Tonight’s 15 Minute Forum was led by Assistant Headteacher John Lamb. John started the session by making it clear that the job of getting a class of hormonal teenagers to do what we want, is one of the hardest jobs around – in fact it can often feel like a battle. However, as an adult and a professional, it is our right to set an agenda, so that:
- A focus on learning is possible;
- Children feel safe;
- Everyone is treated in a dignified and respectful way.
To be clear from the start – when we talk about non-confrontational approaches to behaviour management, we are not being soft or trying to be a friend. We are just dealing with things in an adult way, that will resolve (most) issues rather than inflame them.
Ultimately, we cannot control the behaviour of teenagers – there are too many factors at play, such as their friendship issues, relationships, home life, diet, sleep patterns etc. We can, however, control some of the precursors to their behaviours – we can outwit them, by thinking about:
- How we greet them;
- How we start conversations;
- How we use routines;
- Our apparent emotional state.
The other thing to consider is sanctions. Sanctions do not change behaviours. Sanctions limit behaviours so that new desired behaviours can be put in place and they are best when they inevitable…and they must not be negotiated. This requires consistency at an individual teacher level, but also at a whole school level, so everybody needs to know the sanction system of the school. As well as sanctions, we also need to think about rewards – and the most effective reward, in terms of behaviour management, is emotional feedback that praises their effort and positive behaviour.
Show them what you want…
As the adults in a school, it’s essential that we model good behaviours. So for example:
- Always say please and thank you;
- Hold doors open;
- Say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”;
- Say excuse me;
- Build trust and support.
Plan for good behaviour
It’s worth thinking about some guiding principles when we are thinking about managing the behaviour of challenging students/ classes:
- Prevention and reduction are better than reaction – there will obviously be instances when we can only react, as that’s the nature of working with young people. However, if we know that a particular student is becoming tricky, we can work towards addressing the issue.
- Separate the behaviour from the child – students need to have the hope of getting it right. Also, be specific about what aspects of their behaviour are not meeting with your expectations. So change “You are being really dreadful this lesson” to “I’m disappointed with your behaviour this lesson,in particular the way you have been turning round and talking”
- Focus on their primary behaviours, that are limiting their learning e.g. if they are flicking their pencil on the desk, point out that because they are doing this, they are not able to focus on their work.
- Always use the language of choice e.g. “You have a choice now, stop turning round and talking and get focused on your work or you will have to move seats over here”
Ten Step Plan
Having a plan allows us to feel and appear confident, when dealing with challenging behaviour. It allows us to respond consistently and without confrontation, even when faced with behaviour which is becoming increasingly challenging. The following ten steps should help – they are not necessarily hierarchical, but provide a good ‘toolkit’ to use – in conjunction with school behaviour policies:
Step 1 – Catch them being good
- An encouraging and supportive climate needs an emphasis on positive comments.
- For example – “I am pleased that you have got your equipment out and started the task, thank you”
- If the off task students then join in, thank them – and most will.
Step 2 – Positive cueing
- This links to step one, using those who are taking direction as role models.
- For example, Chris hasn’t put his pen down, but Shaun has – “Shaun, thanks for putting your pen down and looking at me, well done” Chris notices and follows “Thanks Chris” (I might even smile!)
Step 3 – Physical proximity
- This takes care! Move closer to the off task student, slowly, praising on task students on the way.
- Re-direct your attention to the off task student, if they refocus, then praise them. If they don’t….have a quiet word!
Step 4 – refocus by questioning
- When a student is off task – “How’s number 2 going?” or “What have you got for number 4 then?”
- Leave them with an expectation of compliance – “I’ll come and look at your answer to that one in 5 minutes”
Step 5 – Redirect privately
- None of the above will work, if the student stays off task.
- If they do, move close and quietly say “I need you to……thank you”
- Then move away – but give attention if they go back on task.
Step 6 – Acknowledge and redirect
- Avoid argument – don’t get drawn in:
“Chris, Jane, I need you back on task”
“I only asked what time it is Sir?”
“Well now you know, you can finish the task, thank you”
- End with an expectation you will be complied with.
Step 7 – Give a rule reminder
- When students are not complying with our expectations, give a rule reminder.
- “We put hands up to answer”
- “We don’t touch other people”
- The emphasis is on the ‘we’
Step 8 – Give a clear choice
- Assertively, but calmly state the consequences of their behaviour – “John, if you continue to talk to Fred, you’ll be moved. Is that clear?”
Step 9 – Use consequences
- Use agreed consequences to support consistency – so make sure you know the behaviour procedures for your school.
- Give these as a conclusion of a choice – “Chris, you have now chosen to come back at lunch, now carry on with the next task”
Step 10 – Exit strategy
- If they finally have to leave the room (short stop/ long stop) because of continued non-compliance, make it clear that this is their choice – “You’ve chosen to leave, by continuing to….”
- Exit must always be followed up by a discussion of what needs to happen next time.