90%+ of your class will be your usual, well-behaved children that will respond well to normal behaviour management strategies. It is that other 10 % that might challenge you a little more. Here are some tips to help deescalate and survive the day with a tough class or student.
- Tactically ignore attention-seeking behaviour while teaching, then go and address the student one on one while the class is on task.
- Sweat the small stuff by dealing with low-level behaviour with the 90%.
- Don’t use Open-Ended Questions. Closed Questions with Yes/No and direct responses are preferable to avoid engaging in arguments.
- Give succinct redirection. Too long an explanation gives too much attention to their misbehaviour.
- Label the behaviour, not the student. It is their behaviour that is disappointing, not appropriate etc., not them as a person.
- Use positive power words such as smart choices, in control, in charge, the boss of, the leader of etc.
- Try and catch the misbehaving students being good.
- Acknowledge when they are on task. Look for the positives where ever you can. When students are getting plenty of positive attention they will not seek negative attention.
- Give them some responsibility and ownership of something to encourage good behaviour. It could be keeping the tally at their desk of Teacher vs Student, or appoint them the special helper or the allocated “Attention Grabber.”
- Give them space and allow for take-up time for them to make the right decision.
- Get down on their level.
- Offer to help them as often behaviour arises from an inability to do a task.
- Don’t engage in an argument.
- Use a low, controlled tone. Whisper in their ear. The louder they get, the quieter you speak.
- Try and not let emotion get in the way.
- Avoid appearing threatening to them. Don’t use intimidating body language or get into a power struggle.
- Don’t shame them or insult them as they will do anything to “save face” in front of the class.
- Establish a relationship with mutual respect. Try and be relatable and get to know them a little. They might care if they can see that YOU care.
- It is ok to appear submissive to gain trust from High Behaviour students but remain firm in enforcing the behaviour you want.
- Ensure everyone, including yourself, is safe.
- Ignore the secondary behaviour initially and address it later. The primary behaviour is what you need to concentrate on.
- Follow up once the situation has calmed down be sure to address any issues and re-establish your relationship. Reiterate how their behaviour affects others.
For escalating behaviour
- Say the “class needs a break from this behaviour.”
- Send them to a timeout area or buddy class if you and they need time and space to calm the situation.
- Call the behaviour teacher or administration if you feel their behaviour is unsafe or they are refusing to go to the directed area to calm down.
- Take the class out if you feel they are in danger and the child is refusing to leave or stop the threatening behaviour.
You may need to modify your expectations for these high behaviour students. Remember in this temporary role you have created change and possibly anxiety in some students so be willing to adapt in order to keep the peace for one day.
- Negotiate for the win. Pick your battles and prioritise what is most important.
- Your workload expectations might need to be reduced for some students.
- Some students may not do any work and just staying in the classroom might be all you can achieve for the day.
- Accept that some students just won’t meet the expectations you have set. That is OK.
- These students often have a lot more going on in their short lives than we could imagine. Try and remain patient and show compassion, no matter how difficult it may feel at the time.
- Put the responsibility back on them.
“This is my workplace, and I am entitled to be respected.”
“I’m worried about your choice not to learn at the moment.”
“Is it fair that you are interrupting your classmates’ opportunity to learn?”
Some days while teaching some classes you are just in survival mode. At the end of the day just remember you are only there for the day so your job is to keep the cogs moving and try your best to ensure students are safe and any learning that happens is a bonus.
I also like to remind myself of this saying- “Not my monkeys, not my circus!” 😉