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NQTs Need to Set Summer Term Behaviour Expectations Sky High

There's plenty of advice on setting standards in September, but don't let things slip as end of year rolls around, says Steph Caswell

  • NQTs Need to Set Summer Term Behaviour Expectations Sky High

Go on; be honest. How many behaviour management books did you read before embarking on your NQT year?

How many nightmares did you have about unruly classes who just wouldn’t listen? How many times did you wake up in a cold sweat, thinking about the conversation you’d had with the previous class teacher about Daisy’s desire to rule the group of girls with a style that closely resembled Regina George’s from Mean Girls?

Quite a few, I’m sure. But you were lucky.

Everyone was able to tell you exactly what you could expect in your first term as a teacher. Maybe it was a well-meaning family member who told you that behaviour, ‘wasn’t like that in my day’ or a mentor on your placement who gave you some words of infinite wisdom.

You may have had your head in so many books, you felt like Matilda Wormwood. There was so much advice for you to get your hands on.

But what about your last term, how much advice is there about that? Now you see where this is going. But don’t panic; there is a little motto that is going to give you the helping hand you need.

It’s a reflective and forward-thinking approach you can adopt across all areas of teaching, but particularly with behaviour management. What exactly is this little saying? Repeat after me: ‘maintain and move forward’.

Behaviour bus

Behaviour management is just as important in your third term as it is in your first, maybe even more so. You know your class really well now. Relationships have been fostered, your boundaries are firmly in place and there is an environment in the classroom that is conducive to learning.

Your pupils know you really well by now too. They are aware of the boundaries and rules and never put one tiny toe over that line. They know what is acceptable and what isn’t, and they constantly rise to meet your high expectations.

So does this sound like your class? Or do they resemble wild animals? If you feel more like a lion tamer than a teacher, make sure your expectations are sky high at this point in the year. The old adage of ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ couldn’t be truer.

Your boundaries must remain firm and you must not budge on any rules that have been put in place. Children are savvy creatures and can sniff out uncertainty and weakness like vultures over a carcass.

Make sure that all adults in the classroom are on the behaviour bus and are following the rules too – model the behaviour that you want to see and the children should follow suit.

Don’t be afraid to reinforce some of your expectations, eg walking silently around the school, by repeating them and insisting it is done how you expect it to be. It will be draining and hard work at times, even if you have a class who behaves pretty well. But it will be worth it.

Be a stickler

Any teacher worth their salt will tell you how important reflection is, and that is the one thing I love most about the third term as an NQT. It provides you with the opportunities to think about what has gone well this year and what you wouldn’t ever do again.

So what can you reflect on when considering your behaviour management this year? Is it an area of your teaching that you find hard or are you fairly confident? Whatever your situation, you’ll certainly have plenty to think about and improve. Sit down and actively make a plan about what you want your second year to look like and write down an ideal day’s behaviour for your new class.

Remember, anyone observing your lessons going forward will be looking at how you manage low-level disruption. This is a good place to start when reflecting on last year, as well as the one ahead.

If you tackle this stuff, the rest will be much easier to handle. Quite often, recently qualified teachers recognise that this is an area that could be improved.

Be a stickler for what is acceptable and what isn’t. Remember your expectations should come from what you firmly believe in. These values can provide the basis for any class ‘rules’ you have. You will probably find that your ideas about behaviour management have changed as the year has gone on, and you’ve probably muttered, ‘Well that shouldn’t be happening’ more than once.

And do you know what? That’s OK. Remember, your NQT year should be the one when you learn the most about yourself as a teacher. The great thing is, this profession is a constant learning curve and you’ll realise that you learn and adapt all of the time.

If you approach every situation as a learning opportunity, you will become better at managing behaviour, and your overall teaching will improve considerably too. You will find that every year brings different behaviour challenges, so seek advice when necessary and adapt your strategies accordingly.

Your NQT experiences will have given you plenty to ponder on – change what you need to change and enhance the rest.

Your second year will bring different challenges and experiences, but aim to go into it with a renewed confidence in your ability to manage behaviour.

MAINTAINING SUMMER BEHAVIOUR

1. During the summer term, remind the class as often as necessary where the ‘line’ is and that your expectations for their behaviour are as high as they’ve ever been.

2. Use circle time to remind them about what friendship truly means – you’ll find lots of arguing occurs during the latter weeks of the term, so be prepared to diffuse situations on a regular basis and work with children to resolve them.

3. Keep to your timetable as long as possible – don’t go into ‘summer holiday mode’ too early, as you’ll end up paying the price of poor behaviour. The pace in your lessons needs to continue to be well monitored too – boredom leads to poor behaviour for many students.

4. Address low-level disruptions until the very last day – don’t let things slip and small things go unnoticed. Ensure the children are respectful and polite at all times.

5. When talking to the current teacher about your class for September, remember that every child deserves a clean slate. Take on board any comments they make about behaviour, but give pupils a chance to prove themselves to you in September.

6. What matters most to you? What core values do you want your next class to have about behaviour? Use that as a basis for considering your approach to behaviour management in your second year. If you care about it, you’ll make sure it happens.

Steph Caswell is an educational consultant at SPC Education, currently providing support and training for NQTs. Steph is the author of three books for NQTs. Listen to her on the NQTLife podcast or follow her on Twitter at @nqtlife_.

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