Don’t Make Behaviour Management Too Difficult

Behaviour ManagementBehaviour management, particularly managing student misbehaviour, is without a doubt the most frustrating part of  relief teaching.

I feel immense sympathy for principals who have to deal with bureaucrats who have no idea how schools work, teachers and relief teachers who demand answers and parents who believe their children could do no wrong.

What a dilemma!


Behaviour Management and the Moral Compass.

Thousands of behaviour management plans, responsible thinking strategies, classroom management documents, school wide positive support plans have been written by well-meaning school staff in an attempt to solve the problem of student misbehaviour.

Make no mistake, managing student misbehaviour is a (maybe THE) critical issue for classroom success.

The bureaucratic solution to any problem is write a policy and throw money at it.

For goodness sake!

Behaviour Management is MORE than Documents

Education Departments throughout the universe have been doing that for years, with little impact. This "policy + $$" strategy enables someone somewhere to tick a box in their performance plan but teachers in classrooms are still crying out, "It's not working!"

Now, I don't profess to have all the answers and when I was working full time, I was not able to solve all the behaviour problems of my school. As a relief teacher, I am still not able to solve all the behaviour management problems in my class.

I think however, that I solved more problems than I created. I think I still continue to do so - and that is a good thing.

So here is my two-bobs worth.

Let me define my behaviour management parameters.

Behaviour is how kids respond to a situation.

Discipline is the premise of that response.

Behaviour management is any process you put in place to make student behaviour conducive to learning.

Here is an example.

If I was speeding and the police pulled me up, my sense of discipline would make me feel remorseful (probably more about being caught than speeding). When the policeman appeared at my window my behaviours would be respectful and apologetic. I know I was in the wrong and police are there to protect me and others. My sense of discipline tells me that and THAT then drives my behaviours.

My behaviours would be to stay in the car, hand the officer my licence and probably say thank you when the policeman hands me my ticket.

The premise of my action is based on my moral compass and my code of discipline.

The code of discipline for me is that

  • I respect the police and their authority.
  • I appreciate that police have important and difficult jobs.
  • I understand that if I wasn't speeding the police wouldn't be at my window.
  • It is all my fault.

This is what drives my behaviours.

Consider the situation when police arrive at a out-of-control party. There will be some kids whose code of discipline have no recognition of authority, do not appreciate the police for doing their job and have no understanding that they are at fault. That is what drives their behaviours. These kids will abuse the police, pull palings from fences and hurl rocks through windows.

No policy written will, by itself, improve behaviour management in classrooms.

Surprisingly, no policy or money will improve this situation.

In the classroom you will have kids who have no recognition of your authority, do not appreciate that you are doing your job and have no concept that they are at fault.

Behaviour Management is about Causes not Symptoms

Students behaviours are symptomatic. Their moral compass, their code of discipline is what causes the behaviours.

I have always thought that parents provide their children (your students) with their moral compass, their code of discipline, their understanding or right and wrong. Teachers in turn manage their behaviours.

I still believe that to be essentially true.

The problem is that clearly isn't working. Some parents simply aren't doing their jobs. These are the parents whose kids will stand up to the police at the wild party and you in your classroom.

It is worth remembering that 90% of the kids will do the right thing. Just like the cops, you will find yourself spending 90% of your time on the other 10% for whom the moral compass is spinning out of control.

Managing student misbehaviour without making inroads into their moral compass in like cooking a cake with a cake tin - nothing stays in.

If we want behaviour changes, we have to focus on the moral compass

We need to build a new moral compass.

Policy documents like Behaviour Management Plans work on the premise that every teacher should be doing the same thing. That is ok to some extent but consider the family as a social unit. It is highly unlikely that every family is doing the same thing as every other family. In fact, that is far from the truth.

And you know what? Kids are okay with that.

Kids fully understand that their friends will have different curfews, are allowed to do different things, wear different clothes. It seems families can be totally different yet as a social unit it seems to have stood the test of time. Why is the push to make classrooms the same and teachers clones?

Our bureaucrats seem to believe the solution is to have every teacher applying the same consequences to every situation. Rubbish! Our courts can't even do that.

Classrooms are dynamic units. No teacher is going to be an "edubot" program to automatically respond the same way.

As a result, schools have huge documents explaining behaviour management protocols in attempt to cover every situation that could possibly arise.

We have really made behaviour management such a complex issue. All we want, as teachers, is for kids to respect our right to teach and be safe and other's right to learn and be safe. The majority of parents would be happy with that as well.

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but it really is that simple.

As soon as any student comprises either with misbehaviour, then they should be "managed".

History will show that us teachers have been managing the behaviour of students since time started. We have built whole behaviour management industries. It would be much more efficient if we developed behaviour management strategies that improved student discipline.

If everyone had the same moral compass, behaviour management would be simple.

There - problem solved. E-A-S-Y!

We just have to ensure kids arrive at school with the same sense of self-discipline. We need everyone's moral compass to point in the direction of our right to teach and students right to learn and be safe.

I don't want to be too flippant here because student behaviour is central to our success as teachers.

Self discipline also involves work ethic, honesty, the value of effort, the desire to keep your room tidy and eat vegetables.

But me, as a teacher?

I would be extremely happy if my class had a moral compass pointing towards operating within the two principles of right to TEACH and right to LEARN. If that is held true, parents and teachers will be able to work on the others.

We need to explore ways of improving the moral compass to improve student discipline.

Let's keep it simple and work on developing a sense of self-discipline to improve behaviour management in classrooms.

Behaviour Management in the Classroom


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