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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Getting Better all the time (couldn’t get much worse): sharpening your behaviour tools

It’s easy to get stuck in a groove with behaviour management: we become accustomed to our routines, which is why we call them routines after all, and become comfortable with the way we work. This is strange in a way, because often, the way in which we become comfortable working leads us into deeply uncomfortable positions. Ever been sitting on a couch late at night, too tired to get up and go to bed where you can sleep properly? Or woken up early in the night but can’t be bothered to make the five yard trip to answer nature’s loveliest call? Reason teaches that we should take the most efficient path to our destinies and desires; expediency and the human condition insist that we take the bendy path, stopping off at the BP for crisps and doughnuts on the way.

This is how we often work as teachers- we scamper into a place that offers us the illusion of security and- unless we are vigilant- become residents there, rather than tourists. Here are some simple ideas for shaking up your assumptions, and actually getting better at behaviour management rather than simply treading water:

  1. Observe another teacher. This is one of the best things you can do with your training time. We don’t learn from books (apart from mine, but they’re magic and special) half as well as we do from watching teaching in action, and then doing it ourselves. There’s no escape: teaching is a verb, not a handbook by an early 20th century philosopher, or God forbid, a trendy education expert doing a workshop. Watch a teacher you admire, or one who is renowned for good control. Watch what they do. Take notes on nothing but this feature of the lesson; what do the kids do; how does the teacher react/ pro-act? What happens next? Watch as though you were a scientist, looking for evidence, but don’t go in with any assumptions. What works? That’s all that matters.
  2. Have a conversation with the teacher. Talk to them about what happened, and ask for their perspective on what happened. As an adult, your education should be a partnership with the coach/ observed teacher. Your opinion has validity, and should be measured against the person you observed. Marry their insights to your own. If they’re good, they’ll realise that their way may NOT work for you, so be sensitive to that possibility. What is it about them that makes their way work for them. What would work for you?
  3. Do it. Take away perhaps two, three central resolutions or techniques from the lesson, not any more- no one can implement too many novelties into their routine simultaneously. Slowly, slowly will do. Have the same teacher observe you, and have a conversation about it later. If you want to take it up a level , why not have yourself filmed and then see how you ACTUALLY teach, as opposed to how you think you do. You will be, I guarantee, amazed, horrified and possibly intrigued. It’s one of the best and bravest things you can do; self scrutiny.

Good luck


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