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10 Behaviour ‘Don’ts’ to Set the Tone for the New School Year

This year, start as you mean to go on and get behaviour management right with your class from day one by following these 10 ‘don’ts’, says Robin Launder...

  • 10 Behaviour ‘Don’ts’ to Set the Tone for the New School Year

For worthwhile learning to take place in your classroom this school year, you need to create space for it – and that means making sure there are no unnecessary distractions and disruptions as a result of behaviour problems.

It’s important to be consistent from day one. Use these ten ‘don’ts’ and set the standard from day one.

1 | Never shout

Shouting is just plain wrong – and that’s reason enough why you should never do it in the classroom. But it’s also counterproductive, often generating more student misbehaviour, not less.

Sure, in the very short term, shouting might bring children into line. But the pupils soon get used to your raised voice. In an attempt to recapture that initial success, you shout louder and more frequently, but that ends up as white noise. Soon, it all spirals out of control. So never shout, OK?

It’s important to note, though, that raising your voice to get student attention is not the same as shouting. Just make sure there’s no anger or other negative emotion involved.

2 | Never humiliate

Humiliating students, like shouting at them, is unethical and self-defeating. It’s simple really: humiliate a student and they will not like you, which means they won’t work for you – or at least they won’t work as hard for you as they could.

In fact, because of the sting of that humiliation, they might even work against you, try to undermine you in some way and attempt to get their own back on you.
Also, don’t be sarcastic, don’t lecture and don’t make a joke at a student’s expense.

3 | Never say please

Instead of saying ‘please’, say ‘thank you’. Thank you and please are equally as respectful, but please implies you are begging for student compliance, whereas thank you sends the message that what you want to happen will happen – because otherwise, why would you be thanking them?

So please, I beg you, don’t say please; say thank you. Thank you!

4 | Never argue

Arguing doesn’t resolve situations – in fact, it entrenches positions. Not only that, an argument can quickly turn into a shouting match, and when that happens, everyone loses – you, the pupil, and all the children witnessing the exchange. So avoid arguing at all costs.

If a student wants to engage you in an argument, tell them that you’re happy to have a chat at the end of the lesson. Be genuine in this offer, too.

That said, when the end of the lesson comes, most pupils will no longer need to talk to you, and even if they do, they (and you) will be much calmer.

Oh, and there won’t be any audience present to inflame the situation.

5 | Never praise students for the things they should be doing

If you do, you will be lowering the bar of your expectations when you should be raising it. You’ll be communicating that doing the everyday and the commonplace is noteworthy of extra and special attention, when it’s not.

What’s worthy of extra and special attention is extra and special behaviour. Sure, a polite ‘thank you’ or non-verbal acknowledgement is fine, but anything beyond that is counterproductive – and, frankly, a bit needy.

6 | Never turn a blind eye

Don’t do it in your classroom, don’t do it in the corridors, and don’t do it in the playground. In fact, don’t do it anywhere.

If you pretend that you didn’t see something when you did, the students will conclude that either a) you are scared of dealing with the misbehaviour, or b) you are a bit inept. Either way, they’ll realise that they will be able to get away with loads.

7 | Never break your word

What you say and what you do must be one and the same thing. If what you say is the same as what you do, then what you say will carry the weight of what you do. So, no idle ultimatums, no broken promises.

If you say you are going to speak to a pupil at break, be in your classroom waiting. If you say you are going to issue a consequence, issue it. If you say you are going to the school play on Thursday night, go to the school play on Thursday night.

If, for some out-of-the-blue reason, you can’t do what you said you are going to do, address it with the pupil at the next opportunity – oh, and be doubly sure that you don’t break your word again with them.

8 | Never send a child out into the corridor

The pupil is misbehaving. You’ve given him or her chances. You’ve gone through your range of behaviour interventions and – argh! – still they’re mucking around. So you play your get-out-of-jail-free card and kick ‘em out. Problem solved.

Except it isn’t. At best it’s been delayed and quite likely worsened. The student still has to come back into the lesson – assuming he or she hasn’t wandered off and is causing mischief somewhere else in the school.

Worse, you now know what to do if this pupil misbehaves again: you kick ‘em out. Which means, guess what, you are much more likely to kick ‘em out again. And again. And again. And every time you do, the effectiveness of the strategy – assuming it was ever effective – reduces. 

Then there’s all your other children. Every time you send a pupil into the corridor, you are communicating to your class that you do not have the skills to deal with misbehaviour effectively: to avert it, to manage it, to de-escalate it.

Hence, your standing in the eyes of classroom falls, to the point that the children who are normally well behaved might themselves begin to misbehave. So now you kick out even more students.

9 | Never have favourites

Or, if you like, have every student as your favourite. Children will quickly spot preferential treatment and rebel against it.

10 | Never take pupil misbehaviour personally

If you do, it will get under your skin and wind you up. Instead, view misbehaviour as a learning opportunity.

If pupils get a sum wrong, or misspell a word or don’t know their gluteus maximus from their elbow, you, as the teacher, would see that as a learning opportunity.

So it is with misbehaviour; it’s a mistake that can be learned from – and if you view it that way, the student will be more likely to as well.

Robin Launder is the director of Behaviour Buddy, a company that specialises in evidence based CPD, including behaviour management CPD. He tweets at @behaviourbuddy.

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