Teacher-trainer and writer, Sarah Wright offers guidance on how to start off on the right foot with behaviour management
After experiencing challenging behaviours during your training and hearing staffroom horror stories at your new school, behaviour management is bound to be one of your priorities as an NQT.
This aspect of your practice will develop throughout your career, but here are some tips to get you started.
Be the authority figure
First and foremost, you must understand your role in the classroom. You are the authority figure, not the friend. Your opening lessons should be engaging, but you also need to set clear boundaries and high expectations from the very start. Be assertive in your directions and assume that your pupils will follow them. The more confidence you show, the more pupils will respond to you. This is the quickest way to achieve that allusive "classroom presence". Give crystal-clear instructions and reinforce them until they’re being done right.
There is a plethora of whizzy behaviour systems available at the click of a button. But don’t fall into the laminated, sticker-covered pit of fads. Keep things simple. The best place for you to start is with the school system. Know the behaviour policy inside out. This will reiterate confidence and cement you as part of the wider school team. You’ll soon get to know your class and then you can begin to consider a personalised approach, if necessary.
Think before you speak
Your language matters. Keep it positive; the adage of focusing on the good rather than the negative does work. Thank pupils for positive behaviours to let them know that you are recognising their contributions, but also use imperatives to reinforce that you mean business. Using a firm “thank you” at the end of a request is a powerful way to show that you are expecting compliance, but are keeping a polite tone.
Anticipate, don’t expect
NQTs have a knack of meeting their behaviour nemesis during this first year. This isn’t necessarily because pupils can smell your fear or because you are doing something wrong. The pupil may simply be trying their luck with the newbie. But it could also be that you came away from your handover meeting with their previous teacher quaking at the thought of dealing with the numerous issues they have just reeled off. It’s important to listen to advice, but it’s equally important to give pupils a clean slate. If you expect a child to behave in a particular way, they’re more likely to play up to that.
Take care not to single out pupils or groups who you feel have wronged you in the past. It is crucial that you are consistent in each and every action you take with your behaviour management. You might be tempted to let small things slip when you’re tired or slogging towards the last bell on a Friday, but don’t. Staying consistent will reinforce your clear and fair approach to behaviour.
Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University in Lancashire. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1.