Behaviour Matters explores the importance of being a positive role model in teaching

Everyone had a favourite teacher at school. No doubt there was also one that was equally revered. Thinking back, what separated the good from the bad and led you to form this opinion? Be honest! Was it because the favoured teacher was genuinely better, or was it because the one whose lessons you dreaded was stricter in terms of punishment? Without realising it, these feelings of negativity would have had a direct impact on your learning. How could this have been avoided? Behaviour Matters investigates!


When using the term ‘teacher’, most of us automatically think of the qualified teacher employed on a teacher’s contract. However, if we are to believe the guidance of the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning initiative that ‘behaviour can be taught and caught’ we should include all the adults working with young people as teachers of behaviour. Therefore, in attempting to ensure consistency and provide an appropriate teaching and learning environment, we need to consider a wide range of stakeholders:

  • parents
  • qualified teachers
  • classroom assistants
  • teaching assistants (TAs)
  • higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs)
  • lunchtime supervisors
  • administration staff
  • caretakers
  • ground staff
  • volunteer assistants
  • governors
  • local authority officers.

The list above, although lengthy, is not complete. Individual schools may have specific posts to address the individual needs of the school and their pupils, ie

  • welfare assistants
  • counsellors
  • behaviour and attendance officer
  • lead behaviour professionals.

All schools will have behaviour policies that clearly state the expectations of the school and the relevant rewards or consequences. Difficulties arise when members of staff interpret these expectations inconsistently or roles are not clearly understood. The young people will then perceive the management to be unfair or ineffective. We can all remember being on the receiving end of such inconsistencies in our own schooldays. They led to students pushing the boundaries with some teachers and, in some cases, being terrified of others. Spend some time considering how you and your colleagues address the problem of consistency. How does your school include all the adults (who are teachers of behaviour) in decision making over policy matters and the day-to-day implementation of those policies? The number of adults employed in our schools today has most certainly risen over the past 10 to 15 years. This provides more opportunities for adults to act as appropriate role models, but also more opportunities for them to do the opposite. Time pressures, workload and misunderstanding of job descriptions are problems that must be overcome, if we are to indeed, provide environments that take account of teaching, learning and the wellbeing of all stakeholders.

Practical Tips In the very different and often stressful environments of both primary and secondary schools, how can we ensure that all adults are behaving as good role models and working in partnership? Even the smallest primary school has, as we have seen above, a significant number of adults working with students. In a large secondary school this can run to not tens, but to hundreds.

Opportunities for both formal and informal communication can be compromised due to pressure from the curriculum, cover lessons, preparation time and a whole range of other perfectly good reasons. For this reason, we cannot rely on informal contacts and hoping that essential communications will be ‘picked up’ during our everyday teaching time. For teachers and teaching assistants/support staff who are working together in classrooms, departments or year groups it is vital that time is set aside for planning, monitoring and evaluation of both pupil progress and behaviour. Time should also be available for frank, honest observation and non-confrontational discussion of each other’s practice. While the above arrangements will improve communications in the classroom, it is important to consider how consistency can be achieved throughout the whole teaching team (remembering that we are classing all adults as teachers of behaviour). When staff feel unable to express opinion or offer constructive criticism there is a tendency to ‘do your own thing’, thus promoting levels of inconsistency. Levels of student behaviour and staff wellbeing can be improved by developing a working environment that allows all staff to contribute to working practices at all levels, be they in class, working with individual students or school wide.

  • Be aware of school policies, classroom arrangements and individual education plans.
  • Be aware of individual job descriptions and roles.
  • Establish clear lines of management.
  • Use newsletters, reminders and posters to improve communications.
  • Consider setting up daily (or the very least weekly) time for discussion between subject/class teacher and classroom assistants and create regular opportunities for all adults to meet.
  • Include the behaviour curriculum on the agenda of all staff and department meetings.
  • Involve all staff in planning, staff meetings and professional development activities.

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This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2007

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