The antiseptic bounce-back technique is great for managing low-level interventions and is most effective when used in partnership with a colleagueIntroduction

A direct definition of the title reads as:

  • antiseptic: scrupulously clean or pure
  • bounce-back: recover well after a setback

Unfortunately, and the reason for highlighting the strategy, is that many teachers do not use the whole technique. For many challenging pupils, those causing disruption or who are constantly off-task, the solution tried by the teacher is to attempt to ‘change’ the behaviour or attitude of the pupil. This is attempted by many and various means (thus meeting the first stage of the title), on task, appropriate and acceptable behaviour. In some cases, however, this can mean removing the pupil from the classroom or teaching area. In extreme cases, the pupil remains out of the classroom, sometimes for the rest of the lesson and – even worse – sometimes permanently. In line with good practice techniques of managing behaviour, it is always better to implement your management techniques through a hierarchical approach. Begin with the lowest possible intervention necessary and use your skills to maintain the pupil at that level, or lower, rather than adding to the confrontation by intervening at too high a level and then quickly ‘moving through’ the levels, ending in severe disruption or exclusion from the teaching area. On that basis, using the ‘antiseptic bounce-back’ technique allows you to intervene at a low level while ensuring that the pupil returns to you, thus you retain responsibility at all times. For the technique to be effective, it is important that you establish a working partnership with another teaching colleague, ideally one who has a similar age-group of pupils to your own. Also, in common with all the other techniques you have in your ‘Behaviour Toolbox’, the bounce-back should be used selectively and only as part of an agreed partnership system with a colleague. It is not a good idea to use it randomly with a large number of pupils. Consider your options when deciding to intervene or use a strategy, make sure you use a risk-assessment approach, and that you are calm and are prepared to carry out your directions.

Practical Tips

When used successfully in the classroom, the antiseptic bounce-back technique will appear to be necessary in the following situation:

  • You recognise the need to intervene with a specific pupil due to their continuing or escalating off-task or disruptive behaviour.
  • You are quickly able to risk-assess the situation, taking into consideration the ‘What if” scenario. If you do decide to intervene, what is likely to happen? What intervention should you use? Is it likely to have a positive effect on the current situation? If the answer to any of the above is negative, then rethink your actions.
  • Having decided that to intervene is absolutely necessary, consider your hierarchical approach.
  • The antiseptic bounce-back may well be used following other simple, low-level techniques such as: ‘the look’; proximity; using the pupil’s name; a privately understood, non-verbal signal

At this point again there is the need to risk-assess: ‘Do you really need to intervene?’ If you think it is necessary, the following steps might be taken:

  • Ensuring that you have a partner colleague who fully understands this technique and has agreed to work with you.
  • Speak to the pupil and indicate that you want them to take a message to your colleague.
  • The message should be sealed and written by you, with wording such as: ‘Read this note, speak directly to the pupil and say thank you, using the pupil’s first name, and now tell him/her to return to their classroom’.
  • The pupil now returns to your room, having been directed to leave your class with a responsible task to do, thus changing the emotional environment of the room and, crucially, the thoughts and feelings of the pupil.
  • Thank the pupil again and direct them to return to their seat.

The whole strategy can appear very simple. However, the important components of the strategy are that: 1.    You are able to offer a low-level intervention to off-task behaviour. 2.    The pupil retains a sense of purpose, without escalating the disruption. 3.    The whole strategy is delivered within a positive framework, the task is a responsible job, the pupil receives positive recognition for the task and he/she returns to your room. 4.    The intention is for you to retain responsibility.

Simple techniques such as antiseptic bounce-back are often the most powerful. However, remember the points mentioned earlier. The technique should only be used as a low-level response, on only selective occasions, and only with pupils for whom the technique is likely to have a positive outcome for both the pupil and for you. 

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2008

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 behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.