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Behaviour Management Advice for NQTs

Merely acting as though you like your pupils isn’t enough – you need to mean it if you’re going to truly nail behaviour management

  • Behaviour Management Advice for NQTs

It may seem to you that some teachers are able to control the behaviour in their classroom with a swish of a magic wand. Their class moves silently around the school as though under a spell and there isn’t a murmur when you walk past the door; heads are down and work is being completed.

For the non-magic folk among us, however, reality can be a little different. There may be days when you feel as though you’re talking to yourself or have mastered the art of invisibility. Managing a class’ behaviour can be truly exhausting and is one of the myriad of reasons that teachers leave the profession in their droves.

As a newly qualified teacher though, you have an advantage. It might not seem like it when Jimmy is flicking his rubber at Frank and Jasmine is accusing Fatimah of pulling her hair for the umpteenth time that lesson, but believe me, it’s true. If you can nail behaviour management, the rest of your teaching will be a breeze.

So why are you, an NQT, at an advantage? Because you haven’t been struck down with the disease that plagues many an experienced teacher: cynicism. I know, I know, I’m probably being unfair, but I’m also being truthful. And you know it.

As a student you’ll have met Cynical Cindy or Pessimistic Pete in the staffroom – teachers who don’t believe that modern behaviour management strategies work and proudly refer to a time when they could use the slipper. They often suggest that children just need a bit of ‘tough love.’

But you can avoid this disease. It’s not going to be easy and it’ll test your enthusiasm for teaching, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll reap the rewards.

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There are many strategies you’ll know about that will help with the practical element of behaviour management. Seating plans, reward charts and sanctions are all approaches that you can easily implement and use with great success.

But to be a truly great practitioner, behaviour management goes beyond that. It requires you to dig a little deeper. It requires you to understand ‘why’ and to care. It also requires you to tap into your inner Aretha Franklin (more on that later).

Children are savvy little creatures. Even from a young age they can figure you out. The great thing is that they live by a simple code: the need and want to be liked. If they sniff out that you don’t really like them, they’ll have no inclination to behave for you.

And I’m not talking about acting as though you like each and every one of them. I mean truly liking them and getting to know them and their little idiosyncrasies; remembering important things about them and taking an interest in what they have to say; giving them your attention as much as you can; showing them that you care.

This doesn’t have to be difficult – it can just start with a subtle smile and thumbs up when they do something well. But it can be other things too.

If you notice they’ve had a haircut, compliment them on it. If you know they were going away for the weekend, ask them how it was.

Show an interest and ask questions and soon these little acts, over time, build into a lovely relationship. They’ll know you care about them and will want to please you.

It also means that when you are disappointed with a choice they’ve made, they’ll feel genuine remorse about letting you down and will be less inclined to repeat the action.

Remember the iceberg

It is also important to remember that all behaviour is communication, no matter how often it occurs or how much it drives you up the wall. If a normally well-behaved child begins making poor choices, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re asking for attention for a reason.

Quite often those who appear to ask for your attention a lot don’t get much of it at home. Even if it’s negative attention, for them it’s better than nothing. Remember the iceberg analogy – we only see the behaviour itself. What’s causing it can lie deep beneath the surface.

Always remember to ask yourself why this behaviour is occurring. Do you need to involve the SENCo or pastoral support assistants? This may sometimes be the case, but quite often making the time to sit with a child in a one-to-one capacity and talk to them will enable them to open up and share things with you.

Tell them you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour and ask if there’s anything they want to talk about so you can help them. Again, you’re showing them that you care. A little bit of one-to-one attention can work wonders.

As well as a desire to be liked and cared for, children are looking for you to pull out your best Aretha Franklin and give them some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Forget the old adage of ‘respect is earned’.

While this is certainly true, children are looking at you to model what respect looks like. It’s simple really: if you show respect to them, they will reciprocate and respect you and your class rules.

While the practical strategies are crucial for day-to-day organisation, true behaviour management begins, and stays, in the heart. Lead from there and you can’t go wrong.

How to get to know your pupils

Finding the time to chat to children can seem like an impossible task with all the other jobs you have to do every day, but try these ideas…

  • When you’re on duty, chat to the children in your class. Use this opportunity to get to know their interests and hobbies. Try and remember one thing for each child and ask about it occasionally. Soon they’ll begin to tell you when competitions or events are coming up and you can then ask them how it went. You can also use time at the end of the day when you’re waiting for them to be collected.
  • If you’re able to build in time for one-to-one reading with each child, use it as an opportunity to talk to them about books they enjoy or authors they like. If they particularly like non-fiction, talk to them about facts they know. This can often lead to discussions about other aspects of their hobbies and interests.
  • If you started the academic year by asking children to complete an ‘all about me’ activity, look at these in detail and jot down anything worth remembering in your mark book or diary. If a child swims for the county, you’ll know to ask them how things are going as the year progresses.
  • Share your hobbies and interests with your class and they’ll feel like they know you a little better. It might be the football team you support or the fact that you have a dog you adore. Whatever it is, chat to the children about it occasionally and use the information in anecdotes in your teaching. They’ll love finding out about you and many conversations can stem from it.

Steph Caswell is an educational consultant and writer. She is the author of three books for NQTs and a regular contributor to Teach Primary magazine. You can connect with Steph on Twitter at @stephcaswell_.

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