Cooperative working

A behaviour policy must be applied consistently if it is to work. Dave Stott looks at the best ways to get staff working in cooperation. What opportunities do you have to share pupil information, techniques and skills with colleagues? For a ‘whole school’ behaviour policy to be effective it is important to have a consistent and co operative approach to teaching, learning and managing behaviour.

Scenario 1

Teacher arrives in the staffroom at morning break, obviously stressed and emotional and, whilst pouring a cup of coffee, declares that he/she has had a really difficult time with: class B/individual student/year group, etc.

Other members of staff are listening, some with sympathetic expressions, others making ‘I know exactly what you mean’ type comments.

On the other side of the staffroom another member of staff, who has been listening to the comments replies that he/she never has any problems with the class/individual/group!

The underlying messages of such an exchange are not only very interesting but can be potentially de motivating and divisive to the staff group.

a) How does such a comment make you feel after you have had the courage to admit your problem?

b) What message is the commenting teacher trying to make? He/she has excellent behaviour management skills? He/she doesn’t rate yours or other members of staff skills?

c)  Whatever whole school systems are in place it is obvious that the commenting teacher ‘does his/her own thing’.

d) Comments of this nature can introduce unhelpful grouping or cliques into the staff room.

Scenario 2

School has organised support to teaching groups using teaching assistants who are allocated to certain individual students and/or class/year groups. The timings of the lessons are such that there is little or no time at either the beginning or end of the lessons for class/subject teacher and classroom assistant to discuss any issues which may have arisen regarding individuals or teaching points.

In this situation it becomes very difficult to share styles of approach, skills or advice when time is so pressurised.

Scenario 3

The school operates a clear tracking and recording system for behaviour management (electronic or paper) which relies on clear, objective information being systematically recorded by all members of staff. There is also an agreed hierarchical process by which more difficult students can be referred on to senior staff.

Unfortunately there is clear evidence from the recorded information that:

a)  Not all staff are completing the required information
b)  Some members of staff appear to be ‘accelerating’ students through the referral system
c)  Information which is being recorded is subjective and therefore not entirely accurate.

Practical Tips

All of the above three scenarios directly undermine the concept of a consistent and cooperative approach to teaching, learning and behaviour management.

Staff groups can be unsettled and undermined by individuals who are only prepared to consider their own needs and techniques. They may indeed ‘have no problems’ with groups or individuals, but how are their approaches affecting the behaviour of students with other staff?

Classroom assistants who work with students in a variety of teaching situations often report that student behaviour is greatly affected, both positively and negatively, by the style and approach of individual teachers. Benefits can be developed by staff actively working together and sharing their knowledge, style and expertise.

Teachers and teaching assistants often feel pressurised by time during the school day. Often a bell will denote not just the end of a lesson, but also the start of the next. How then, can TAs and teachers be expected to share information and advice? Perhaps alterations can be made to the timing of the school day? Possibly time could be allocated at start of the day/lunch/end of the day for these discussions to take place?

If the only time teacher and TA see each other is during the lesson when up to 32 students are present, then little or no planning, sharing and evaluating can take place. In the worst case scenarios teacher perhaps only knows the TA as Mrs? or Mr? and is also  unsure of his or her role in their classroom. Then the inevitable will take place: the TA is ‘velcroed’ to the target student and makes no other impact in the classroom.

As schools become better and better at recording and tracking student behaviour (often using quite elaborate electronic systems) so there is even more emphasis on the need for all staff to complete or ‘input’ the information. Tracking systems can have a highly positive effect on individual behavior, monitoring problem areas of the school, highlighting difficult times of the day, communicating between staff, student and parents, and recording incidents and resolutions. However, these systems are only as good as the information that is being recorded on a daily basis. The information must be accurate and objective.

All three of the above scenarios are intended to reflect and remind staff of the need to work cooperatively within the staff group. That is not to say there is no room for the ‘individual’ – quite the opposite. The individual teacher who does possess skills, flair and knowledge can greatly enhance the effectiveness of other teacher if they are prepared to share their expertise and work as a partnership.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2011

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