Inevitably, as a teacher, you will encounter poor behaviour in the classroom and the communal areas. At first, as an NQT you may find it difficult to know how to handle it. You will refer back to the theory you learned during your PGCE year and apply it in many instances effectively.
There will be times where you need more support or to try a different approach. In this blog, we attempt to offer some guidance which experienced teachers use in the classroom which could be of benefit to you.
The first thing to note is, don’t panic. You’re not supposed to be the finished article as an NQT. If you find it tough, that’s because it’s new. Soon it will be like water off a duck’s back and with experience it will be easier.
Understand the situation
A pupil throws a pen at another student while you’re turned away from the class but you notice it. In most scenarios, you’re likely to reprimand the thrower. That student then begins to argue their point and they’re prevented from doing so by you as a teacher because you don’t want to hear it. You’ve seen the offence and your conclusion has been drawn.
The student becomes agitated as does the rest of the class and vital teaching minutes are lost in the effort to regain concentration and tranquillity.
In this scenario, another approach could be to speak to both the students to understand why the pencil was thrown in the first place. Perhaps it was thrown towards the student you would normally reprimand first.
By taking just a couple of minutes to understand the situation calmly you can decide on the best course of action and explain that you want to speak to them after class together. This will prevent and diffuse disruption in one fell swoop.
We are morally responsible for preparing our students for the real world and listening to points of view is essential. By following this process you also teach them a lesson in patience and listening skills. They’ll remember you for that just like they remember the teachers who shouted at them when it wasn’t their fault. Which one do you want to be?
Seek support from senior members of staff
Remember that you’re new to this and you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself. If you find you are struggling with behaviour problems seek out advice from a senior member of staff. This could be someone with 2 years experience who can recall what it’s like in the first year of teaching or it could be someone more experienced like a head of department or year.
They’ve been there before and likely seen every scenario so sponging information from them will be crucial.
Try a different strategy
Don’t worry, it’s not your responsibility to set the school’s behavioural policies. This is the responsibility of the head along with the heads of year.
However, if you find you have a disruptive set of students who are disengaged with school, home life or society, giving them a sense of control may be a solution.
You may have tried isolation, detention, letters to parents or even meeting with parents. You may have files full of incident reports and action plans. In the book ‘Cracking the hard class’ by Bill Rogers, he’s an advocate of establishing a positive classroom culture instead of being the alpha-dominant punisher figure.
He argues that effective behaviour policy is not about creating unreachable expectations but is more about creating an ethos that reflects societal norms. For example, talking over someone at home is impolite, so it should be in class. We should expect respect in all areas of life.
If you find a class is too disruptive, you can stop going through the curriculum and spend a lesson working on behaviour. Ask students to collaborate in groups to define what works in the classroom and in society.
Write their expectations down and agree with them the appropriate sanctions should the rules be broken. Not only do the students think that they have made the rules, they also have ownership over how they should behave and what consequences they should bestow on each other should they be broken.
Clearly display the expectations where they can see them and revel in the shared vision for perfect harmony in your classroom.
Speak to a pupil in private
Sometimes some of the most disruptive and loudest pupils suffer from confidence issues. They are afraid of being ridiculed or told off in front of their peers. For these students, save the reprimand for the end of the class and speak to them in private. Explaining that their behaviour was not right, why it’s not right and why it cannot continue. Administer any punishments accordingly.
In doing this you will save time from any face-saving activities the student attempts in order to regain a sense of control.