Behaviour - Top tips from Tom
‘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.
Why Raising the Roof costs you more than just a few nails; the dangers of bellowing
We’ve all done it; let the brakes off, lost our tempers, and given our lungs free reign in a classroom. It is, it must be said, the default state for some teachers, who appear to be unable to do anything other than offer the hot and humid hair-dryer of a teacher in full pelt. Even if you don’t do it, you’ve probably done it, full pelt, at a class. But this is almost always (and the exceptions are minute) a bad thing to do, for many reasons:
1. Is that all you’ve got? Once you’ve let rip at a class, really screamed the place down, what do you do then if the students are still misbehaving? Keep screaming? What then? Some kids get far, far worse at home than a bit of a shouting, and some kids live in homes where shouting is the way that adults communicate with each other. You’ll find that by replicating these paradigms, all you do is re-activate the assumptions and defences that kids build up at home. In other words, shouting isn’t that scary to some. Besides, is that what you want to do? Scare them? Of course not (I hope). What you were TRYING to do was shock them, maybe intimidate them somehow, or at least awe them into behaving. Well, good luck with that, because for every kid who jumps to attention at the sound of a teacher bellowing, there will be five who see it as what it is for them…
2. …That’s entertainment! Yes, by flying off the handle, you have done something that some kids only dream of; you’ve brought TELLY into the classroom. Because rest assured, your mental and emotional exertions will be, to many, as sport to the class. You’ll know this because some of them will be putting their feet up and passing round popcorn as they watch you pop a vein in your forehead. I’m serious. Kids have TOLD me this.
3. It might work once, but the damage you do to the relationship is enormous. Sure, you can shock them a little by going from silent to screaming in a second, but the novelty of that event will wear off almost instantly; even little pupils will soon lose interest. Why? Because shocking as it might be for a second or two, nothing really happens because somehow shouts; it’s just a loud noise. Oh look, there’s sir having a hernia. Pass me your cameraphone. And then the kids just think you’re ‘mental shouty man’, which isn’t a good look for a teaching professional.
The solution? Speak softly, and carry a big stick. The only time you should really shout is either to be heard briefly over a noisy class, or to ensure some health and safety detail is complied with (ie someone’s on fire, that sort of thing). Speak as quietly, as slowly as you can manage without feeling stupid, and whenever you say you’re going to do something, DO IT. You don’t need to scream at a child, because the more effective strategy is to simply say what you need to say at a normal level, and then follow up later- sanctions, calls home, whatever.
No need for the big guns. After all is said and done, they’re not so big at all.
Read more from Tom here on his personal blog, or follow him on Twitter here.