One of the biggest causes of stress for teachers is the problem of adolescent behaviour management (Education Endowment Foundation, 2019). The stress can be escalated when you use every behaviour management strategy that is thrown your way only to find it unsuccessful. The key to good behaviour management is a robust policy that all teachers follow in a school which everyone, including parents and pupils are very clear on. Punishment must follow the crime as sure as night follows day. The adolescent mind is clearly keen to try and prove themselves against any adult influences and also see what they can get away with. Clear boundaries help in every case and all schools that follow this principle end up well ordered and happy places. Schools where leaders think that this does not apply to them are usually in for real trouble.
Munn, Sharp and Lloyd (2009), in their research paper for the Scottish government, compiled a list of low-level and serious behaviours, stating that verbal abuse/violence was experienced by teachers and support staff at least once a week. This is, of course, not representative of all schools and teachers, and in my lessons over the years, this rarely happens with pupils usually well motivated and happy in their studies. However, it is not the same everywhere and all classes are different. I think one key facet that has slowly crept into the UK education scene is lower-level disruption that in itself is not abusive at all, but very damaging to pupil progress longer term. No behaviour system really can deal with the extremes that some colleagues see and for that, the only answer is an “on-call” system and sometimes Police involvement. I think this article is really not about this type of situation which requires something else.
Giallo and Little (2003) discuss how important explicit training in behaviour management is; however, even the best training cannot prepare you for the most difficult circumstances and situations. We all know experienced teachers who at some point have approached colleagues in dismay and in need of support and had that one tricky class who need a different approach at times. However, usually I think if you follow the rules for good classroom management, praise regularly and punish rarely, and firmly or consistently most teenagers can be won over. Something that some teachers forget is that to show respect to your pupils and kindness actually goes a long way. I don’t like other people being mean to me or telling me when I can go to the toilet, so why would I expect that to be ok for a 15-year-old. Student welfare is key and clearly a firm boundary is immensely helpful to a teenage mind which has a clear inability to control that reptilian part!
Strong student–teacher relationships are key for building a robust, positive learning environment, and it is these relationships that make having positive behaviour conversations after a student has made the wrong choice easier and more productive (Drewery and Kecskemeti, 2010).
I have included my own PPT which I use for my behaviour management rules. After over twenty years of teaching, I have seen a lot but I think this works and you might use it in your school too. My system is called “3 chances” and is designed to be fair, easy to apply and also gives the pupil chances to amend their ways.
- I will start by telling them “that is your first warning please stop that” or similar words.
- Then I will issue a demerit and tell them this that one will go on the system to be recorded formally. So, there will now be a record. Some schools may of course send that home.
- Then if they carry on with poor behaviour, I will give a time out which is simply a minute or two outside the room so they can calm down AND I can speak to them without an audience and try and reason with that reptilian brain. Notice there is no extra punishment at this stage, and it is a neutral action to give time for reflection.
- If they carry on disturbing the learning of others, they are removed to allow others to learn and given work from their textbook and given the reminder of the lesson to reflect on how they can fix what went wrong today and also be placed in detention.
The key to this situation, is produces a simple system which allows the choices to be mainly theirs. Also the punishment is real but not esclated to quickly which can sometimes happen with a cross teacher. It allows everyone space to think and often means that things stop quickly as there is no harm until step 2, and step 4 is some way down the line.
Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) (2019) Improving behaviour in schools. Available at: educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/improving-behaviour-in-schools
Munn P, Sharp S, Lloyd G et al. (2009). Behaviour in Scottish schools 2009. Edinburgh: Scottish Government. https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/en/publications/behaviour-in-scottish-schools-2009-final-report
Giallo R and Little E (2003) Classroom behaviour problems: The relationship between preparedness, classroom experiences, and self-efficacy in graduate and student teachers. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology 3(1): 21–34. https://www.newcastle.edu.au/research/centre/ajedp
Drewery W and Kecskemeti M (2010) Restorative practice and behaviour management in schools: Discipline meets care. Waikato Journal of Education 15(3): 101–113. edlinked.soe.waikato.ac.nz