Two ways to build relationships with students and improve behaviour

24th March 2015  |  by Greg

Last week, I listed the Four Reasons for Poor Behaviour. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how teachers and school leaders can address these issues and build relationships with students, in turn improving behaviour.

(NB Let’s remember that there isn’t an answer, only strategies.)

Refocus on whole-class behaviour

If a teacher is struggling with a difficult cohort or individual, the first thing I ask them to do is to refocus on getting whole-class behaviour to the best point it can be.

This sometimes involves some alternative provision for one or more pupils for an hour, a morning, a day or a few days. In this time, teachers shouldn’t simply ‘have a rest’ (although this is perfectly understandable) but focus on establishing routines and standards of behaviour that are going to be most conducive to success when the more disruptive student/s return.

When I’m coaching teachers, I often ask them to rate the behaviour of the class out of 10 (10 being pretty perfect). I then ask them to rate behaviour in class out of 10 again, this time without the most disruptive pupil/pupils. The answer to this second question is often 7 or 8/10. My view is that we should aim for 10/10. It’s essential to prepare the ground for when things become more challenging. (When coaching, I also use these learning and behaviour checklists.)

As teachers, we can often spend our time waiting for challenging students to mess up, and neglect to deal robustly with behaviours by the rest of the class. Relationships between the teacher and rest of the class can suffer too; this is another reason for creating some time to build stronger bonds with the class as a whole, without the challenges created by some individuals.

Prepare students for success

So far, so good, on the teacher side. Now, at the same time, the school leadership has a role in using this out-of-class time for some students to build bridges and advertise school as a great place to be, and more importantly as a place that cares.

This temporary, alternative provision may be led by a learning mentor, a TA or a specialist behaviour worker within school or in another school. The key though, is that it should be supportive and should not be seen as a sanction by school leadership, the teacher and most importantly, the child or young person. The aim of the time out of class, is to prepare for successful reintegration back into class (in primary) or mainstream classes in secondary. Note here, that I’m not suggesting that these students don’t receive sanctions. Temporarily withdrawing challenging students from mainstream classes is often most appropriate when normal sanction systems and relationship-building strategies have not worked; however sanctions continue as normal. Also, view this support in the same way as intervention programmes for literacy or maths. Some children just need more help than others.

Choosing who needs the support

Alongside the necessary shuffling of resources, this is often the most difficult part. In the short term, use this method when all other avenues seem to have been exhausted. In the medium term, looking at more effective ways to monitor behaviour in school may be necessary. In the meantime, let’s ensure we see managing behaviour as a whole-school issue with whole-school solutions.

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