Teaching Behaviour

As educators working in schools, our primary job is to impart knowledge to others. Maths, literacy, scientific skills et cetera. There are many other elements to the job but the only thing that we should be doing when directly working with children is to educate them, to teach them something. This may be something academic but it can also be a whole plethora of other things, such as how to ask politely for something, how to share, how to resolve their issues, communicate… In fact, every time we interact with children, we should always teach them something.

In the interests of this blog post, I am going to focus on teaching points that should be made when children demonstrate poor behaviour. Poor behaviour is not something that can be directly pigeon-holed as been this or that, but it can stretch from low level stuff to the extreme behaviours that many staff face.

Low level behaviour

At the moment, I am a KS2 teacher in a primary school but I have also taught for 4 years in a Pupil Referral Unit. Low level behaviour is common in both settings, probably with the only exception being the frequency of the behaviour. In schools, young people have many interactions a day and these are also often with people who they may not naturally get on with. I have found that I have been able to modify the behaviour  of children doing two main things.

  1. I model the behaviour that I want from the children. My previous post spoke about leading by example and it is in this realm that I focus. If I ask for things in my class, I use names, I am polite and I am respectful to others. This means that I can reasonably expect the same in return as well as expecting the same between their interactions with each other.
  2. If children demonstrate poor behaviour, such as leaning back on chairs or shouting out, I simply use a script. Scripted language is a great way to speak to children because the uniformity of using a script makes it predictable for the child. This way, they can focus on the content of the message because every time I give it, it is delivered in the same way (apart from the specific behaviour). Also, this means that I stay in control of my own emotions and behaviour and I am less likely to respond poorly to low level behaviour. There are plenty of things in the world to get wound up about, low level behaviour is not one of them.

Higher level behaviour

Even with higher level behaviour, which may result in serious incidents such as criminal damage, assault and/or physical restraint applied to the child, there are still teaching points, even more so. The timing of the lesson is important; it is probably not a good time to explain that smashing the window was not in their best interests while in the middle of a restraint!

After a serious incident involving you and a child, there are three things that could happen.

  1. The relationship between you and the child deteriorates (obviously this needs to be avoided at all costs)
  2. The relationship between you and the child stays the same (not too bad, but definitely a missed opportunity)
  3. The relationship between you and the child improves (this is the aim!)

Now, I have been involved in many serious incidents, both in mainstream and more frequently in a PRU and there is no way I could have effectively impacted on the behaviour of children unless I more or less landed in option number 3. Occasionally, I got it wrong and did something that was detrimental, more like number one. This was usually coming in too heavy and top down in my early days in the PRU. I was liable to be told to “jog on” (or usually worse) and had to work much harder to get back to square one.

Wheat we need to do, is to have a conversation, at an appropriate time, where we teach them what could have been done differently. We need to layout a pathway, either verbally or visually (or indeed some other way) which explains the choices they took which culminated to their current predicament and what will happen next. You did this, so then this happened and now as a result, the consequence will be… The consequence must happen, always. This then sets you up for a conversation which discusses what might happen the next time the same thing frustrates/makes angry/annoys them. If they keep responding in the same way, they will keep getting a similar consequence. It is our job to teach them what they may do in a similar situation, to let them know the choices available. When we do this, we stop managing their behaviour and give them the skills to manage their own.

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Posted on September 20, 2015, in behaviour, communication, Education, pru and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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