One key thing to bear in mind is that managing student behaviour is not necessarily about the teacher ‘being in control’ but making sure the behaviour in your classroom enables your students to learn.
Now Teachers often emphasise that you will learn how to handle student behaviour by applying your training and trying out new techniques yourself.
While working in different schools with different approaches and different behaviour policies, Now Teachers generally agree on one thing: you have no choice but to learn how best to create a purposeful learning environment for all pupils.
Zed Holmes, economics teacher and former banker, stresses the importance of making it a priority from day one: “Behaviour management is the first hurdle you have to overcome in the classroom. You will learn it very quickly because you have to.”
Setting high expectations and actively teaching behaviour expectations means you can ensure that your classroom is a safe, productive and inclusive learning environment for all.
1. Get to know your students
Developing positive relationships and prioritising getting to know your students is part and parcel of that process. Simon Carnegie advises having photos of your students and their names printed out on seating plans until you learn them off by heart. “Getting all your students’ names right leads to better interactions in class - they will know they matter to you and that misbehaving will have consequences because you know who they are.”
He also believes it’s important to be authentic as a means of building positive relationships; in his experience, “the more they know you, the better they will behave for you.” When observing school colleagues teach, look out for what they share about themselves and try to spot the impact this has on overall classroom culture.
2. Follow your school’s behaviour policy
Your school will have a behaviour management policy and it’s important you get familiar with this. Behaviour management won’t look the same in every school, and one of the beauties of your training year is having the opportunity to see and experience different approaches.
Deborah Mills believes that having a behaviour policy that everyone at the school buys into makes your job as a teacher much easier. She said: “As a trainee and a teacher, it’s bliss. You don’t have to worry about crowd control.”
Zed Holmes feels that fitting in with the school culture is paramount to ensuring you have a well-managed, structured classroom environment. She said: “The more you are in tune with the culture at the school and with the children, the better a teacher you will be.”
3. Be consistent and fair
Now Teachers agree that, to be most effective, both sanctions and praise should be delivered consistently and fairly. Nick Golson believes that as a teacher you need to maintain consistency in every aspect of your role as a teacher, not just when applying sanctions. For example: “If you get behind on assigning homework, then the students will pick up on it and think that guy doesn’t care about homework.”
Deborah Mills stressed the importance of ensuring you praise them for good behaviour. She shared: “If I’ve given someone a detention one day, I’ll go out of my way the next day to make sure I praise them for doing something well.”
4. Develop your teaching persona
Now Teachers believe it is essential to develop a strong, authentic teaching persona: it’s your classroom and it’s up to you to create a safe and inclusive climate and culture. Nick Golson put it like this: “You create the weather in the classroom. Being positive is so important; not just being the Eye of Sauron in the corner.”
However, Now Teachers also suggest you should aim to avoid falling into the trap of trying to become their friend. Ultimately, you are their teacher and in a position of responsibility; your tutors, mentors and school colleagues will be able to support you to develop your classroom management style.
They shared some of the things that worked well for them in establishing their teaching persona and defining how pupils behave in their classrooms. Deborah Mills makes sure that all her students put their planners at the side of the desk with their pencil case on top of it as soon as they sit down, while Simon Carnegie encourages his students to use their ‘jazz hands’ instead of clapping when they like something.
These small things remind the students that there are specific ways to behave in this class, making it easier to set expectations around other behaviours too.
“If you’ve been consistently applying the rules and not getting anywhere then don’t be afraid to get support from senior leadership.”
5. Get support when you need it
There is strength in asking for help. No matter how confident you feel about managing behaviour in the classroom, it’s essential to know when and how to ask for help from your colleagues. Zed Holmes said: “If you’ve been consistently applying the rules and not getting anywhere then don’t be afraid to get support from senior leadership.”
Nick Golson shared the behaviour policy at his school: “They have a tiered approach to discipline throughout the school which means that every teacher knows when to reach out for help. There’s a clear system that if any teacher is struggling, a higher-up will come and remove the student from the class.”
You’re probably reading this article because you want to become a brilliant teacher and make a positive impact on the lives of young people. That won’t happen all at once though - behaviour management can take time to grasp and progress certainly isn’t linear, so Now Teach staff are always at the end of the phone or email ready to help our career changers.
This article is based on a session about behaviour at the Now Teach Annual Conference in July 2021 and included a Q&A section for the incoming cohort.