Managing difficult behaviours

This week’s 15 Minute Forum was led by John Lamb (Assistant Headteacher) and Jack Griffiths (Year 7 ICT Progress Leader).

John started with a focus on teacher’s approaches to different scenarios:

If student X cannot complete an activity such as an equation in Maths, teachers will plan a different way of approaching that activity. This different way of approaching the task will allow the student to become ‘unstuck’ and move forward in their learning.

What this means, is that teachers plan to help students understand a concept or a topic in their lessons. Importantly we should also plan for good behaviour. In a previous 15 Minute Forum, John had presented the idea of a 10-step plan for good behaviour (here).


Importantly, the use of consequences appears as ‘Step 9’. This means that 8 other strategies have been attempted, before the teacher resorts to sanctions. The focus of this idea is that prevention and reduction of behaviour issues is better than reacting to those issues.

Jack then discussed how his approach to behaviour management has changed in his time at Durrington, having reflected on his practice following John’s previous 15MF. Jack discussed that his PGCE had not prepared him for non-confrontational behaviour picture3management approaches because he had been told – “You need to make sure that they know what you being angry is like.” However, Jack’s approach to managing difficult behaviour is now one focussed on ‘finding a way to avoid it in the first place’:

Language of choice – An important aspect of this approach is the ‘use of language of choice’. This involves giving the student the choice as to their next step – If you choose do this…then you are choosing for this to  happen – and avoids negative responses to ‘surprise’ warnings.

Separating the behaviour from the student – It is important to remember that the majority of a student’s behaviour is not directed at you (the teacher) personally. Therefore, when a student does show behaviour which is not acceptable,  a subtle change of language can be empowering. By stating that ‘we’ (the school) do not accept this kind of behaviour means that it is not you reacting but the school. This removes the personal nature of the issue and increases the chances of a positive outcome.

Don’t shout – In the majority of situations, shouting will be counter-productive. The students may respond by shouting at you, laughing at you or having a brief improvement and then behaving even worse. A different approach could be to listen to the student when they arrive. If the student is agitated on arrival, an immediate confrontation could exacerbate the issue. This has proven successful with one particularly challenging Year 8 student:

  • the teacher spoke with the student in a detention;
  • the student said that he felt pressured when he arrived and the teacher spoke to him as soon as he had set foot in the door;
  • the teacher and the student agreed the following:
    • the student would enter the room, take his seat and write the date and title
    • the teacher would not speak to the student until he had done those things (unless he was being deliberately disruptive or refusing to meet the agreed expectations)
  • this non-confrontational approach has been successful in recent lessons and allowed for that student to stay in the lesson (and make greater progress).

Bring your personality – Often difficult behaviours can be managed through the enthusiasm and passion of the teacher, because the issues do not regularly arise. The important aspect of this is that effective working relationships are developed between the teacher and the student to allow for successful outcomes (even when the student does disrupt).

Focus on the positives (not the negatives) – Catch the students doing something right. Praise the students for doing the right thing and then discuss where the student may not have got it right. This allows more positive language to be used and avoids direct confrontation, but still addresses the issue that has been created.

But it is vital that…

Expectations remain high – It is important that the students meet your expectations, but that teachers guide and support students to reach these expectations. When sanctions have to be implemented (and remember this is step 9) it is important that they are consistently applied and enforced. However, by approaching this in the right way difficult behaviours can be effectively managed.

Despite all of these things, teachers need to remember that students will misbehave and that these approaches are not a ‘magic wand’. However, by adopting non-confrontational approaches small issues, do not need to become big issues; and big issues can be dealt with effectively.

Posted by Martyn Simmonds

This entry was posted in 15 Minute Forums, General Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Managing difficult behaviours

  1. Reblogged this on Design Technology & Engineering Teaching Resources and commented:
    Managing difficult behaviours…

  2. kayetkm says:

    Thanks for this post. It is a helpful reminder of where consequences fit into a management plan.

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