The behaviour question

28th October 2011 at 01:00

I'm a NQT and I have just started my first job as a Year 4 to 6 teacher. I have done a year of supply so I have experience of challenging pupils. In the morning my class are generally focused and engaged, though one boy is continuously disruptive if he's not with a TA. But, once the afternoon hits, they usually take 15-20 minutes to settle and for the rest of the afternoon are less focused and more chatty. The boy becomes very disruptive and I can't focus on him as I have another 26 pupils. The afternoon is always ruined as I have to moan or tell someone off.

What you said


I'd work on trying to calm the whole class down after the break in the afternoon. Try quiet reading, taking the register in silence. Make sure you talk softly and go slowly. In the worst-case scenario, you could look at meditation ...

The expert view

If you have been on supply then you might have missed out on one of the most powerful factors in behaviour management: time, and the effect it has on the teacher-student relationship (I'm only guessing, of course). If you have been at school since the beginning of this term, then you have had a very short time with them indeed.

This is significant because the children will, quite naturally, test your boundaries and see how much they can get away with. This isn't because they are odd, cruel or savage, but simply children. I hope you have made your classroom rules and expectations clear to them from day one.

If you haven't, this needs to happen straight away - and I mean a formal session where the need for rules is discussed (or better still, simply told to them because they are not up for negotiation).

The next step is, of course, teaching them the grand law of consequence, and that you will be a perfect agent of its execution. In other words, you will punish and praise as their behaviour dictates. You need to be ruthlessly efficient about this, and always say what you mean. If you say "You mustn't shout out" then don't let anyone do it, and set some kind of consequence. Some missed break? A stern chat? A phone call home?

This boy who has decided to roll around your room needs to receive some kind of consequence every time he behaves like this. You will probably find that his unlovely behaviour sets a trend in the classroom, and that if you can sort him out the others will settle. But in the meantime, the normal rules need to apply for them, too, so make it clear that if they can't settle quickly enough, there will be some kind of consequence.

Even little ones can do the maths on that one. They are perfectly capable of behaving, remember. They just choose not to, or haven't been habituated into it yet. But mostly it's just their choice. Of course, no one feels comfortable setting sanctions with students - it's natural to resist being punitive. But unless the consequences of their actions make them uncomfortable, there's no incentive for them to walk on Straight Street. And you need to be the instrument of this adjustment.

Good luck.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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