The beginning of the summer break can often mean one thing: forgetting all about school until September. But if you can learn to manage your own behaviour effectively during this time, you will be better prepared to manage students’ behaviour next term

There is a very strong temptation at the end of the summer term to clear your mind of all the difficult pupil behaviour you have had to manage over the school year and not think about it until the new term starts. Certainly you need a chance to relax and recharge, but a complete break, with no reflection and planning, can have a negative influence on your thinking. It can also have a negative effect on your ability to manage pupil behaviour when they, and you, return in the new term.

Problems which are not dealt with and thought through objectively can distort in your memory. The difficult class or the challenging pupil can seem far worse; you may be constantly questioning your own actions – or, perhaps even worse, thinking that there’s nothing you can do about it now, so you may as well forget about it until you are back in the classroom.

As well as using the summer break for relaxation, it is also a perfect time to reflect on the issues of the last school year without the usual everyday pressures. Take time to consider how problems were dealt with, how effective your own strategies proved to be, and what can be improved ready for the new term. Perhaps the best way to combine relaxation, recharging and organisation is to plan your time in a similar fashion to the students who have been carefully following revision timetables prior to their exams. Allocate yourself set periods of time to have:

  • a total break from school without thought or worry about what has happened over the year, or what is ahead
  • a period of reflection on issues over the past year
  • a time to consider your own style of behaviour management and style of approach
  • a period of preparation and organisation for the new term ahead.

Practical Tips
Keeping the four sections above separate in your time plan enables you to enjoy the full benefits of each. If you are constantly turning problems over in your mind or worrying about how you are going to manage an individual pupil, you will certainly not enjoy the benefits of your ‘total break’. Put the problems out of your mind and make full use of the two weeks (or whatever time you have given) to relaxing and enjoying the change of scene and routines. The big danger, of course, is that you go on throughout the summer break being totally relaxed and never giving a thought to teaching or school until a couple of days before term is due to start. The final three sections above should be seen as a learning exercise and a means to fully prepare.

Take some time to study any tracking systems you may have been operating in school, looking at hotspots around the school building or in your own teaching areas, and patterns and timings of incidents which occurred. What were the antecedents to those incidents? What were the behaviours you had to deal with? What were the consequences? How effective were your strategies and how effective is the current behaviour policy/plan you are using? If you have access to the relevant information, it’s also worth comparing individual pupil behaviour in a variety of settings, with different staff members and at different times of the day.

All of the above information can now be used as part of your organisational plans for the new term. This may involve:

  • new seating plans for your teaching area
  • a new approach, or interpretation, of your school behaviour policy
  • better communication between staff
  • change your style of management from reactive to proactive.

As part of your future planning for the year ahead it is also important to review pupil information. Become familiar with any individual education or behaviour plans written for pupils, with particular reference to the arrangements and guidance they offer. If you will be working with another teacher or a teaching assistant, make sure of your roles and responsibilities and how you will share information and respond to behavioural challenges.

Sectioning out your summer break into distinct times for getting away from it all, reflection and planning will give you the necessary battery recharge and also enable you to make informed preparations for the year ahead. If you are to manage behaviour successfully and effectively, you need to be refreshed, prepared and above all, in a highly positive frame of mind.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 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 behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.