Behaviour management: Ring out the old

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

At this time of year, it is nearly impossible to avoid compiling either a retrospective list, or one that anticipates the next twelve months. And why not? New Year is the time of Ganesh and Janus and closure and novelty. We look forward and back at this time. The start of the year can feel rather gloomy; the festival is over, but the cold and the dark remain.

It can be difficult to restart one’s engines, but it is worth taking time to gather ourselves at this point of threshold. In a short while, you will be before your classes again. They will be as stunned by lipids and frosted icing as you are. Relighting this fire will take more than Take That and Lulu. Unfortunately, you cannot defer the job to someone else. You’re the teacher, whether you like it or not.

Who is still on the naughty list?

And, more often forgotten: who’s on the nice? In every class, there will be key players. Some pupils instigate, some lead the mood of the room (that should be you, incidentally, but nothing’s perfect). These pupils need a bit of special attention - not that the others don’t - but these are the ones you really need to crack if you want to keep the bus moving.

How are you going to make things better?

Start the year with a strategy - don’t just walk blind back into the classroom. Make the new year a new beginning. Not a fresh start, because, as I’m fond of repeating, you must take the wisdom of the past with you, and some pupils undoubtedly need a bit of following up. Instead, go back in with the knowledge that Jimmy is going to move seats immediately, that Cassandra and Cherice will be separated, that Jerome needs a phone call home to congratulate him on improving, that merits and black marks need giving out; that you’re going to reiterate the class rules again and this time you’re going to stick to what you say rather than simply giving up and being a soft touch…

It’s a New Year. So ring in the new.

The very best of luck to you in 2013.



Tom Bennett is a teacher at Raines Foundation, a state school in inner city London. He regularly supports teachers through the TES behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour pages or on the @tesBehaviourTwitter account.

His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/Bloomsbury.

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