Refocus your thinking and concentrate on the positive aspects of student behaviour. Stop spending time on the negatives and revitalise your behaviour management

It is not just your day-to-day management of student behaviour that can be affected by negative thinking, but also your long-term planning. As a long term finally draws to a close it is often the case that as you become mentally and physically tired, your thoughts and actions become increasingly negative. The challenges of managing student behaviour can seem almost overwhelming when there is the added excitement of end-of-term fever! Thoughts and emotions do affect behaviour and students are certainly no exception.

If this is the case, and you seem to be dealing only with problems, then not only will your day-to-day actions be affected, but you will find it increasingly difficult to look forward to the next term, or new year, with feelings of confidence and motivation. It is certainly not the intention of this article to encourage you not to deal with everyday problems or ignore challenging behaviour. What is important, however, is to retain a sense of enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. This can most easily be achieved by looking forward and using a positive thinking approach – looking at what you want to achieve and where you would like your students to be in terms of their behaviour, rather than dwelling on what has happened over the last term and how difficult things can seem.

Clearly, this positive outlook is probably easier to write about than to actually put into practice. Using a model to structure your thoughts and ideas can help overcome the practical difficulties and in just the same way, speaking to and working with a colleague will also enable you to think more rationally and with joint motivation.

Use the model below as a structure for your conversations and an aid to both short- and long-term planning.

Practical Tips
The following model is intended to not only change your thought and planning processes from negative to positive, but also to provide a useful review of your behaviour management strategies, lesson planning, problem solving and learning outcomes.

In its simplest form the planning model is as follows:

Preferably with a colleague, make a note or list of the day-to-day behaviours that cause you most concerns. Don’t limit yourself to large or major incidents, which are often easier to deal with compared to the ‘drip, drip’ effect of what are often described as low-level behaviour problems, include all those little niggles that cause you problems in the classroom.

Your list may look something like this:

  1. Shouting out.
  2. Failure to comply with instructions.
  3. Arguing and answering back.
  4. Failure to have the correct equipment (pens, pencils, PE kit, etc).
  5. Non-attendance or lateness.
  6. Little respect for or destroying property.

Don’t overkill this list by spending hours pondering over all the possible issues to include, as this can stop you managing to get to step two! Experience shows that the above list can usually be drawn up in a couple of minutes – remember, these are the issues that we seem to spend all our time considering and trying to find solutions for.

Once you have drawn up your list of niggles and annoying behaviour, it’s now time to reorganise your thoughts from negative into positive.

Again working with a colleague, draw up another list of the exact opposites from list one. For example, if you have included ‘lateness’, ‘no equipment’ and ‘shouting out’ in list one, your corresponding points in list two should include:

  • good timekeeping and prompt arrival to lessons
  • being prepared and properly equipped for all lessons
  • self-control and using appropriate signals to attract teacher attention.

Once you have drawn up list two, it’s now time to discuss in depth how you can achieve those positive behaviours. To help you manage this, and to eliminate any negative thoughts, it is even more effective if you actually tear up your first list and throw it away. You are no longer going to spend time worrying and despairing over all that negative behaviour. You have now got a list of all the positive behaviours you want your students to demonstrate and with your colleague, you are now focusing on how you can help them achieve the standard.

Just as Individual Education Plans include targets to achieve, perhaps the most important part of such a plan are the arrangements you and other members of staff will be using to help the student achieve the target. It’s a positive way forward, and a means of planning and review that encourages positive thoughts and emotions to drive positive and acceptable behaviour.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2009

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.