I have said it many times before; teaching is simply hard work and managing student behaviour makes it just a little bit more challenging.
Don't get me wrong. I have been doing this job for over 40 years, and I love it – most days.
Teaching is a bit like gambling. Each day starts out with the possibility of a class of students fully engaged on the learning task and excited to learn. As a teacher, you KNOW you are making a valuable difference to these students and their world.
And you know what? Most days are like that. Not always but usually.
Too many teachers struggling with behaviour management. In fact, for some teachers, behaviour management dictates all their thinking, all their activity and pretty much all their day.
You need to be like a gambler when it comes to behaviour management.
Make the numbers work in your favour. A gambler works percentages. They gamble on those bets that have the best odds of winning.
As a teacher, so should you. Use behaviour management strategies that have the best chance of succeeding.
Using strategies appropriately enables you to focus on the one aspect that makes your classroom the best place to be – LEARNING.
I have worked with hundreds of teachers during my time. I have seen, and continue to work with, some great operators. As I visit their classrooms, I simply love to watch them work. Teaching is an art form for them. Behaviour management is always on their mind, but the key focus is learning.
These teachers all work in different contexts, in different subjects with different kids. I have found they use several similar behaviour management techniques.
If you want to manage behaviour in your class, have at your disposal a behaviour management tool box; a repertoire of behaviour management spanners to undo any nut.
I know I have said this before, and you might get sick of hearing me say it – there are no absolutes when it comes to dealing with kids. Not everything will work for all kids.
But these behaviour management techniques are worthy of your attention.
Let’s get started.
Kings and Queens in the past have used this strategy quite well. To be a ruler, they would amass the biggest army, use the biggest axe, and face threats with even bigger threats.
Force was the ruler, and you would show you were forceful by removing insurgents with more force. But that is exhausting!
Let me tell you, ruling a classroom by force is hard work. And I mean really hard!
There is always someone ready to challenge. I have even had preschoolers who barely reached my knees stand up to me. Being bitten by a preschooler hurts, trust me. You might think you are tough, but some kids are fearless.
Kids who play up are testing out their force card. You might be tempted to use bigger force as your number one behaviour management strategy but my advice is to save it for later!
Don’t get me wrong here. As a teacher (and especially as a principal) using FORCE worked for me. When I was on the rampage, kids ducked and weaved. However, my advice is to pick the most appropriate context before you play force as your behaviour management strategy because it often sets up a domino effect with all the tiles falling on you.
For a start, most kids who play up in class are playing up to an audience. Usually, it is not even you. It might be their student friend; it might be a group of students or it might be the whole class.
The best behaviour management strategy, in this case, is to remove the audience.
Let peer pressure work in your favour. Point out that it is unfair for one student to disrupt the learning of another student.
The good kids need to know that you are on their side, and they have some authority in the class. How cool would it be for every good child to turn around to the miscreant and say, “Stop interfering with my learning!”
Let’s give our trouble maker a name; Bob.
Say something like, “It is not fair for Bob to interfere with the class’ chance to learn. Bob you must stop.”
It is best not to target any individual student who might be teased or victimized. Use the generic “… class’ chance to learn.”
Now sometimes this call to action will work.
If it doesn’t, and sometimes it won’t, you have to proceed by moving the audience away.
“John we are going to stop Bob interfering with your chance to learn. John, move over here.”
Notice the language that you should use.
1. Ask no questions. Never give the miscreants ammunition where they could retort with a smart response.
2. Keep the focus of your behaviour management on the learning. After all, that is the only reason you want kids to behave isn’t it?
3. Make your directions clear and concise AND (more importantly) the last thing you say. “Bob, move over here.”
4. Keep calm. Use your normal teaching voice. Show control even if you don’t feel it.
5. Own the pronouns. Use the proverbial “we”. “We are not happy about your behaviour stopping us from learning.” Give some power to the good kids.
Your goal is to continue learning with the class by removing Bob’s audience.
At times, I have taken the whole class outside and left Bob in the room.
I know the preferred option would be to remove Bob and sometimes I have done that. But if Bob is putting on a real show, it is often easier to move the class.
Have you ever tried to remove a student who is heated up? It’s like trying to hold onto a stick of dynamite. It is not always easy and sooner it later it will blow.
Your language would go something like this. “It is unfair that Bob is interfering with our learning. Bob stay inside. You can join us when you want to learn. Class, grab your books and let’s go outside.”
I have used this strategy several times. I have taken the class outside and worked with their backs to the classroom. Bob won’t play up when no one is watching. Why would he? So sooner or later he comes outside.
To which you will retort, “You can only be here if you want to learn.”
Bob will normally sit sheepishly somewhere outside.
I continue the lesson outside for a while and wait for Bob to prove himself before moving the class back inside.
Once the audience is removed, set up Bob’s learning environment. Learning is the most important thing, remember; even for Bob.
You need to make sure Bob understands the work. It is a common trait that the most disruptive students are those for whom learning is the most difficult. It is not that strange.
Poor behaviour is usually a diversion for some students, so they don’t put themselves in a situation of looking like a slow learner. Why would they?
If you were asked to join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would you sing? If you sing like me, you would try everything under the sun to keep your mouth closed.
Some of our trouble makers are in a similar situation. They are in a class where they simply can’t perform.
You could give Bob a bit of one-on-one learning time.
Check out THIS YOU TUBE video on Peer Tutoring
In this case, I would select one of the cool kids to help Bob. Give Bob a chance to save face.
Say something like, “Bob’s missed a few steps. Brian, please work with him so we can help him catch up.”
Give this behaviour management strategy a try. Let us know how it worked out for you.
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Until next time.