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10 behaviour

steps to improve

Good behaviour requires a strategy, consistent application of rules and everyone working together, says teacher, author and trainer Tom Bennett


aving trained teachers, schools and management teams in behaviour for the past five years, I have found that they often have something in common: the belief that someone else is responsible for dealing with misbehaviour. This is odd, because it’s everyone’s responsibility. In fact, not only is it best tackled by everyone, it is impossible for it to be tackled effectively in any other way. Disruptive behaviour is a widespread problem and many of the teachers that I advise say they are unable to access the school’s support and they feel isolated as a result. I’ve seen teachers give up after a few weeks of good intentions, exhausted by their misunderstanding that behaviour management is a sprint not a marathon. I’ve also seen lazy teachers, scared teachers and teachers who make the mistake of trying to be the pupils’ friends first and their teacher second. I also know there are many things that drive teachers mad. Not least is senior staff undermining the attempts of staff to set boundaries. Part of the problem is that it’s easy to be the pupils’ big pal, to go for the easy relationship of banter, smiles and cheery good mornings. It is far harder to stand up to pupils when they need a little steel. This is perfectly exemplified by the teacher who, told by a pupil to ‘f*** off ’, calls for support. The pupil is removed by the head, who then proceeds to take the pupil to their office for a friendly chat, coffee and biscuits. Five minutes later the


pupil is brought back to the class, covered in crumbs and sympathy. “Danny’s ready to come back to the class now,” says the jolly school leader. The teacher is now a laughing stock, because it was easier for the head to play ‘good cop’ than require Danny to face up to his mistake. If the offence has not been directed to you, it is easy to be more concerned with smoothing over situations than actually resolving them. In this example, nothing has been resolved. In fact, it’s been made worse. A second issue is school support systems that only happen on paper. One of the teacher’s greatest strategies in the classroom is relentlessness; applying the behaviour code with fairness and vigour. Eventually, the children realise that they can rely upon the teacher to be consistent and firm. But a problem occurs when the teacher needs the school to support their classroom structures, for example, when the pupil wriggles out of detention, or re-offends repeatedly, or an escalation is required. This is when the school can do most good, or harm. They can enforce and insist upon greater measures, or they can lose their nerve or vigour. In this instance, the system falls apart. Worse, the pupil learns a greater lesson: if they defy persistently, then nothing will happen. Once this idea gains strength, a rot sets into the school, as students realise that defiance en masse cannot be contained. Something that also frustrates teachers is being treated as a ‘bad teacher’ because they have behaviour problems in their


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