Behaviour Management is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers, and it is not only new teachers who can feel overwhelmed by classroom demands. Because of the ever-evolving nature of teaching, the growing diversity of students and increasing societal pressures, teachers are constantly learning different ways to manage stress, workload and expectations.
In any one class, a teacher may have a plethora of diverse student needs. Students who experience:
- neglect and abuse on a daily basis,
- refugee students who have experienced dramatic trauma,
- students with special needs,
- students with learning difficulties,
- students with anxiety and depression,
- students who are full-time carers,
- students from drug abuse situations or chronic unemployment
Despite the obvious challenges, there are basic behaviour management tools that are effective and essential for all students.
While there are many factors outside the teachers control, what you can control is what happens in the classroom.
The Number 1 Rule For Effective Positive Behaviour Management is
Create A PREDICTABLE ENVIRONMENT
Safety is a basic need for humans and when students feel safe, physically, emotionally and psychologically, they are able to behave appropriately, take risks, make mistakes and progress in their learning.
When students do not feel safe, either because of bullying, lack of connection with peers and the teacher, being expected to do work that is too hard, an unsympathetic teacher attitude, lack of assistance from the teacher or lack of leadership from the teacher, student behaviour and learning is highly compromised.
How To Create A Positive, Safe, Learning Environment (that promotes appropriate behaviour)
1. Set Classroom Expectations
Decide on the guidelines for the classroom in consultation with your students. Set the expecations by sitting down with them at the beginning of the term to discuss the behaviour that teacher and students expect from each other.
2. Create An Agreement
Draw up an agreement that specifically addresses how teacher and students will behave in this class. Display your agreement prominently in the classroom as a reminder and reinforcement. Build rapport with your students. Know their names, greet them by name, show you know them by understanding how they learn, ask them about their lives, share your personality and interests with them.
3. Show Them How You Value Them
Let students know that you value them as people. Provide opportunities for students to have their say by holding class meetings and conducting regular circle time lessons where any issues can be addressed.
4. Reduce Stress Where Possible
Post the schedule for the day or the lesson. When students know what is going to happen throughout the day their anxiety is reduced, making it more likely they will be on task and ready to learn.
5. Divide Lessons Appropriately
Divide lessons up into listening, speaking and activity times ensuring that students are not asked to sit and listen for longer than is appropriate for their age.
Adults can only listen for approximately 20 minutes before they need a break, so design your lessons to provide brain, movement and chatting breaks necessary for effective learning.
6. Cooperative Learning Strategies
Use cooperative learning strategies. Classrooms that use paired and group work have lower student anxiety levels than those that demand individual work.
7. Model Making Mistakes
Model making mistakes. It is beneficial for students to see or hear about mistakes you have made. This can help them to understand that everyone makes mistakes and that’s how we all learn. You could share stories with your students about something that you once found hard and now you do effortlessly, or something you are working on right now.
8. Teach Students How To Respect
For students to feel safe in your classroom, they need to know that you deal effectively with bullying by proactively teaching everyone how to get along. Practical strategies on how to do this: Teach students how to respect each other.
Even high school students need to be taught how to treat one other, to learn to have empathy, accept diversity and manage conflict.
9. Be CONSISTENT!
Be consistent. Be fair. Be predictable. When students know what to expect from you, they can feel safe, secure and trusting.
The way you act on a day-to-day basis is more important than what you say, and when you show up to class prepared, calm and excited to see them, you create the perfect environment for student success.
‘It is the teacher who is the deciding factor in the classroom’Haim Ginott
Some new teachers and experienced teachers consider it a waste of time to put effort into class climate or relationships. They just want to get on with the business of the curriculum, but it is the teachers’ job to teach students, not content.
Ginott, H. G. (1972). Teacher and child: A book for parents and teachers. Scribner Paper Fiction.