Behaviour: Building relationships for behaviour management: what not to do

Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

Every week I bash out tips and hearty back-slaps to teachers, trying to help them navigate away from the rocks that threaten the bows of your valiant hulls (any ex-naval teachers are welcome to comment on that metaphor. I get all my oceanic knowledge from Jules Verne). But this week, as a sort of Diamond Jubilee inversion of logic, I thought I’d look through the wrong end of the telescope. How do you get BAD behaviour? What should you do it you really want to create a class full of Yahoos? It’s not such a daft thing to ask.

Treat them all identically

But, I hear you splutter, surely the essence of justice, of fairness, is to treat everyone the same? Of course not; justice means that we treat everyone the same depending on their circumstances, not as a blanket option. I’ve seen teachers who STILL give out whole class detentions, as if that was an efficient way to treat a bunch of children. All it does is express, in a spectacular manner, that you are an oaf who doesn’t care who behaved and who did not. All that matters, you are saying, is that I smack the skin of my naughty drum, and you all dance. Boo! to you if you still do anything like a whole class detention, BOO! I say. Unless everyone deserves one, you’ll only alienate the ones who might have rallied to the cause of calm. And you’ll deserve every minute of the Hell you will create by so doing.

Pretend to be their friend

I’ve seen many teachers, usually newer ones, believe that by sheer force of niceness, children will hop up onto the wagon of education, in the gleeful manner of a man mounting a horse at a rodeo. I’ve seen teachers who let kids off with rudeness because they want to be seen to be ‘safe’ or ‘sound’. Be neither. Be an adult; be stern when it is demanded, be calm, be professional; be what they NEED, not what they WANT. They already have friends.

Shout in their faces in front of their peers

I don’t mean a bit of voice raising to cut through the bellow of the class, or a short, sharp siren to get their attention, or even to temporarily communicate your displeasure. I mean a face-to-face hair-dryer, eyes popping and skin blushing crimson. This is designed to humiliate the kid, or to intimidate. A teacher should be attempting neither. If there’s a need for consequences, then do so with the calm dispassion of a lobotomist, AFTER the lesson- do the paper work, do the phone calls, set the sanctions. Many kids get worse at home, and all it takes is for them to say, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ and you look exactly as stupid as you are. Don’t get vexed; get smart.

I could list a hundred other things we do that antagonises behaviour. And I have to finish by saying that it doesn’t mean that bad behaviour is anyone else’s fault than the agent from whom it emerges. THEY are, and always will be, responsible for their actions. But you are responsible for yours. You don’t MAKE them misbehave. But what you do next is your call.

Good luck



Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter


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