The new school term is a great time to consider your techniques of behaviour management and review your classroom management of last year

Schools, teachers and students all have the opportunity to celebrate two fresh starts to the year, one in January and one now, at the beginning of the school year, in September. This provides an opportunity to remember all those good intentions and approaches that you could not introduce “mid-year” – words like consistency, a planned approach and self -calming techniques come to mind.

September is the time of year when many students form lasting views of their new teachers. The time when all those tried and tested methods of pushing the boundaries and making their mark in the school and classroom environment are, once again, put into practice. 

Like most things, the end result is often determined by the amount, and quality, of preparation that has taken place. The summer break should quite rightly be used to rest, recuperate and recharge your batteries ready for the new year that you are just starting. Take some time to review the successes of last year and evaluate why they were successful.    Consider your techniques of behaviour management. Were you haphazard in your methods, with students not knowing what to expect from one day or lesson to another? Or were you single-minded? Were you unwilling to change or listen to your colleagues’ suggestions? Certainly as SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) is launched into secondary schools there will be a clear requirement for some teachers and teaching assistants to evaluate their style of teaching and the content of many of their lessons. Find time to improve your knowledge of this new initiative for secondary schools.

Practical tips

Your knowledge of this year’s students should assist you in all areas of preparation for this new year. If you have not yet taken time to look at your class lists or spoken to colleagues you will not have sufficient information when considering the following:

  • Seating plans   
  • Individual education plans (IEPs) and the arrangements you may have to make to accommodate certain requirements
  • Your behaviour plan
  • Classroom rules
  • Rewards
  • Consequences
  • Display of students’ work

It is vital that with new students and class groups you do not make careless assumptions. If you wish students to conform to your expectations within your lessons, you must teach these behaviours to the students. Treat behaviour as another area of the curriculum and teach accordingly:

  • Teach/instruct your expectations or boundaries – be absolutely explicit, leaving no room for misinterpretation
  • Check for understanding with all students
  • Practise
  • Regularly re-teach
  • Constantly refer to your expectations – have them permanently displayed in the teaching area, in both word and visual representation
  • Reward those who comply

Remember that behaviour is closely linked to feelings and thought. The teaching environment should be fit for purpose. Spend some time at the beginning of the first week noting all the areas of your space that need attention. Treat the first week as a time for going through your “snagging” list, just like taking the keys to a new house. You will be able to rectify some of the problems yourself; others will need to be reported. Lighting, storage, appropriate seating, heating and learning resources are all essential ingredients in providing a learning environment that promotes a feeling of well-being. It’s also now time to fully acquaint yourself with the whole-school approach to managing behaviour. Become familiar with the school handbook, reward systems and accepted consequences. How do you maintain contact with parents?

Finally, remember that just as it states in the SEAL material, behaviour can be “caught” as well as taught. Both you and your students have had a six-week break from the expectations of school. You have all behaved in ways that may not have been appropriate to a school setting and have enjoyed relaxing in this less structured environment. But term has now started! You are in charge in the classroom; you set the boundaries and guidance. You are once again one of the most important and influential figures in your students’ lives. You are the role model whose behaviour will be watched carefully, analysed and acted upon.

Find out more:

Articles on behaviour management
Behaviour management publications
> Back to the Behaviour Matters index page

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2007

About the author: Dave Stott is the author of Behaviour Matters. He has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years at headteacher level. Dave has worked in mainstream and special and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a successful consultant and trainer.