I designed a program configured to generate classroom harmony in September last year. It was fine-tuned in October and fully integrated by November. It then crashed at around 2.30pm on 17 December. That's when Ryan squashed his chocolate snowball into Natasha's hair during musical statues.
This was the culmination of a series of malfunctions that plagued my behaviour control systems in December. Literacy and numeracy lessons were overwhelmed by a surge of all things Christmas. Routines froze and students became unresponsive to expectations. When the snowball incident finally signalled a terminal overload of unacceptable behaviour, it was clear that normal operating functions could not be restored before the end of term. Nothing to do now but carry out a complete behaviour reboot in the new year.
"The first thing you need to do is run Disk Cleanup to get rid of all your junk files," said my computer-literate brother-in-law when I complained that my desktop was running slower than the East Coast Main Line during the wrong kind of snow. I realised that this made complete sense for my classroom, too.
If the new term is going to run efficiently then my classroom is in need of a major Spring Cleanup, even if this means using a day of my precious Christmas break. Allowing students to enter a classroom still cluttered with the sorry remnants of all things glittery sends the wrong kind of message down their information superhighways.
So undo the torn remains of that cheerful Santa attached to the wall and drag those leftover Christmas cards to the recycling bin. January's classroom will be clean, bright and functional. Only when all traces of the festive season have been deleted is it safe to reinstall your basic behaviour package as follows:
Reset the default rule system
Now is a good time to review, amend and reset the default classroom rules that were established back in September, such as not squashing edible substances into each other's hair.
It's a good idea to interface with your students throughout this process: having their input into your primary rule system effectively integrates them into its operation and establishes the parameters of acceptable behaviour. It is also vital to ensure that default classroom rules are concise and few in number; this will prevent students' short- and long-term memories becoming overloaded with data on what they are and are not allowed to do.
Repopulate the routine directory
Routines are an essential component of a well-ordered classroom. Everything from how students attract the teacher's attention to how they remotely access hardware, such as the pencil sharpener or the felt pens, should be uploaded to your students' CPUs (cerebral processing units) with immediate effect. Ensure also that your directory is unambiguous in content and that new updates to existing routines have been fully installed.
Reconfigure classroom settings
Reconfiguring the layout of the classroom is something primary teachers do all the time. Space is a finite resource and no arrangement of tables, chairs and resources will totally eliminate opportunities for behaviour malfunctions. The geometrical relationship between carpet space, table layout and resource access poses an insoluble three-way conundrum. Based on last term's observations and experiences, however, teachers should at least be able to devise a new classroom configuration that will get them to Easter.
Refresh student networking
A reconfigured classroom also provides teachers with the opportunity to address those student networking conflicts that have historically led to behavioural problems. Emergency solutions to resolve immediate issues - for example, between Ryan and whoever he happens to be sitting next to - are only beneficial in the short term. Refreshing student networking with a brand new seating plan based on social data gathered over the previous four months should provide a longer-term fix.
Reinstall behaviour firewalls
To guarantee that updates to the behavioural security of your classroom are not compromised, back them up by running an effective rewards program. Different formats such as smiley face stickers, prize draw raffle tickets and certificates of merit can usually operate simultaneously without compromising each other. The important thing to remember is to apply them using the three Cs: continually, consistently and comprehensively.
Nothing guarantees good behaviour like pupil engagement. To complete their reboot, teachers are advised to insert something new into the curriculum; an add-on guaranteed to light up student learning during the bleak months ahead, known as the dongle of engagement.
Simply plug a special project or an exciting visit into your term's planning. For added enjoyment, include virtual experiences such as a day when students dress up as their favourite fictional characters or historical figures.
Planning and researching a suitable addition is something your students will love to be involved in. And remember, all the best ideas are available at the click of a mouse.
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield