Reading Time: 4 minutes
A guest post from @the9to5teacher.  
Having recently had the annual ‘settling in’ parent meeting, I was slightly surprised with how many parents asked about ‘does my child disturb the class? / Are they well behaved? / Do they chat too much?’ as the meetings were rounding off. All of which I replied with, “Absolutely not; that would be a reflection on my class room management …I make sure all the children are focussed and working during lessons….sometimes we have lots of conversations; sometimes it’s a lot more independent and quiet and focussed.”


I think the minutes / hours / days / weeks we have with a class are really limited and every moment counts. I make that abundantly clear to the children I teach from the outset of every year and I do drop in reminders throughout the terms too.


I always try to make things really simple and clear for children to follow, which has been supported by our school’s approach to school rules (of which there are only 3: Be Respectful; Be Responsible; Be Ready) which are echoed consistently in my own classroom. Reflecting back on my NQT Year, I recall being so proud of creating a classroom charter, that only used positive language about teacher’s rights and children’s rights within the classroom…and the class would make the “charter” in coordination with me and it would be stuck proudly on the classroom door for all to see! This was essentially in order for the class to achieve golden time (oh the DREADED Golden Time!) on a Friday… boy did that take up some (pointless) time.


I feel very fortunate that the schools I have worked in have never had, what I would regard as “SERIOUS” behavioural problems. There have been moments at different times in my career of individual isolated incidents, but the schools have handled behaviour in what I would consider the right way: sticking by their policies and promoting positive behaviour over negative.


Low level disruption is always the most irritating and disruptive form of behavioural issues from my experience. The irrelevant conversations across tables; the shouting out; the completely random and non-sensical questions; the toilet asking question; the walking around and getting out of their place when they shouldn’t…etc. These all need to be dealt with, however not at a cost of giving the child an audience which they probably are so desperately striving for.


I am definitely one for praising the good behaviours and I like to work on the 3:1 ratio of positive to neutral comments. i.e. praising 3 behaviours and then reminding the whole class of what the expected behaviour is.


I was once given some great advice by my headteacher to only speak about the behaviours you want to see and not what you don’t, so that the child picks up on the verb and will act accordingly. A very straight forward way to illustrate this is to study the effects of the short phrase of “You need to walk” vs. “Don’t run.” In the first sentence the child will hear the word walk and in the second they will hear the word “run” and you’ll be extremely lucky if they register the word “don’t”! I have tried hard to adopt this advice since, along with a calm and direct approach to discipline; I feel I have reaped the rewards of this. It is a simple step that not enough people working with young children demonstrate, which I only saw all too recently at a public story telling event where the storyteller was telling the children (mainly aged 4-7) what not to do and the whole thing was rather chaotic as a consequence.


Remembering you need to remain calm all the time…even when you’re yourself tired is sometimes a challenge! I guess I’m saying that this is easier said than done but is something that can’t be undervalued in terms of its importance in a calm, safe, positive and organised classroom.


Different strategies will work for different classes (and not to be undervalued: for different teachers too) but one that I find incredibly effective, is the use of a timer. Short frequent timers really help children to focus, as long as you’re disciplined about the use of them yourself too…tell your class they have 5 minutes to do a certain thing and after that time YOU WILL be moving on… they will all respond. Set the bar high and see if the class can reach it…you might be positively surprised!


Sometimes however though, children do need reminders and I will always make it clear with them that they are not in trouble and I do believe that I do not ‘tell children off’; I’m simply guiding them to be the best people I feel they can be… If a simple, clear and discrete verbal warning has not worked and the behaviours continue, I will always chat with them in their own break time (sometimes at length, which I feel teachers need to be prepared to do rather than getting to their own break time) so that they understand how they can improve. Many children respond very well to this, knowing that I will talk to them in their own free time about their choices if they repeat the poor behaviour choice. It is relentless, but again you soon reap the rewards if you are consistent with it.


Many teachers believe that positive relationships with children begin at an almost personal level first (knowing their favourite sports and films etc), I however believe that you need to set the professional / learning expectation as of the most initial importance: make your classroom and yourself a role model for learning to the children; build positive relationships through mutual respect and earned trust; encourage children to always do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do; show you’re serious about them by being serious (& enthusiastic!) about teaching and learning etc.


Nothing is easy (that’s why you need to rest too!); and nothing that works brilliantly happens quickly either. Persevere with it. When the discipline is right, the 37 hour working week is a lot more productive for you and the class!


My advice:
  • Realise that LEARNING time is of huge importance.
  • Establish school rules within your class; rather than class rules with your school.
  • Tell children what you want to see.
  • Kindly remind children of expectations in their own time.
  • Build positive LEARNING relationships.
  • Remain calm at all times!
  • Timers can be useful to keep children focussed on tasks.
  • Be relentless and don’t give up (persevere!)
  • Do less disciplining…better!

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog and is reproduced here with their kind permission.