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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.

Six Weeks of Sundays: Time to reflect on behaviour

Most UK teachers are enjoying the well-earned Summer break, or are teetering on the edge of it. While there will be an understandable temptation to lock your school side of your life in a chained coffin that even Harry Houdini couldn’t bust, there are still some things that a well-prepared teacher should be thinking of at the end of the long, long road that takes you to August. How did your year go? How do you feel now? If you have Human DNA then I imagine the answer is a mixture of relief, release, emotional exhaustion and a nagging feeling that somewhere, somehow, there’s something that you haven’t finished yet (hint: this is almost certainly true- teaching, unlike, say, bartending, is never completed; you simply hop on the carousel, and eventually you hop off. Or get flung off). Here are some things for you to think about before you dissolve into a puddle of five-day benders and BBQs:

  1. Keep your planner from last year. - If you’re smart, you’ll be keeping a tight record of detentions, offences, rewards as-yet undistributed and scores of other matters that are still current. Transfer all these action points into your next planner, so that the virtuous receive their rewards and the guilty still get called to account for their behaviour. Many kids slip through the net at this time of year, the angels and he devils, because often a teacher will return to school after the break and simply wipe the slate clean. While this might (repeat might) be a useful tactic if done strategically (i.e. deliberately, and with intent) in many cases it is simply unfair. If you aren’t happy with the way a pupil conducted himself on the last day of term, follow up the day you get back. Anything else is simply unjust, and if you remember to do this, you’ll reinforce your reputation as someone who won’t be crossed, or forget a good deed.
  2. Review and reflect. - These two chameleon terms are used often in teaching, but this really is a good time to be doing it. What went well? What strategies did you use that worked? What class fell apart like a landmine, and which ones took off or at least showed promise? Now is the time to think about how you’re going to approach behaviour (and a lot more besides), now that the dust has settled and you can see things clearly. The middle of the year is a tense time, and it can be difficult to take stock. Now that you can sit in the garden with a Mai Tai and a pile of light fiction, make a little space to muse and ponder over the bigger picture of your school year.
  3. Detox as thoroughly as you can. - The Summer break is a well-earned opportunity to recharge your batteries, and there are few jobs like teaching where this is as necessary. We act as emotional sponges for the energies of hundreds of children, and every teacher is familiar with that burnt-out feeling. This is a chance to genuinely stop, unwind and get away from it all. Yeah, like you need me to tell you to take it easy, right? But there are still pitfalls in how we relax: try not to organise anything enormously stressful the week before you return to school, like a week visiting the extended family scattered throughout the world- not because such things aren’t important, but because we’re also all familiar with the experience of coming back from a holiday and feeling like we need another holiday to get over the first one. Put your feet up in the week before you meet the students again- they (and you) need to find your balance before you get back onto the roller-coaster of teaching.

 Good luck


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