This week’s copy offers tips on raising teachers’ awareness of the amount of time they spend on behavior management as opposed to teaching, so that they can readjust the balance in favor of more teaching time if necessary

Behavior management versus teaching

Teaching will almost always entail a certain amount of managing student behavior. This week’s bulletin helps to raise your awareness of just how much time you are spending on behavior, and how to readjust that fine balance in favor of more quality teaching time.

Perhaps one of the best ways of describing the typical school day for all of us working with young people is ‘full on’. From the moment you arrive in the building and certainly from the first bell or start of a lesson, there is little time to sit, reflect and accurately analyze your time spent with students. At the end of a lesson, if you do have time to reflect, how much of your time was spent on managing behavior and how much was spent actually teaching? There is no question that you will have spent some of your time with specific students; often these are the same students who seem to require your attention over and over again. Have you ever tried to quantify that time spent on students with behavior difficulties, and have you compared that time with the amount of attention you give to the students who regularly comply with your expectations?

Clearly, if there is a need for you to spend time on motivating and monitoring the behavior of some students, then you must fulfill this need. However, problems can soon start to occur when your time is almost exclusively taken up by those students. The on-task members of the class may even feel this is unfair and consider themselves short-changed regarding your time as their teacher.

It is very difficult to monitor your time within the hectic confines of the classroom, but it is worthwhile, on occasion, to take a more objective look at the classic issue of behavior management versus teaching. Knowing how your time is divided in specific lessons will help you to identify problem areas, particularly those linked to:

  • individual students
  • time management
  • behavior management techniques
  • stress levels
  • projected levels of achievement.

In some ways you will be performing the tasks of the old-style ‘time and motion’ consultant! How much of your direct teaching time is what could be termed ‘quality teaching’ and armed with this factual knowledge, how can you increase that quality time?

It is certainly possible to run this exercise on your own, but it will be far more accurate and possibly more effective if you are able to work with a colleague, perhaps observing each other and sharing the collected evidence.

Practical Tips

Perhaps the simplest technique of monitoring how much of your time is spent on teaching and how much is spent on managing behavior is using the straightforward stopwatch. It is a simple job of timing each interruption which entails you having to engage in some form of behavior management:

  1. Run the stopwatch from the start of the lesson, pausing the watch each time you are involved in some form of managing behavior.
  2. The final time showing on the watch should indicate the minutes you have been delivering what you actually planned to cover during the lesson.

It is obviously possible to argue at this point that behavior management is an essential aspect of your teaching, and should therefore be counted as part of your quality time commitment to your students. This is quite clearly the case and it is not the intention of the article to undermine the role of the teacher as set out in teachers’ pay and Conditions documents. However, what is being addressed here is when teaching is being influenced too heavily by behavior problems.

When timing or monitoring your time in the class room, you will need to set clear parameters as to what constitutes reasonable and acceptable time spent on managing behavior, and what is over the top. In a recently observed lesson with a group of year 9 students the teacher’s time, over the period of a 60-minute lesson, was divided as follows:

  • four minutes spent in welcome, introductions, reminders and clearing away instructions
  • seven minutes spent on further explanations for individual students
  • 27 minutes spent on dealing with and managing difficult behavior
  • two minutes dealing with notes and messages coming from other members of staff
  • four minutes spent on recording and reporting.

This left only 16 minutes of quality direct teaching.

The lesson had been observed by one of the teaching assistants working in the room and the lessons learnt from the information were:

  1. Prompt arrival at the start of the lesson is essential.
  2. There is a need for engaging and interesting introductions.
  3. There is a need for less information being passed around during lesson time and for quicker and simpler recording systems.
  4. There is a need for identifying hot spots and individual students.

When asked to fill in a questionnaire about how they felt the lesson had gone, 64% of the students felt that they had not had a fair deal re teacher time. A significant minority had taken too much of their teacher’s attention.

Devise a system to monitor your time in the classroom and find out just what percentage of your time is used up on managing behavior.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behavior support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.