough to help them to sort it out. I find this method works. I’m only 5 ft tall yet I can calm a huge eighteen year old student having a meltdown or a tiny 4 year old if necessary just because I have invested time in them and I care about them. Quite often I can talk a child out of a potentially harmful situation just because I listen to them and they trust me. I’ve worked hard with the pupils and they respect me for it. I in turn respect them and help them to work through the situation hopefully without any harm occurring.
In the words of Bill Rogers, ‘Be an assertive teacher. This teacher expects compliance but refuses to rely on power or role status to gain respect’. For me, this says it all in one neat sentence.
I want the best for my pupils and helping them to manage their own behaviour goes a long way towards helping them to be the best that they can be.