Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Subtle Changes Can Make a Difference: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Subtle Changes Can Make a Difference: News

Article excerpt

By looking at your own practice you can identify flashpoints and re- engineer situations to prevent misbehaviour occurring.

"There's no such thing as a child misbehaving, only a teacher not doing their job well."

This quote - recited by a principal of mine 15 years ago - may already have some of you screaming with rage. And yet, if you give the comment some time to breathe and consider carefully what it implies, you may find some truth in it. For although children are, of course, badly behaved of their own volition and should be held responsible for that, as a teacher there are things you can do to limit the opportunity, or inclination, for that child to misbehave.

This goes beyond imposing reactive sanctions of threatening punishment; it is about what you could do differently to create the environments and relationships that would reduce negative behaviour altogether. Below are five examples of how to do this.

Change the routine

While I was working with lunchtime supervisors recently, one animatedly told me how "naughty" the children were because they always used their cutlery to sword fight in the queue. The solution, as you may have guessed, was to move the cutlery so that the children picked it up just in time to attack the food instead of being "armed" while they were standing in line.

This seems obvious to us because we are looking at the problem with fresh eyes and are prepared to re-engineer the situation. The same thinking should apply to all practice. Take a look at when misbehaviour happens most. Is it while students are lining up, swapping places, being given handouts or waiting to be registered, or is it during lengthy introductions or when lessons are interrupted by other staff? Look at how much of this can be re-engineered to minimise the opportunities for misbehaviour.

Avoid causing stress

Go easy on the exam references. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to get results and we sometimes amplify this pressure for students. All the talk of targets and progress in every lesson can make learning feel like a high-stakes activity, and for some students that can lead to avoidance (mis)behaviour.

I once taught a disruptive student who had been told for years that he was bright but underachieving. Together we figured out that he was terrified of giving "his all" in case he didn't measure up to the expectations of others. It felt safer to mess around and underachieve. Avoid situations that encourage children to compare their achievements with those of others rather than striving for a personal best. …

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