- The whole-school ethos depends on every adult being involved and engaged.
- Good behaviour is modelled by all staff.
- ‘Respect breeds respect’.
- Calmness and quiet authority are essential.
- Parents expect school staff to behave professionally even when under pressure.
Most classrooms are productive and well managed. The teacher is in charge of managing the learning environment and pupils understand the purpose of being there. Behaviour management happens as an integral part of the whole process of preparing lessons.
Once pupils are outside the classroom, different circumstances apply. This article will look at the challenges this environment brings and ways that a well-ordered school can deal with them. The guidance applies equally to teachers and other staff who may come into contact with pupils, whether it is part of their job description or not.
For a school to be well ordered it must have a school-wide agreement on what good order is and how every adult and pupil contributes towards it.
The first principle is that ‘respect breeds respect’. Adults model behaviour for young people. If they are consistently rude to each other it will not be a great surprise if pupils copy them.
Children and young people generally respond better to a quiet approach to maintaining good order. If a pupil is making a loud noise, then the adult needs to respond in a quiet voice or even non-verbally. There will be exceptions to this, especially if a lot of pupils are making a noise, but the first approach should be to quieten things down by being quiet oneself.
One of the things that is different outside the classroom is that there will be adults other than teachers involved in maintaining good order and they may not know the individual they are dealing with. It is usually a good idea to ask for the pupil’s name and their teacher’s name (in a primary school) or tutor’s name (in a secondary school).
A whole-school approach
A whole-school approach to behaviour management is essential and this should cover all staff who work in the school – and this means all staff. Everyone who attends a school for interview should be asked why they want to work with children and/or young people. No matter what job someone does in a school they will come across children or young people and will need to be positive in their dealings with them. Sometimes the person who works in the main office will have a better relationship with an individual pupil than their teachers. This is part of being human and should not cause any concern.
The relationship between pupils and adults needs to be a proper and professional one. Someone who works in a school is in a position of authority, with all that this entails. They are not the child’s ‘mate’, any more than a parent is the child’s ‘best friend’, though this is not to say that the relationship cannot be very positive. One of the most difficult things for young staff to deal with is when a pupil wishes to confide in them with the promise that ‘you will not tell anybody else, will you?’ It is important, therefore, that all staff read and understand the school’s policies, including those on pupil protection.
There are occasions when, with the best will in the world, the adult will become annoyed and angry with the way a particular pupil is behaving, for example if they are saying or shouting offensive things. In a situation like this it is worth trying to remember how any follow-up meeting – with a parent, for example – will be conducted. Parents expect school staff to behave professionally, even if the parents themselves do not. It is imperative that staff keep calm at all times.
This is where the importance of a whole-school, supportive approach to behaviour management is vital. If staff are involved in a stressful situation with a totally unreasonable pupil they need to know that everything will be followed up properly afterwards. If the school has an agreed way of dealing with matters that involves a short written account – which will invariably lead to a satisfactory conclusion afterwards – this will make it easier for the adult to remain calm and self-controlled. Unless the school policy on behaviour is clear and agreed, staff will learn to ‘turn a blind eye’ to things.
The whole basis of good order is positive, not negative. However, there are three things that one should not do.
The first is that staff should not strike a child. Some schools have a policy on ‘restraint’ and staff are given training in this. However, some schools have found that having training and restraint policies can lead to more problems, rather than fewer. Teachers and other adults in the school do have rights in this regard. From time to time politicians, eager to show that they are ‘tough’ on poor behaviour, will say that teachers are being given backing. However, staff should remember that the politician will not be beside them when allegations are being made against them. It is much safer to touch a pupil as a conscious decision: this is less likely to cause grief.
The second thing to avoid is shouting loudly at a pupil or making a sudden movement in his/her direction. Staff do not know what the pupil’s home situation is like and may unwittingly provoke a defensive reaction that is based on how a pupil is dealt with at home.
The third thing to avoid is sarcasm or name-calling. Parents may sometimes call their child some awful names but become very irate when a member of the school staff does the same. This may not be consistent but it is the way of the world!
In a well-ordered school, relationships are positive and this leads to staff being happy in their work. There is a calmness around the place. Children and young people flourish and learn how to behave in a civilised society. Everyone wins.
Use the following Toolkit items to put the ideas in this article into practice:
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