New year, new start: behaviour management tips for NQTs

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Happy New Year! Welcome to the spring term, usually the shortest of the year, but often the most productive.  All the seeds sown in the autumn term start to bear fruit and there is a high momentum as we move towards key assessment times.

Whilst this term can feel fresh and new it can also be a valuable time to reinforce those ground rules with children. The children often return slightly excitable or exhausted from the Christmas break. This can lead to behaviours presenting that you thought had been eradicated.  Here are some suggestions of ideas to help get behaviour back on track.

Plan time to remind children of the classroom rules

This may seem obvious, but over the Christmas break, things can be forgotten and the understanding of systems can be lost.  Remind children of your expectations and the rewards/ sanctions that accompany it. Moreover, remind children of the reasons why the classroom rules are there. I always used to focus them on the rights we all had in the class. To be safe, To be happy and To learn.

Be clear and consistent with expectations.

Again another obvious one, but heading back to basics and reminding children of expectations for lining up – and being explicit with praise for these. “Thank you Tom, I can see that you are standing smartly, facing the right way and have your hands by your side.”  It doesn’t matter what the expectations are. Make sure children know them and know that you value them by the way you consistently reinforce them. Remember to be fair with the praise and the sanctions. It can be challenging as some children push the boundaries more frequently than others. It is important that children know the boundaries are there for everyone.

Remember Christmas is not a great time for everyone

Whilst your Christmas may have been a relief, one of relaxation and fun, some children will have been exposed to or involved in some quite unpleasant experiences.  They may have had limited boundaries in place, have been over excited or been in quite a hostile environment. They may be coming back hungry and have not been ‘warm’ for 2 whole weeks.  It is important at this time to be considerate of these children when asking about how Christmas was and what Father Christmas brought for them. Their Christmas may not have been the happy occasion that they deserve to have.  This can lead to some challenging behaviours being presented and a couple of safeguarding forms to be completed. But ultimately, what these children need is for you to be you. Be that person that provides the basic needs of making them feel wanted, safe and welcome in your classroom. You will already know who these children are.  Just keep them in your mind and be willing to listen to them.

Try something new (or don’t)

A new year can feel like a time to try something new in the classroom – a new system or approach. This time of year, can be great as children are often more open to change and can sometimes need reminding of the systems anyway. Remember children take time to embed a system.  If it is something you can see the merit in and want to truly invest in, then go for it and stick at it. Make sure the children are clear about what their part is, and the ‘what’s in it for me?’ element – whether that be an intrinsic or extrinsic motivator – then persevere. Children will push against new expectations, but when they are clear and applied consistently they feel safer with them. Children naturally want to behave in the way that is expected of them. When children don’t know what these expectations are they will experiment to find out for themselves. Take the mystery out of it by making the expectations clear from the start. And if you are maintaining existing systems see points one and two.

This term will fly by, not only because it is short (I remember one year it was 10 weeks long because Easter was so early) but because the children will really start to grow and present as a more confident and competent group of individuals.  Make time to support them with their behaviour and be clear and consistent with your expectations. When children know what you want them to do, they will be able to show it to you.

About the author

Mr T is an Experienced NQT Mentor who wants to share expertise and support students and newly qualified teachers as they navigate their early career.

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