DISCLAIMER- this is my opinion. Do not pitch fork me out of town for something from my brain that doesn’t agree with something from your brain.
It is always week four- I look a little bit like a bedraggled spaniel, the kids are chucking anything on the damn page that resembles your WAGOLL in the same way that a hedgehog resembles a platypus, and everyone is on a plate spinning frenzy. I’ve spent the last week talking to a lot of teachers, and it all seems to centre around behaviour. Ladies and Gents, the honeymoon period is over. Year 9 are in full throttle puberty, Year 8 are striving hard towards that self fulfilling prophecy of the naughtiest year group award, and Year 7 have realised that now there are more than thirty people to a year group and they can access Facebook on their phone to passively aggressively demonstrate their hatred, the world is their oyster. The key concern is the impact of behaviour on classroom time, and Sir/Miss, they are gathering their armies for the biggest LLD since well, this time last year. Low Level is my ultimate pet hate. It turns me into a whinging old ratbag, makes me roll out that old chestnut about how its their time they’re wasting and not mine (lies) and that they’re being rude (using my own childhood threats doth not a quiet classroom make, FYI). So, I thought it may be useful to share some of the things that I do that do work, and that it would help me to actually do it rather than revert back to a pre recording of a teacher of the Victorian era, hunting about for my line book. Here we go:
Celebrate successes- this takes a variety of forms, and is really down to the child. I often get a whisper from a TA that little Jonny doesn’t like to be praised- yeah right. Everyone likes praise. Even Jonny, who looks like he is practically smoldering with teenager fumes at the back of the classroom. Praise can be simply writing names up on the board for a particular reward, volunteering particular students for administration jobs for reward or open praise during class discussion. My smoldering little Jonny edited and modified for the class using Word Review, under much duress and ‘I don’t gerrit.’ He loved it.
Ignore the hook- do not get reeled in to an open discussion about why why why why why. Tell the student quietly the consequence of their behaviour; if they challenge it, ask to see them at the end. Always. Don’t get all Braveheart/Dangerous Minds and see it as a challenge to a duel. No good can come of that.
Welcome feedback- students love being honest. Ask if they enjoyed the lesson, if they feel challenged, how they would have taught the lesson differently, what they enjoy the most. Ownership is the most powerful tool and it is very difficult to claim boredom when you have been given the opportunity to shape your own learning within the classroom. I like to use Google Drive to compile a student voice for this each half term- mainly to create a sense of closing the loop for the student following an assessment and feedback, but also so that they have a chance to provide meaningful feedback. We start our first lesson back with a ‘you said, we did’ starter, showing their comments and how I have tried to implement their ideas for the new term. Additionally, I take homework suggestions and credit their ideas on the #TakeawayHwk menus. You cannot complain about something when you are a part of its creation!
ET- phone home. It is time consuming, and you want to sprint for the door on Friday when that bell goes, but it is the smallest action on your part and means such a significant deal to the child. Positive calls home (I believe) should be part of any behaviour management policy, and directed time should account for this. I select one or two students from each class that have really impressed me or gone over and above their own expectations in some way that week. This is the chance for you to really sing the praises of the underdog. The ones that are quietly shining in the room.
Build- rapport. Show your personality. Demonstrate your boundaries within being stone statue teacher. Illustrate your limits, and your capability to allow for their own characteristics, and dynamics in relation to one another within the lesson. You need to work towards existing as a team, rather than you as instructor. I believe that this can only happen by embracing the strengths and quirks of each student in the room.