Behaviour management: it’s more about belief 


This blog will only make sense to those of you that have worked in schools with some challenging behaviour. If not, go work in one of these and then come back.

I’ve sat in classrooms where students have thrown things across the room and the teacher hasn’t seen. Where students have done no work and they haven’t been challenged on it. Where the entire class is chatting and the teacher has stood at the front carrying on teaching, regardless.

These lessons didn’t have these issues because the lessons werent all singing and dancing so that students don’t misbehave; this is rubbish. Perhaps controversially, I think that children’s behaviour is controlled by what a teacher allows to happen in class. Students have a responsibility to behave but if they don’t it is a teacher’s responsibility to deal with it.  If you can see the paper flying across the room or see an empty book then there’s something wrong.

There are some great strategies that teachers can use to promote routines and positive behaviour but unless you believe that these will work, they just become random actions. There are no ‘quick fixes’ to a challenging class, it’s the long term game of a battle of wills.

Students will only behave how you want them to if you have a 100% undying belief that they will behave. It’s a battle of wills not a set of strategies.

I’m like a dog with a bone. Students will do what they’re told in my classroom and if they don’t, there are instant consequences that will continue on and on until they realise that I always ‘win’. I usually say that I have high expectations but maybe I don’t. I expect that every student will do what they’re told when they’re told. That isn’t high expectations, that’s basic expectations. 
So where does it go wrong? 

With teachers that continuously struggle with behaviour there is a lack of belief, that leads to inconsistency:

  •  Either they don’t believe that that child can behave
  •  or they don’t believe in their own ability to deal with it 
  • or they don’t believe it is their job to deal with poor behaviour, children should just be good.

These are a recipe for disaster as they create a vacuum in the expectation & management of good behaviour. I’ve seen all three of these in my career. 

These beliefs manifest themselves in different teacher behaviours:

  1. They don’t believe that that child can behave-> excuses are made why the child doesn’t behave so no action is taken. “It’s just X misbehaving again”
  2. They don’t believe in their own ability to deal with it -> it’s too scary to confront so it’s easier to ignore it. Often these teachers don’t ‘see’ the poor behaviour.
  3. They don’t believe it is their job to deal with poor behaviour, children should just be good. ->it takes up too much time that they can spend on other things so systems aren’t followed

The difficulty is working with a colleague to identify which of these it may be. It becomes more of a soul searching exercise that some may not wish to embark on. It takes a lot to openly admit and then work on these. In some cases it means a change of personality of the teacher which is a step too far.

Poor behaviour comes from children, managing the consequences and redirecting the direction of behaviour habits is down to the teacher and their colleagues. It’s a really tough job but in 99% of cases, with the supporting systems, it is doable. But only if you believe it is.


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