Keys to Developing a Consistent Approach In Your Teaching
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle
If you have ever had to walk on eggshells around someone because you never knew what to expect, you will have some idea of the damage it can do to relationships. Your students need to feel safe both physically and emotionally in order to learn so consistency of practice is vital.
When I first began teaching being consistent in managing behaviour was one of my biggest challenges.
There were competing demands on my time and energy: colleagues with different standards and values; parents with a range of demands and expectations and then the wide variety of students from different backgrounds, motivation and challenges. I wasn’t really sure what consistency meant.
Consistency does not mean being exactly the same all the time. Nor does it mean being a robot and not reacting to circumstances, or showing your real feelings.
Consistency does mean that students are fairly certain what they can expect from you. They know for example, that you will not get angry with them today, about something you laughed at yesterday. They know that if you make a mistake or fail to follow through, that you will apologise and take responsibility for your behaviour. They also know that when they mess up – and they will! – you will treat them with respect while you hold them accountable and you will help them to learn from their mistakes.
Consistency of practice depends on a number of principles that can make the difference to how you feel when dealing with student behaviour, and consequently the actions you take. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the same approach for every student.
Here are 6 ways to develop consistency in your teaching:
1. Be prepared for your lessons.
This is the golden rule. If you want students to be engaged, then you need to plan. Many behaviour issues can be avoided with thorough teacher preparation and planning. Off-task behaviour can often result when students are not engaged in meaningful activities or are left too much to their own devices.
2. Do what you say you will do.
When you follow through with what you say, you build credibility and trust with your students. You give them certainty and assurance that you are reliable and dependable. You also reinforce appropriate behaviour when you follow through and your consistency will determine the effectiveness of any intervention to change behaviour. It is just as important to follow through with positive experiences as well as consequences.
When you promise students a fun activity, or a break from their work ensure that you give it to them. Be credible and trustworthy. Don’t be the teacher who offers a game or an activity to students and then fails to follow through because you run out of time or it isn’t convenient.
3. Be proactive, not reactive.
Prevent inappropriate behaviour as much as possible by explicitly teaching and modelling the behaviour you want to see and provide plenty of opportunities for students to practise. Scaffold work tasks by giving them boundaries, roles and protocols.Effective teachers have a plan for what they will do when a student does not follow class rules (because it will happen!).
Carefully planning your approach so that you use low key strategies to redirect, remind students of expectations, distract and offer assistance can head off behaviour escalations. Learn here how to prevent disruptive behaviour in the classroom.
If a student is not completing their work despite reminders and low key strategies, the next step is giving a choice. Having planned choices to offer students will prevent saying things you don’t really mean and backing yourself into a corner. e.g. ‘you can complete your work here with your friends or at another desk’. The secret to giving choice is that both options are acceptable to the teacher and neither is punitive.
4. Teach the process of offering choice to your students.
When you develop class expectations, work through the each of the strategies that you will use when students are off task. Teach students what it means to make a choice.
5. Start fresh each day.
When there have been behaviour issues with a student, the teacher-student relationship may have broken down and it may be time to press the ‘reset’ button. Students who do not follow our expectations or who are constantly off task, can develop a negative reputation.
Your ability to give students a fresh start will be dependent on what you tell yourself about their behaviour. It is easier to start afresh when you accept that students are learning how to behave; in the same way they are learning academic content.
6. Don’t take the behaviour personally.
This is a habit of highly effective people, not just teachers. It is an extremely useful trait that can help you to avoid unnecessary heartache. When you see other people’s behaviour as a product of what is happening for them, you can be compassionate and empathic rather than offended, disrespected or hurt.
Ask yourself, ”What else can this mean?” when you find yourself on the end of unpleasant or seemingly disrespectful behaviour. If you are able to maintain calm and not take student behaviour personally, you are in a better position to address student need and help students learn more acceptable behaviour.