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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.

Back to the Future: New Year, New beginnings

The Old year has shuffled off with his scythe, and the beautiful baby of 2012 has been left by the stork in your lap- like it or not. After a ravenous mid-winter teachers return to their posts, some with the hangdog defiance of condemned men, and some with the exuberance of the pilgrim. Whichever one you are, it’s time to put on make-up, it’s time to light the lights.

Here’s how to get things started:

  1. Be ready before you get back. It’s amazing how we often find that once we begin, our in-trays are already full of tasks from the mundane to the meaningless. This is a fact of life. But unless you have emerged like Adam from the dust, you should already know what you’ll be required to do when you reboot the year. Perhaps you have mock exams still unmarked from the December season? Parents’ evening to prepare for? Lessons to plan? Unless your school is peculiarly disorganised, there will be Big Jobs imminent, so make life easier for yourself and think about them NOW. Yes, I KNOW it’s early. But the funny thing about unpleasant jobs is this: they take exactly as long to do whenever you finally face up to them.
  2. Draw up a list of your classes. Which ones are roughly where you want them, in a behaviour sense? Tick them off. Which ones are off course? Put a cross next to them. Take the latter and look at a class list. Which students are where you want them, behaviour/ progress wise? Leave them for now, and focus on the rest, hopefully a smaller number. Are they badly behaved? Are they biddable but lazy? Are there equipment issues, or deeper, more subtle problems? Think about every single one of them- briefly- and what you can do to make things better. It might be a new seating plan. It might be a targeted intervention such as a parental meeting. It might be a warning; a behaviour contract; a chat. But have a plan for everyone, however slight. Don’t start the new year as if it were simply another day. Use the break to reboot your enthusiasm, effort and initiative.
  3. Walk back into your classroom with the certainty that this is your space; your room,your rules. They need you to be in charge, however lovingly you interpret that, so be the person they need. Even if it’s sometimes hard, they are waiting for you to take the lead, for their own good. If you’re new to the school, there is a famous surge of discipline that often ensues from a teacher’s return in January- common wisdom holds that the pupils suddenly realise that you’re not a supply, and that you’re a ‘real teacher’ to them, at least a little more. In reality it’s probably just a sign of a relationship being built up.

Good luck to you, and Happy New Year.


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