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What triggers tension?

I've faced some fairly challenging behaviour during my NQT year. Classroom management was a low priority during teacher training, and at first I didn't feel equipped to cope.

The message of this course is that dealing with problems is always hard, so it's better to focus on prevention, rather than cure. That means getting a better understanding of what triggers poor behaviour.

Often it's linked to the content of the lesson. If the work is too easy, or too hard, children won't focus. If it's not interactive enough, they'll get bored. But there are other factors too. It could concern seating arrangements or tensions between pupils.

If you have a particularly challenging child, you need to keep a detailed record of the occasions when they misbehave. What work were they doing? Where were they sitting? What time of day was it? Chances are you'll see a pattern developing, which will help you tackle the cause.

At the start of the year, I used to resent pupils who made my life difficult. Now I try to smile at them as they enter the classroom, greet them by name, and give them a compliment.

You have to remember that for some of them it might be the only nice thing they hear all day. It's also empowering for you because it shows you're not intimidated.

If I do have a reason to be critical, then I always criticise the behaviour, rather than the child. It's a common piece of advice, and it really does make a difference.

For anyone struggling with classroom management, it's a great idea to go because you'll meet other people in the same position, and probably end up having a laugh about things.

It's good therapy. I'm much more relaxed in class now and find that I hardly ever shout. That's a sure sign that I'm on the right trac *

Ayelet Landsman is a new teacher from Barnet, north London. She was talking to Steven Hastings

The details

Managing Challenging Behaviour is a two-day course run by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Next dates: September 21-22, Chorley.

Free to members. pound;250 for non-members.

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