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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.

The Calm before the Storm: three things you need to do before term starts

You will undoubtedly be looking at the calendar in the manner of a dog realising that its bowl is nearly empty; for you Tommy, the Summer is nearly over, and no matter how many bottles of Sangria and Limoncello you drink between now and next week, the first term of the year approaches like a Hurricane, relentless and implacable. Better get suited up then. Even at this early stage there are things you can do to make the day after tomorrow as painless as possible, yes even now. Of course, you could always ignore them and squeeze a few more minutes of liberty out of August. But have you seen the rain out there? It’s a message from God. It’s saying Carpe Diem…

  1. Sort out your paperwork. Now is the time to make sure you have the formal, structural information you’ll need to start the year: class lists, timetable, and attainment data. With these you can plan the basic architecture of your year’s start, such as seating plans, who goes where, who gets planted under your nose, who gets banished to the nature table, etc. Some people don’t use seating plans. Good luck to them, I say. For the rest of us, this kind of information is essential to getting off on a good foot. I’m always amazed by the number of teachers who let children sit where they please, and then act surprised when they decide to chat to their chums rather than draw charts of land usage in Tonga.
  2. Plan your behaviour strategy. Many people act like they have one, but really they don’t. What do you consistently do in response to bad and good behaviour? Do you follow routines, or do you make it up as you go along. If you perpetually freestyle it, you might want to have a wee think about that, because you’re probably teaching the kids that there are no boundaries in your classes, and that they can rely on you to be unreliable. Is there a bit of chatting in your room, perchance? On the opposite end of the scale, if you follow all rules to the letter you risk being insensitive to special cases and individual exceptions. Perhaps there is scope for you at this point to ask, ‘What do I actually do when people misbehave?’ That way, when it does happen, you have a plan in place already, rather than feeling helpless.
  3. Re-familiarise yourself with the school behaviour policy. Yeah, I know, gripping, eh? I know how to show a girl a good time with my behaviour policies and all. But trust me- it pays to look again at what the school expects you to do. If you lean on what everyone else does then you might find that there are reasons why the school has such a policy- the students learn to expect it, and they will feel the pressure to conform. It also helps other teachers in a similar way, as you show solidarity with your peers. I usually find that teachers who struggle a little with behaviour are often simply not implementing standard sanctions and rewards in the expected way. Don’t let this be because you don’t know what the rules are, because consistency and solidarity are what make us strong.

Good luck to you, and remember to start wearing long trousers and wearing a tie again.


Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

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