School classrooms no longer host one adult and a group of pupils – there are often a team of educational professionals working together, which can have detrimental affects on behaviour. This article offers practical advice and strategies to help all adults working in the classroom to be more effective in their management of behaviour

A confusing wave of acronyms has now entered the classroom. Pupils are presented with an array of professionals in the school environment on a daily basis. Teaching assistants (TAs), learning support assistants (LSAs), specialist teaching assistants (STAs), behaviour support assistants (BSAs) and higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) are just a few of the ‘extra’ adults now working with individual pupils or as general support in today’s classrooms.

However, for the purposes of behaviour management it is important to establish that whatever your professional title, all adults working in the classroom should have the generic role of behaviour manager. We should all be acting as appropriate role models and should all carry the responsibility to proactively manage the behaviour of the pupils. If this clarity of roles is not agreed by the adults and made quite clear to all pupils, then problems can arise – such as:

Pupil: ‘You can’t tell me what to do – you’re not my teacher!’

TA: ‘Should I say something? Is it my job to intervene?’

Teacher: ‘Why isn’t the TA intervening? Can’t he see there is trouble brewing? I can’t manage all these pupils on my own!’

LSA: ‘I’m only here to support Sarah. I can see there is trouble about to occur, but it’s not my job to get involved!’

Teacher: This is my classroom and I am in charge!’

All of the above situations can lead to confusion, anxiety and frustration. The end result will almost certainly be a group of pupils who will try to play one adult off against the other. Halfway through the lesson when problems have already begun to develop is not the right time for the adults to sort out their understanding of their roles within the classroom.

Added to the possible confusion of mixed messages and a misunderstanding of roles is also the issue of effective communication. In a classroom where there is little or no cooperative working between the adults, there is no time to plan, review, compare and evaluate.

Practical Tips
As previously stated, it is wise to establish clearly the roles of all adults working in a classroom. Make it your business to meet and speak with the different support staff who will be working with you, and be quite clear on why they are in the classroom. Use the following reminders as a basis for your conversation, keeping in mind that behaviour management is the responsibility of all adults in the school environment:

  • Be aware of all the classroom rules and routines and ensure a consistent approach to reinforcing those rules.
  • If the LSA or TA is allocated to one individual pupil, be clear on their role within general classroom management. It is wholly inappropriate for a TA to be aware of problems, but feel that they dare not intervene for fear of upsetting the class teacher.
  • Who can use the rewards and sanction system in place in the classroom? Teacher, TA, LSA?
  • How much pre-lesson planning time have you and the TA had?
  • How much time at the end of the lesson has been allocated to feedback and discussion between adults?

The timetable and general organisation of the school may make the last two points difficult to work, but that should not be an excuse for planning and review not taking place. A teaching assistant who has been supporting a particular pupil in the previous lesson or activity will hold invaluable information about the pupil’s behaviour, attitude and difficulties, which will assist in planning your styles of approach and/or management strategies.

Likewise, at the end of the lesson, try to find time to discuss the issues which have arisen. This may mean restructuring the format of your lesson to give two or three minutes before the bell goes. Some schools may place such importance on this valuable communication time that they may decide to restructure the timetable, giving teachers and assistants the time to review and evaluate strategies etc.

As the level of support available in the classroom changes (and increases), ensure that the time (and personalities) are used most effectively:

  • Plan prior to the start of the lesson.
  • Agree areas of responsibility.
  • Be clear about roles and ensure pupils understand.
  • Take time to review and reflect.
  • Record your observations and use the information in your planning meetings.

But above all, if there is more than one adult working in the classroom, get to know each other!

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

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