Behaviour Management: You needn't walk alone
Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management
Teaching is a lonely job. This sounds like a strange thing to say about a profession that involves complete immersion in a room full of people. But trainees often report a sense of dislocation when they enter a classroom, along with a fear of feeling stranded and useless. I know that fear very well, having spent my formative teaching years feeling more isolated than Tom Hanks in Castaway (and I didn’t even have a friendly volleyball to talk to, unless one of the kids was throwing it at me). So how do you know when to ask for help?
When you are fresh from the packet
As a new teacher you aren’t just learning the ropes, but asking which ropes even exist. Do not be afraid to admit that you need people to coach and advise you. At this point, it would be more surprising if you did not require this. The school should be offering you help as a matter of course and principle, but this is also the time for you to drive your own development by approaching people who possess skills you lack. This is particularly true in behaviour management. Running a room is a skill acquired over time. If you’re having problems, it is because you’re human. You need to be aggressive in your committment to self-improvement. Ask for observations, feedback and support with problem students.
When you have found your feet
It is hard to ask for help when you’re new, but harder still when you’ve already earned your stripes. You might think you should be able to handle yourself by now. Nothing could be further from the truth. While you will have hopefully obtained the basic competencies, you are still getting better. Did you stop learning the English language once you could write sentences? No, you extended your learning, and that learning developped even on a subconscious level beyond your control. This is also true for behaviour management. You will always need help, advice, or practical assistance leading your classes. Teachers do not, and cannot work alone. We are not maverick despots, running our rooms by our wits alone. We work within a structure of other professionals, who all have a job to do. Let them do their job, which is to help you. And you should help them in return.
Whenever you need it
Pride used to be considered the greatest of sins because it was the sin that gave birth to all others. In education, pride is a sin because it paralyses you. It damages your wellbeing, and the educational and developmental wellbeing of your students. You must accept that you will never know it all. You will never be the perfect teacher, because you are tested perpetually by the folk in the small chairs. Being a good teacher is a process of constantly reinventing yourself to adapt to new situations, as well as of reaffirming the universal tennets that inform your startegies.
When you walk alone, you remove yourself from the body of the school. Teachers are like cells: useful individually, but far more powerful when acting in tandem with their peers. Some schools are briliant at supporting their staff; some are terrible, and don’t deserve to have any staff at all. But you will never get help if you don’t ask for it.
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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