Naomi Lowe came to PK as a Graduate from Coventry university keen to get into a career in teaching. She was placed into a primary school where she grew in confidence and made a brilliant impression and long lasting relationships with the teachers and pupils in KS2.
She’s also a Girl Guide leader and ran the London Marathon this year for MIND. She has 12 years’ experience working with young people either in schools or youth groups. Currently, Naomi is a TA in a primary school, working 1:1 with a child who is yet to be given a diagnosis for ADHD, whilst applying to do teacher training.
Managing student behaviour
Behaviour management as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a member of Support Staff can be a tricky one. Do I have the authority to reward and punish student behaviour? Will students listen to me? What if they don’t listen to me? How do I determine what is poor behaviour?
Obviously, the answer to these questions varies depending on the school you are in, the age range and the management structures and policies in place. However, what all schools will agree on is that everyone is at school to learn and become the best version of oneself.
Behaviour is not just about punishing
Behaviour is the way a person acts to the situation they are in. If a student is behaving in a way that is causing others’ learning to be affected, this is what I consider as ‘poor’ behaviour. At the other end of the spectrum, if a student is going above and beyond to better themselves or assisting other students’ learning, this is a typical example of ‘good’ behaviour.
As Support Staff, we are there to help manage and maintain the school’s expectations of good behaviour – which in some cases, may mean punishing students!
So, what have I learnt that will actually help YOU with behaviour management? Read on to find out…
Be authoritative in the classroom
Being authoritative will reduce the level of poor behaviour in your classroom or learning environment, making learning easier and more successful for all. Do not go into a new class all guns blazing! That is not what being authoritative is about. If someone shouts at you, you won’t listen and, believe it or not, it is exactly the same with young people. Tailor your approach to the level of students you are working with and ensure they know who is in charge without over-dominating.
Turn a negative into a positive
This is particularly good if you have a student who struggles with self-confidence, behaviour problems or a disability.
Every class and school will have ‘naughty’ kids, but it’s not always their fault. For example, last week during lunch time, a child with behaviour problems was fighting. You can stand there and shout at them, which I guarantee they won’t listen to, or you can approach the matter calmly. The said child came straight over when I called them saying “I said sorry! I said sorry!”.
Praise them on the fact they said sorry, let them know you are glad they have apologised but ask them whether they think fighting is acceptable behaviour. Ask them how their parents might feel if they knew they had been fighting or if they had physically hurt the person they were fighting. By doing this, you’re making the student feel more relaxed and more likely to truthfully explain the situation.
Use positive language when they do something well or good – it’s a boost to their confidence and they’re more likely to do it again if their positive behaviour has been noticed.
Always remain calm and collected
Whether it’s a child pouring with blood or the fact there is a spider in the classroom and you hate spiders, the biggest thing a young person will pick up on is your reaction to a situation. I guarantee at some stage during your educational career, you will be faced with a situation where you think “S*@#!”
Don’t let the students know that there is something wrong. Panicking and getting worked up will not help. Simply ask if there are any students who want to volunteer to take the spider outside. This way you avoid a big crowd surrounding the tiny creature with the whole class discussing who is and isn’t scared of spiders and who has the biggest spider in their house! (We’ve all seen it happen!)
DO NOT SHOUT!
Shouting at a student is no different to someone shouting at you – you don’t listen, you lose respect for the person shouting at you and you are more likely to do the opposite of what they’re asking.
Shouting may have an immediate impact on student behaviour but very little in the way of long-term effects. I guarantee if you shout at that child during lunch time, they will be a nightmare in the afternoon!
Lead by example and show good manners
Thank students and, if necessary, reward them for their good manners. After all, it is good behaviour and they are setting a good example to other students. Everyone likes good manners, so make sure that you yourself are remembering to use your manners.
Tailor to the individual, but don’t single a student out
Easier said than done sometimes. Using phrases such as “everyone else has to do it”, “everyone else is following the instruction” and “nobody else is allowed to do that,” reminds a student that the behaviour is expected of the whole class/group not just them. It also reminds the student of who has the authority in the classroom without having to enforce punishment or encouraging them to go against what you are asking.
I have found that if you say “can you do that, thank you” rather than “can you do that, please?” It doesn’t offer the student the option to say no.
Sometimes just don’t react
Where SEN students are concerned, sometimes no reaction is the best reaction. Simply turning your back to them when they are trying to get their own way shows them who has the authority in the classroom. 9 times out of 10 they will realise that you’re not going to stand for poor student behaviour and asking for attention gets you no attention.
Approaching a student at the right time
This can be essential where a young person has special educational needs as you’re not always sure what their next move will be. For example, a student with behaviour problems, sometimes it is best to let them run off, as long as you can see them, they are safe and not distracting anyone else’s learning.
Listen carefully to what they have to say
I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is to a child if you listen to what they have to say. Listen to why they have done something, what they did and how they felt. It may help you be able to determine the triggers for poor behaviour and thus avoid them in the future. It is not always possible to listen to every student and every problem, but prioritising those who have behaviour problems, disabilities, a troubled home life or have some sort of disadvantage, will help you monitor and manage behaviour.
Last but not least… do have some fun
Look at fun and unique ways to monitor behaviour. Most primary schools these days have a ‘move up, move down’ system in their classroom. This is a visual representation of student behaviour. Is there a way you can make it fun for them to move up the system? What rewards can they have? What do they have to do to move their name back up?
Each individual faces their own behavioural challenges: challenge the student who always shouts out to not shout for a whole lesson and they can move their name back up. You will find something like this will then become a class activity to help the student, helping with their understanding of team work and good behaviour.