Lead by example
“One of the most important things we adults can do for young children is to model the kind of person we would like them to be.”
Carol B Hillman
The new academic year is nearly upon us and I work in a large primary school with about 550 children in it. Seeing as though we have 20+ classes, we always have a few teachers move on and start somewhere else for September. We have three new teachers this year, all NQT’s and as part of my additional responsibility for my new role, I am their mentor. This got me thinking… There are all of the formal ways to support them as laid out by the appropriate body for the Local Authority that I work within but I think they will learn far more from the informal discussions, support and most importantly, observations of other staff around the school. This post isn’t about NQT’s per se, but about how adults act in and around the school and the monumental impact that this can have, positive and negative on the children.
I am not absolutely certain of the source, although I think it may be Paul Dix from Pivotal Education, but I heard a quote last year that 80% of staff deal with 20% of issues in the corridor while the remaining 20% of staff deal with 80% of issues. Now even if the numbers are off, in my experience, this is about right. I know that I am certainly one of the people who ALWAYS deals with things in the corridor. That might mean that I directly deal with things or make sure that I signpost it and hand it over to someone who can immediately without ever ignoring anything. Now some of the issues may be more trivial, like being inside the building at a lunch time without permission or they may be bigger, like kids messing about in the toilets during lesson time but whatever the issue, I deal with it. Full stop. I do this for a few reasons, more than just the obvious ones. Number one, I deal with it so that the children in my school believe that whatever I say, I will carry it out. This gives me credibility. Number two, I deal with it so that I build relationships with kids whose names I may not even know (I was new last year) in the hope that one day, if I end up teaching them, I have some sort of relationship, albeit small. It means that the kids who I never end up teaching still have some sort of relationship with me. These reasons are enough for me to invest the time to sort issues.
One of the NQT standards is to ‘Fulfil Wider Professional Responsibilities’ and I lifted this from my authorities appropriate body website for NQT’s.
Teaching Standard 7
Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
Have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, and take responsibility for promoting good and courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school’s behaviour policy.
Have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline with a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and
rewards consistently and fairly.
Manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to pupils’ needs in order to involve and motivate them.
Maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary.
This will be such a hard one for NQT’s to evidence because it is informal and the evidence isn’t something that they can stick into a file. But how can they do this without just saying they do it? I feel this will be the challenge.
So, how can this be done?
Now this advice isn’t just for NQT’s, this is for anyone who falls within that 80% of staff who only deal with 20% of issues in the corridor. The first thing is to not think this is just about to behaviour. Start by overtly showing the children the behaviour that you would like them to show you. Say good morning explicitly to members of staff, even if you say them at 7.30am and have already had a conversation with them. Greet them in a way that you would like the children to do it; do no greet them colloquially unless you would accept this from the kids. Every time that you say good morning to someone, in your classroom as they are cutting through, on the way to assembly or in the corridor, it is an opportunity for you to show the children in your class the culture that you offer. It is easy to buy into and one well worth them buying into. Pair this up with doing the same to children in the corridor and wallah, the children will eventually go out of their way to do this to you. Then it is simply a case of rinse and repeat with opening doors, allowing others to go before you on the stairs et cetera, et cetera.
This is nothing to do with behaviour but if staff are going out of their way to be polite rather than simply walking past each other, it gives more credibility to members of staff when they are demanding the same things from the children. Rather than sitting kids down and telling them your expectations, why not simply demonstrate them, day in and day out. It also means that when it comes to managing behaviour in the corridors, the kids are definitely more willing to play ball because you have a relationship already.
When you go back in September, whether you’re an NQT or one of the 80%, spend time in the corridors, be overtly polite to the adults and the children, and always… ALWAYS deal with issues in the corridors!