Does your style of teaching and managing difficult behaviour conflict, or sit comfortably, alongside the styles adopted by your colleagues? Can inconsistent styles have a detrimental effect on pupil behaviour?
As the new school year begins and the summer break is over, it’s always a good time to both reflect on the past and also to make a positive start to the new term ahead. Individual pupils will always come to mind and your concerns about how they will cope this year in a new class or even in a new school will be high on your reflective agenda. Have your efforts had an impact on the behaviour of those pupils, and how lasting will that impact be?
When you begin to reflect, take some time to look at the bigger picture, not simply the behaviour and progress of pupils in your care, but how have your own styles and methods interacted with the styles and strategies employed by your colleagues? During the school year have you found that some colleagues seem to have a knack of engaging pupils and rarely have any problems in their classes? On the other hand, have you noticed that some colleagues styles of approach have actually had a detrimental affect on pupil behaviour? This can be particularly noticeable when pupils on a timetable have moved from that colleagues lesson and on to yours. They arrive distracted, excitable and unfocussed or possibly they have been so restricted in the previous lesson that they cannot wait to “blow off steam” when they arrive at your door!
All schools will have a behaviour policy, which should be active throughout the whole school, and all teachers will have their own ways of interpreting that policy within the confines of their own teaching space. There will also be “specialised” rules and expectations for particular subjects, usually linked to health and safety, together with individual expectations for named pupils. All of this should however be approached with a level of consistency and similarity, if the policy and your interpretation of it is to be effective.
The problems which can arise can lie with some colleagues who prefer, in spite of the policy recommendations, to use their own styles of management. The difficulties can be wide ranging and will not only affect pupils, but they can have a knock on effect with other members of staff. On the surface, these styles may well appear to be effective (pupils do not seem to cause problems in those specific lessons), but they can, in many ways undermine the whole school approach to behaviour management.
The first, and perhaps most important tip, when attempting to promote consistency and effectiveness is to not allow the process to become divisive. The whole point of the exercise is to allow all staff the opportunities to work together, appreciate each others strengths and weaknesses and to be able to learn from one another. Difficulties can arise, especially in a large school, if staff do not have an opportunity to voice opinion, discuss issues openly and base opinions on subjective information.
There should be a variety of levels within the staffing structure to voice concern or raise relevant points:
On an individual level, where members of staff feel confident to approach individuals to discuss noted problems
On a departmental or year group level. Staff have a clear management hierarchy within which issues may be stated and a response noted and acted upon
At a whole school level, at a staff meeting for instance. Staff meeting agendas should reflect this and give individuals and groups the opportunity to raise mutual issues regarding the management of pupil behaviour
All of the above suggestions rely heavily on a range of factors:
That pupil behaviour is objectively tracked and recorded so that details relating to: pupil, lesson, time of day, subject, member of staff etc can be clearly noted
There is an open and sharing atmosphere between departments, year groups and individual staff members
The line of management hierarchy is prepared to listen to issues and is also prepared to effectively act on evaluations of the problem
It is often much easier to look outwardly for management problems and self evaluation is often overlooked. Don’t forget that as well as looking at colleagues, take some time to objectively analyse your own styles of pupil management and its effectiveness. A simple and very effective way of achieving this self analysis is to work with a partner colleague, acting as each others critical friend, being prepared to comment on good practice as well as noting styles and approaches which need to change.
If you do have the facility within school to view behaviour tracking and recording, spend some time taking an objective look at some of the points raised above which directly relate to your lessons and the pupils you have been teaching.