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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.

Christmas is coming! Look busy

Last week I wrote about the need to keep the lessons going until practically the last minute, so as not to give the impression that you don’t give a damn, or that education is disposable. We’ll take that as read. This week I want to look at some simple things we need to keep our eyes on as the end of the Autumn term approaches (and if anyone can tell me why it’s the Autumn term and not Winter, I’d be delighted to know. Is it some kind of positive thinking sleight-of-hand?). The end of the year sees many teachers slouching towards Bethlehem, dragging their hides to the finishing line. New teachers, shell-shocked and soaked in anxiety, can see only the finishing line; older teachers, ruined by mock examinations, revision clubs and assessment, pray for the two-week cease fire. What’s being overlooked in the last desperate weeks as we tumble into Christmas?

  1. Keep your systems tight. Consistency is the key to effective behaviour management. They need to know that your word is your bond, and when you say something, you mean it. So if, in the last few weeks you set a detention, or arrange a parental meeting, and the carol service gets in the way, then don’t be a behaviour pansy - record it, reschedule, and set it for a date in the New Year. You heard me. Clean slates are only achieved when bills are paid, and if you ‘forget’ a sanction because it falls over a significant holiday season, you teach the children that there are lucky times of the year, and unlucky ones. Keep your promises, and they will think you’re such and incredible hard ass that, this Christmas, they’ll believe in one thing - your tenacity.
  2. On that note, don’t excuse behaviour because you’re in ‘soft time,’ where DVDs and odd games start to appear. If a student is horrible to you or anyone else, then don’t give in to the temptation to forgive, in an imitation of the divine; vice must be policed every day of the year, and you’re paid to do it on the last day of term as much as the first.
  3. When the school whistle blows - (I like to imagine it’s like an enormous factory of dreams) then you need to do one thing with all those lists of detainees and varlets: forget it for a few weeks. There aren’t many jobs that ask for such a mortgage on our emotions and our souls. Sure, we get holidays I can only describe as utopian, but there’s a reason for that: we run on fumes for half the year, and need a chance to recharge. So be good for yourself, and put school as FAR behind you as possible for a week or two. If you have work that HAS to be done then lock it in a time capsule marked January the 1st. Look after yourself. Look after other people.

And have a very merry Christmas


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