Behaviour mangement: Three things to do in your first few weeks with a new class
Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management
The relationship with a new class is temporarily unstable; it is not fixed, nor will it ever be. But the first few weeks are the time of greatest uncertainty – you could be anyone, and so could they. Within an instant of first meeting you, they will form most of their firmest opinions about your abilities and capacities; within a few lessons/days this will have become dogma. Of course, the converse is true: you will, through the expediency of pigeon-holing, have placed the students on a continuum of notional ability and attitude that will influence how you treat them, set work for them, even seat them. That is, of course, if you’ve done some work to try to find out who they are, rather than simply stood in the same room as them and performed teacher-tumbles. Here are three things that help set the mood for the rest of your…year (I nearly said “learning journey” – but then I’d be forced to ritually bathe).
1. Pull someone up for misbehaving
This is crucial for a new class; they need to see that you mean what you say, and that if someone has acted unsociably or detonated a grenade in your lesson then they will reap the consequences of their folly. If the kids DON’T see this happening, it’s a disaster for you and for your class. Because then they see that you really won’t step up when anyone misbehaves. So why notmisbehave?
2. Give them individual feedback on how they’re doing
I’m not suggesting Oxbridge supervisions, or one-to-one psychometry, but give them the chance to know – and soon – if they’re on the right track. It might be a few words after class with a couple, it could just be a sentence or two as they work, it could be in the playground. It could even be a little feedback in a marked book. Just a sentence or two. And don’t pussy-foot with them. Tell them how close to the mark they are with behaviour, effort and approach. Let them know you care about high standards. It shows you care about them.
3. Look closely at their previous data
Presumably your pupils haven’t been created ex nihilo like cosmic matter in Genesis or carved from wood overnight in Gepetto’s workshop – there will be information from adults who have encountered them before. Look for it: SEN information, medical advice, G&T (remember that?) projects, pseudo-levels, teacher reports, behaviour files…and more. Get it. Read it. Then park it. Make your own mind up as the weeks go by. Use the data, but don’t let it use you. Children are humans. Humans can surprise and disappoint. They are not the inevitable products of their pasts. Give them a chance to be better than their charge sheets. But keep the charges in mind.
You have a million other things to do. These are just three of them. Do what you can, and remember that no one can do any more.
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
His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury
Related articles and resources
Recent ‘Top Tips’
More ‘Top Tips’
Relevant resources on TES