It turns out twenty-five years in investment banking doesn’t prepare you that well for flat out refusals and the echoing silence following your jokes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a behaviour expert by any means, but I’m probably a competent apprentice, two years down the road from where you are now. My first term of teaching could well be described as a car crash. By Christmas I was pleading to quit. But I didn’t and now I could not be ANY happier in my job. What I hope to share with you now is a bit of a behaviour tool kit that can help you get started – some ideas to choose from, that I WISH I’d known two years ago…
(Disclaimer: There is no one way to ‘do’ behaviour management. Each school will have it’s own policy, and you will also find your own way.)
Get ready for DAILY failure
In a school, a number of things can and do go wrong every day. Photocopiers don’t work, the laptop doesn’t connect to the board, there are no whiteboard markers in the room, the list goes on. The art is to let go of the failure and focus on the successes, because each day you will also have the feeling you have achieved something – you helped somebody, something went well and it’s these moments you need to focus on.
The relationship is everything
What happens in the first lesson is very important. Try to memorise as many names to as many faces as possible. Look at SIMS or the student database your school uses. Kids love it if you’ve made the eff ort to learn their name from the outset. They are impressed, sometimes they’re scared! But it’s good to establish your authority and, if you need to discipline them, to address them by their name.
Clear rules, consistent enforcement
Every teacher’s rules are slightly different. Students need to hear something from you that they can remember, and something that you can repeat like a mantra. I find the number three quite magical. Mine are:
- Always follow teacher instructions.
- When I’m speaking, you are not.
- Every minute counts (if you’re wasting my time, I’m going to waste yours).
I also tell them that I have these rules because THEY are important. Not me. Don’t be afraid to enforce these rules once you have set them.
How children learn
We often focus on the enforcement of rules and punishment, but this isn’t how children learn at all. The default position in teaching should always be praise, enthusiasm, positivity and energy.
During my training I was told ‘show them how much you appreciate what you’re doing’ when things are going well, and I thought I was. I said ‘well done, that’s great’ but it has to be much bigger than that. The drama cannot be overdone.
There is no such thing good or bad behaviour in a classroom (unconvinced? stick with me): just because students are quiet, doesn’t mean they are learning. Equally just because there is chatter in the room, doesn’t mean they’re not learning.
Your job is to find whatever behaviour works for you – so that they learn what you want to teach them. Be aware of your own ideas of what you think good and bad behaviour is, try to focus on behaviour for learning.
Behaviour management scares everybody at first because it’s the first obstacle you have to overcome. But I think it’s important to remember that that’s not all teaching is about, don’t let it overwhelm you.
Thirty years from now, these children won’t remember the details of what you have taught them, but they will remember how you they made them feel.