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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Hello and welcome, everybody, to our Managing Behaviour and Q&A. There’s been lots of really good questions come in. And let me first introduce myself a little bit. I am Paul Thornton, who is the Network Education Lead at STEM Learning. And prior to this role, I was an Assistant Head Teacher at a school in South Tyneside. And I was responsible for Behaviour. So I am excited to feedback my experience to some of these questions. Tanya?

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Hi. Yes, my name’s Tanya Shields and I’m the primary STEM Lead STEM Learning. Like Paul, worked in a senior leadership role within a primary school, responsible for managed Behaviour and working with trainee teachers to support them develop their Behaviour management strategies in the primary classroom.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant. OK. So we had lots of questions come in around low level disruption. And I’m just going to pick out one from Ellie who says, what tools can we use for managing low level disruption? Quiet whispering when others are talking, playing with equipment in front of them, staring out of windows at other students? And yeah. This was always one that I was asked about when I was leading Behaviour. And the first thing I would say is that teachers can sometimes ruin their own lessons by paying too much attention to it.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds And what I mean by that is, stopping the learning for everyone for a few minutes and focusing on that one student or two students who do low level Behaviour. [? You know, ?] shouting across the classroom very often at them. And that is more likely to cause others to go off task. So the three main techniques I try to often ask my staff to adopt was one, nonverbal communication. Two, having personal words or follow up with the student outside of the learning environment or within the learning environment but not at that point. And the third one is, an all eyes on me approach where you want 100% of the students’ attention.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds And I’ll just elaborate a little bit on those things. So for nonverbal communication, you continue your teaching as much as possible. And you do certain techniques to stop the students who are having the low level disruption do it without you stopping your teaching. So you’d walk towards the students, for instance, that you know is doing the low level disruption. You would make eye contact or facial change just so that you don’t want to interrupt the learning of others. You continue, but the people who are doing the low level disruption know that you are aware of it and that you’re walking towards them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 seconds The personal word is at the right time within the lesson, perhaps when the students are on task, you approach the desk quietly and you ask that student to explain their Behaviour and start to give reasons of why it was important that they should be listening at that point. But never make a huge deal of it. Because often, that’s what some of these students are craving. They’re craving that audience. And the last one, in terms of 100% attention, all eyes on me, you should stand and wait for attention. You shouldn’t try and teach when there’s lots of small discussions going on. And this is something you have to build up over time.

Skip to 3 minutes and 13 seconds Like most Behaviour strategies, you have to build this over time and students will be aware of what you’re doing. But it’s saying, as people are turning and listening, you’re praising that. You’re saying things like, well done. We’ve got five, six people looking now. We’ve got seven people looking now. And what you start to then do is, we’re waiting on three. We’re waiting on two. You know who you are. And you’re not picking out anyone, because again, we don’t want to have the stage. But they know, well, I’m not listening. So I must be one of those two. And in fact, sometimes when there’s more than two, they think they’re in the two. So they’ll start looking around anyway.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds And you just wait for the whole class to have all eyes on you before you start, the teaching. And a lot of these techniques are from a book called Teach Like a Champion. So if you do want any more information on that, then check the book Teach Like a Champion. Do you have anything else to say on that one, Tanya?

Skip to 4 minutes and 3 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. I think the point that you made at the beginning, it’s always that judgement call, isn’t it? About actually when you should intervene. If the child who is misbehaving, that low level, lack of attention, if it’s not disrupting the rest of the learners in the classroom. So you have to make that call as to whether, do I carry on with the learning and teach to the other 29 children in the class? Or do I actually deal with that one level? And now I remember, particularly with primary children, you do get that tattle taling mentality. Why, so-and-so is doing this. So-and-so is tapping this.

Skip to 4 minutes and 36 seconds And quite often, if you have got that child that is tapping or fiddling, it might be because they need to do that. That’s part of their way of coping with the classroom environment. So actually, you don’t want to stop that child from tapping or doing that thing that’s irritating somebody else. So you’re almost trying to teach the other children to cope with how other people learn. So maybe saying to the children, is it stopping you from learning? And if it’s not, then can you manage to try and ignore it? And then we can carry on with the lesson. But yes, as you’ve said, all the strategies that you’ve put out there, they work brilliantly with the primary classroom.

Skip to 5 minutes and 15 seconds And particularly, that positive comments about, oh, do you know what? So-and-so on that table sat brilliantly. And with primary children, you often see that the arms go folding and are sat nicely, too. So it’s almost a catalyst, doesn’t it, of positive Behaviour? Right.

Skip to 5 minutes and 33 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that. And so the next one is around positive climate for learning. And David had a question. What do you recommend for working with students who have a specific gift and great potential in a certain area of field who can do one thing very well but behave very strangely or are not very well liked by other students, and sometimes dominant ones? How can one work with praise in the class so that it has a positive effect on the mutual understanding and the atmosphere, the respect for such special students? Or is this the completely wrong way or place of doing it? And yeah.

Skip to 6 minutes and 11 seconds First and foremost, I think knowing that person and what they will appreciate is really key. And again, I go back to the point. This isn’t a quick fix. It’s over time, building relationships and being consistent with something. And everyone is different. I would never say strange. Everyone is different. And it’s about building up their self-esteem and trying to make the classroom as inclusive as possible. And that’s the long term goal. But it may take small steps. So if you know they don’t like being praised in front of the class, then do it privately. Do it away from the classroom. And just say, what you did there yesterday was fantastic.

Skip to 6 minutes and 52 seconds And they know that you appreciate what they did, but they don’t feel that awkwardness that they may feel within the class. If you’re doing group work and identified members of class that are helpful, so you know which members of class will really work well with that student. So any time you do group work, get them in that group and try to be inclusive that way. Try and really find out about that student, what their hobbies are, what their interests are. And bring them to the attention of like-minded individuals. So you know, you’re really interested in horse riding and you can almost bring people together that way and start that relationship building.

Skip to 7 minutes and 35 seconds And if and when they want to talk, because very often sometimes they have low self-esteem and don’t want to express themselves too often, and when they do want to, it’s a case of a 100% listening to them. You really need to give them everything at that point. Because you may never get another chance with that. And so yeah. That’s what I would say on that, other than be thorough with it, small steps over time to that long term goal of being an inclusive classroom. Tanya?

Skip to 8 minutes and 11 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. Again, I’m going to agree with you there. It’s relationships. I wonder whether in the primary classroom, it might be easier to implement this. Because you do have your class together. So those children have probably moved up with that individual and accept that individual for who they are and how they work. And I think in secondary, it’s going to be more challenging because you’ve got children coming from different schools and might not understand that. My view would be that you’re teaching the other students in your class, the children in your class, to accept that we are all different and we are all working differently. And as long as we’re not impacting on each other’s learning, then [?

Skip to 8 minutes and 51 seconds naturally, ?] we should accept that and accept that we are all different and work definitely.

Skip to 8 minutes and 57 seconds PAUL THORNTON: OK. We’re moving on now to a question around assertiveness. And we had a very similar question from Jacqueline, Rena, and Tracy. The question is, I’m quite a calm person in the classroom and don’t suffer with emotional outbursts often described here. If anything, I feel I’m not assertive enough. Are there any tips for me to increase my presence in the classroom? Firstly, in my experience and what I would say is, quiet and calm is better than loud and irrational. A lot of teachers’ barks are worse than their bite. And within time, they would have lost the respect of their pupils if they continue to shout and don’t follow through with things.

Skip to 9 minutes and 37 seconds Students will then actually start to push the buttons of those teachers because they actually like the sound of their bark, if you like. So what students really need to learn is that your bite is worse than your bark. And that you’re going to be consistent and relentlessly persistent in following through with things. So if you say you’re going to do something, then what you must do is you must do it. And you must do it every single time without fail. If you don’t, they will start to take threats as what they are, just threats. And so you really need to follow through with that. Again, it may take time.

Skip to 10 minutes and 14 seconds But they will come to the understanding that this teacher will follow up, so I best follow the instructions that they are giving me. And a better disclaimer on that. So that’s for most pupils. We all know that there are some students that possibly wouldn’t work for. And I often think, I go back to the first question, that body language is really important, enough to be more impactful than using language. So work on your assertiveness through your body language if your voice doesn’t travel. And again, Teach Like a Champion, great thing that to look to, to look at the strategies that would work if your voice doesn’t travel and there’s certain assertive things you can do through body language and techniques.

Skip to 10 minutes and 57 seconds Yeah. Tanya?

Skip to 10 minutes and 58 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. This question reminds me of when I first started teaching. We had what we call a lively class. We had a lively [? year ?] group. And one of the children had overstepped the mark and was being sent to the head teacher. And I overheard a conversation with his friends. His friend turned round and said, oh, don’t worry about it. She’ll just sat there. She’ll just shout at you. Just ignore her and then it’ll be over and done with. And then you can come back to the classroom. And for me, that was a really, really poignant point. That actually, children figure this stuff out quite quickly.

Skip to 11 minutes and 35 seconds And you don’t have to be a shouty, loud, aggressive person in order to be assertive. And it never was my style to shout and rule with an iron rod, as it were. The relationship really came into play there. Because if the children know a little bit about you and like you, then actually, a glare from you or a look of disappoint from you is far more powerful than somebody bawling and screaming at them with no impact, really. So I would say be honest about your personality. And you find your own way of doing things. And don’t look at other people’s techniques and think that they’re going to work for you. It’s trial and error.

Skip to 12 minutes and 21 seconds And stick to what you’re good at. Because that will be what makes a difference.

Skip to 12 minutes and 25 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant. That leads really nicely onto the next question, which is all around teaching a class used to another teacher’s approaches and therefore, inconsistency amongst the teaching staff. So we’ve got a few questions on that. So I’m going to [? look at ?] Karen’s. Karen says, as a trainee, I was taking over other teachers’ classes. If a class is used to being continuously shouted at by the teacher and doing nothing but textbook work, how do I follow that style of teaching as it is so different to how I want to teach?”

Skip to 12 minutes and 56 seconds OK, so firstly, what I would say is, never try to emulate another teacher’s style, as Tanya’s just said– and it will become apparent very quickly to the students that you are fake and just not being natural. You should always try and have a natural style of teaching that suits your personality. But what you can do is obviously pick out the good techniques from the teachers you’re observing, and almost put them into your tool box for you to use, but never try and emulate someone’s style within the classroom. Secondly, I think often this technique is adopted by students to see if– there’s another question in there that mentions around a teacher wouldn’t do it that way.

Skip to 13 minutes and 40 seconds My teacher wouldn’t do it that way. So secondly, often it’s [? been ?] adopted by students too for you to lower your standards, so they’ll play teachers off against each other. Very often, they’ll say, Mr. Dixon lets me put my headphones on when I do coursework, so then Mr. [? Armstrong ?] thinks, well, Mr. Dixon’s very senior– I’ll let my students put their headphones in. And then the standards drop a little bit, and so it almost spreads across school. What I would say is, ignore what they’re saying– if other teachers are doing that, that’s their issue. Very often, they’re not– it’s just a way for students playing you a little bit.

Skip to 14 minutes and 16 seconds What I would say is, just follow the school policy. Inform teachers that, if students are saying those things, that they are saying those things, so that the teacher knows, and do it in humorous ways that you’re not accusing them, but just so everyone’s aware what students are saying around school around that. For the bigger issue, here’s a common one. So consistency of staff to follow the policy.

Skip to 14 minutes and 38 seconds And again, this is not particularly for an individual to solve– this is senior leadership, this is about the Behaviour lead and the head teacher to ensure that everyone is following the same policy regardless of the background of that teacher, regardless of the personalities and the views– because there’ll be lots of different backgrounds of personalities and views from the teachers– and they’ll always try and approach situations differently. But what they shouldn’t change is is the policy, and that’s the thing that keeps that consistency. And from a senior leader point of view, the policy needs to be simple and as clear as possible in order for staff to be able to follow it efficiently.

Skip to 15 minutes and 21 seconds And you know, best practises is often shared by having the open classroom, so what we try to do is have open classrooms and see how other staff do it, where the best practise is, and then staff who consistently don’t follow policies are asked to go and have a look at how it’s done. And if they are not following policies after that, then it is up to the senior leadership to work with that staff member to get them to start following the policy as they should. Lastly, I would say, from a teacher’s point of view, follow the policy calmly, without emotion– that’s always important– regardless of what students think of you.

Skip to 16 minutes and 2 seconds You know you’re part of that bigger team, and you need to be doing things as a team rather than as an individual. Yeah, that’s everything from me.

Skip to 16 minutes and 12 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. This reminds me of when I was doing my teacher training, and it was a really powerful learning point that our lecturer had said to us about the Behaviour of the children in the classroom, and they said, how the children behave in your classroom is your responsibility. To which I challenge, and said, well, what happens if a child’s at home and has a not particularly nice home life, where it’s commonplace for them to use poor language, to be abusive towards each other– whether that might be mentally or physically? Where children have that common standard of Behaviour at home, how can I be responsible for actually changing that or being responsible for that in my classroom?

Skip to 17 minutes and 0 seconds And the lecturer was very clear, and said, when they come into your classroom, when they come through that door, they must know that your rules apply to that classroom, and it’s your responsibility to enforce it. So regardless of what’s going on at home– I know that you’re having a tough time at home, but in my classroom, this is what I expect the Behaviour to be, and this– if you can’t abide by that, then this is when the sanctions come into place. And it took me a while to actually understand that, but actually, with experience, you do find that yes, this is my classroom.

Skip to 17 minutes and 37 seconds And actually, for children, it’s a really comforting and secure place to know that these are what the boundaries are, and these are going to be consistent and going to– and it doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m not saying that my classrooms were perfect– they were far from perfect– but that consistency, and trying to keep that level head, and having your own systems in place is really key to making sure that your children know what to expect, and how they’re expected to behave. And if you’ve got the policy in there as well, and if the whole school are doing it, then that’s when you see real dividends from these approaches.

Skip to 18 minutes and 15 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Yep, brilliant. We’re moving on to the next question around school leadership, and we have just [? answered ?] some of them in that last one. Amita says, how do I ensure that my staff takes on the responsibility to follow the rules and routines to manage Behaviour and actually handle the situation themselves? They tend to bring all the problem cases to meeting– I told him, but he wouldn’t listen– and then leave it on my plate to handle. It becomes too much for me sometimes, but I can’t walk away from the problem, but they do walk away from the problem.

Skip to 18 minutes and 51 seconds OK, so as I said, I’ve answered some of the previous question around policy and people following the policy in having their own classroom management techniques before they go into the policies, but what I think what’s quite apt in that question is the bit around– they passed the buck, and they basically say you deal with them. So what my advice in terms of that, and what I always ask my staff to do was, if you are getting others involved, and you are still involved, you know you’re almost working as a team now.

Skip to 19 minutes and 23 seconds So in terms of the buck being passed, if you like, don’t allow that member of staff just to walk off– they should stay and speak with the student with you, and you should together try and build that relationship back up. So if it was me and a member of staff, and I know that I’ve had the conversation with the child– she just doesn’t like me, or we just don’t get on– and what I would always do is, make that member of staff stay with me and try and get them two to talk it through with maybe a bit of a facilitator. Therefore, the buck isn’t being passed.

Skip to 19 minutes and 52 seconds You are doing your bit, but it’s also trying to build that relationship up at the same time. Tanya, got anything to add to that?

Skip to 20 minutes and 2 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. This isn’t about the children, is it? It’s about building your staff, and that’s how you actually support your staff to develop in those coaching conversations where it might not be where the child’s present, but saying to them, OK, so we have this issue where you’ve got the child in the classroom– what are we aiming for here? Is it acceptable for that child to constantly be out the classroom, and actually trying almost setting a kind of action plan with the teacher themselves to actually implement it, and then coming back to it? So you’re almost teaching the teacher how to work in the classroom.

Skip to 20 minutes and 43 seconds And I know that they said here that no amount of training, feedback, performance, and appraisal seems to make any difference. But they have a responsibility to do their job in the classroom, and I think, with a child, you wouldn’t give up– you would keep putting those small steps in place, and maybe that’s what you need to do with the teacher. The small steps of– these are the successes, and almost– right, you’ve had a good week with this child, and nobody’s had to come see me. And so on.

Skip to 21 minutes and 11 seconds It’s not what we expect when we’re working with adults, but sometimes those are the steps that we have to take to make sure that our staff are all on board with what they need to be doing in the classroom.

Skip to 21 minutes and 23 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, and if I just want to add one more point to it as well, just around the idea of passing it over to– they obviously think that you are very capable of doing that, and perhaps they feel that you may be doing a better job, and they know that you’re going to deal with the situation because you always have done, and you always will do. And they may not know that it’s too much for you, so maybe there is a conversation to be had with that member of staff, just to say you know sometimes I don’t feel I can support it every time.

Skip to 21 minutes and 52 seconds And just make them understand that sometimes it’s a team effort rather than just passing it to me all of the time. Lovely. OK. So the next question is around cover teachers and support. I think it’s linked slightly to the question before– but Vikki says, I am a support for learning teacher at present, although occasionally I have to cover classes for absent teachers. Can you please give me advice as to how to best tackle challenge Behaviour when I have limited time with the class, and so little relationship with them, and the class routines are not familiar to me, nor are the children familiar with any of my routines?

Skip to 22 minutes and 29 seconds OK, it’s a great question, and it’s a really tough one because I haven’t had that experience personally. But I think it’s very similar to NQTs in that when they’re trying to set up their sort of strategies when they first come in, and new teachers when you come into school, and I’ve certainly seen supply teachers come in and struggle with students within the in-school environment, but I’ve also seen supply teachers come in and really hit it off with the students. And I think the best thing to do in that situation– you’re right, the routine and the long lasting routines and personal relationships you can build up is not there.

Skip to 23 minutes and 5 seconds So the first thing I think is important is to make yourself human as quickly as possible, to introduce yourself and what you like– even your children’s names, your likes and dislikes. I often said when I first have a class, I often used to say, I’m a season ticket holder at Newcastle United, which really seemed to get at least 2/3 of the students on side straight away, kind of almost made a friend in you. So if you can make yourself human as often, early as possible, that’s really going to help and build the relationships quicker if you like.

Skip to 23 minutes and 38 seconds Trying to go straight into your rules, I think, and your routines, this is what I expect of you, and I’ve got you for the next week or so– I think you’re going to lose some students straightaway. But again, that depends on stage and setting, and Tanya, you might have more [? answers ?] on the primary side. I think, again, if you are doing it, you’re coming in knowing the school’s Behaviour policy and using it consistently is important, rather than just doing your own thing. Obviously you have strategies that you’ve built up over the time, maybe, but yeah. Follow the policy, but don’t overdo it at the same time.

Skip to 24 minutes and 14 seconds We’ve had supply teachers or cover teachers come in and try and follow the policy to the law, straight away, right, [SCATTING] and then again, you can lose– you can create enemies, basically, in a very short amount of time. And if you then are with that class for two, three, four weeks, perhaps, you create those enemies which will cause problems for the whole time you are there. So that’s my insight on it.

Skip to 24 minutes and 39 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. I used to do some advisory work, so I was going into lots of different schools all around the different regions, and this really struck home with me. If I’m coming in as a total outsider to the school, so I have no idea about the systems, and quite often I would be left with a class, and you’ve got to maintain them. So that building relationship– and I would have the introduction of, I’m Ms. Shields, and we’re going to be doing x, y, and z with you today.

Skip to 25 minutes and 9 seconds But in order for us to work well together– because I don’t know your classroom roles– these are the type of things that would really help me if we can do these in the classroom. So if I want you to be listening, I’m going to say to you, can I have listening eyes? So when I say listening eyes– and we all know that listening eyes don’t actually listen– but I don’t know when your ears work, so can you all make sure that your eyes are on me? And then I know that you’re listening.

Skip to 25 minutes and 33 seconds So I’ve introduced my little sort of quirks and systems for making sure that I know that they’re listening to me because we haven’t got that relationship– and being upfront about it, saying, I don’t know how this works, and this is how we can do it. And Wendy’s mentioned something about the Behaviour posters and that she can’t put them up in the classroom– again, because I was going around lots of schools, I used to have a little just a sheet of A4 that was laminated and folded in half, and I could just stand it up like a card on the desk.

Skip to 26 minutes and 3 seconds So there weren’t a massive pack, but if I did have those key things on, I could have listening eyes on one, and then whatever rules I had on there. So I’ll just pop them up, and if I saw somebody behaving– do you know, somebody’s spotted that rule, somebody’s doing that, and back to that positive reinforcement. So it’s sort of like a mini set of rules that you’re putting in place, but not being overly– I don’t know, I can’t think of what the word was, Paul, but you touched on it in terms of supply teachers coming in and going, this is how we’re going to behave.

Skip to 26 minutes and 32 seconds It’s building that relationship quickly, and we’re going to work as a team together so that we can get on, get the work done, and hopefully have an enjoyable time doing it as well.

Skip to 26 minutes and 44 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. So you’re not coming in too militant straight away, and trying to make yourself look– almost befriend them without being their friend, but befriend them and show them that we’re working together as a team on this. Yeah, absolutely. OK, the next question is around de-escalation of a single student. And there’s four or five questions that have come in that are very similar, and I’m going to pick out one from Helen. So it is, how do I help bring a child back from fight or flight without using too much of the lesson or losing the rest of the class?

Skip to 27 minutes and 18 seconds So it’s around that fight or flight, and where a student can get to such a point where they perhaps been making it a bit of a dangerous environment, I suppose, in the way that they’re kicking off within the classroom. And it’s a difficult one, and one that I had to deal with quite often in the challenging school that I worked in, and I think you’ve got to look at it in two angles. The way I would look at it is, prior to fight or flight– which is about being aware of the students mood and triggers– noticing if there’s going to be an issue that could occur, and then during the flight or fight.

Skip to 27 minutes and 55 seconds So in terms of prior to fight or flight, I think it’s best that certain pupils can have a pass, if that’s at all possible– again, this, I suppose, is talking to the senior leadership in the school– have some sort of pass that allow them to– allow the students to use when you notice something is going wrong, or they themselves notice that they’re not feeling in the right frame of mind, if they often do that fight or flight issue.

Skip to 28 minutes and 21 seconds And then depending on your school circumstances and policy, that will allow them to cool off outside, or go and see the pastoral leader, or whatever the circumstance is, but that will hopefully stop the fight or flight occurring– it lets them have a cooling off period before that. So that is really essential, and again, this is about relationship to knowing your students. If you can see that this could occur, then what you need to do is preempt that and stopping it occuring because once you got into fight or flight, it’s very difficult to calm them down. A few questions were, how do I calm them down? You know it is very difficult to calm them down in that situation.

Skip to 28 minutes and 57 seconds OK, so during the fight or flight, the priority is the safety of the other pupils in the class. That trumps learning, if you like. So avoid trying the calm down, or stay calm, because that’s probably going to ignite more– it usually ignites more in them. Instead, try and ask them to move to a safer space and ask them to breathe, perhaps. But at all instants, you need to keep the rest– the safety of the class paramount. And me and Tanya were speaking before, and she may want to elaborate, but so very often, we used to remove the students out of the classroom so that we could do with that one member of staff, because safety is key.

Skip to 29 minutes and 43 seconds Longer terms, if it continues to be a regular thing, I would encourage [? pastoral ?] team to work with the students and outside agencies any way necessary to try and identify what the triggers are, and then working with the whole staff team to let them know how they can de-escalate before it becomes unmanageable.

Skip to 30 minutes and 2 seconds I think that was always something that we tried to work on on our most challenging students, knowing exactly what it is that’s causing that, knowing their background, knowing– they come in on the morning, and you just knew– we just knew that little Joey’s going to be difficult today because of the way he’s walked in the building, and therefore that’s the case of– right, let’s pick him up early and let’s see what’s wrong. And again, that’s outside of the teacher specific work. A footnote to this, I suppose– if a child has a past, and if he’s abusing it, there needs to be a strategy around that as well.

Skip to 30 minutes and 36 seconds We often had children had one, and then just out at every lesson, but I’ll leave that bit for another day. Tanya?

Skip to 30 minutes and 43 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. I think this is it’s really key. It’s about knowing your children, isn’t it? This is the thing that may used to make me most anxious because I would quite often have these challenging children in my class, and I’m thinking of one child in particular who, if something was difficult for him in the classroom– and you mentioned about picking up on those triggers–

Skip to 31 minutes and 10 seconds he would almost orchestrate this eruption to, I think he would sometimes prefer getting told off to actually having to deal with the fact that he didn’t understand what he was supposed to be learning. So it was trying to watch those triggers. I remember once, he wrote on– he was wandering around the classroom, and the rest of the class had managed to ignore that, and he wrote on the whiteboard, Ms. Shields is a [AUDIO OUT] bag. To which– really not acceptable Behaviour. And I just looked at him. I said, you’ve spelt my name wrong. To which, straight away, he was like, that wasn’t the response I was hoping for.

Skip to 31 minutes and 47 seconds And in that instance, it de-escalated it, because he went and sat back down. Because my fear in the classroom was that he would erupt so much that I couldn’t actually control his Behaviour, and then, for the rest of the class it looks like I– well, they see it, and then I’ve lost control. And you can’t have that in the classroom. So I had to learn very quickly what sanctions I could and couldn’t put into place. I couldn’t tell this child to leave the classroom when his Behaviour was becoming acceptable, because he would stand there and say, no– make me. And the reality was, I couldn’t make him.

Skip to 32 minutes and 27 seconds So that child wasn’t extreme, and we did have additional support in place, and I think there does come a point where you need to ask for the support within your school. So when he was kicking off, he was chucking things round the classroom, it was the safety of the other children that was important. So I sent one child– can you go and ask for– we had somebody who was working with this child. Can you go and ask this member of staff to come and help? Because this child needs some support. And then I took the rest of the class out of the classroom, and we went out to the playground.

Skip to 32 minutes and 58 seconds But it is– you can feel it in the pit of your stomach– that child’s rising, and it’s going at 100 miles an hour. How do I deal with this. And just trying to keep your calm, and if you need to ask for additional support in terms of a member of staff, then do that, because you’ve got lots of other children to think about as well.

Skip to 33 minutes and 17 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Lovely. OK. We’re moving on to unintended consequences of praise– and I think we touched on it a bit in the previous question. I’m going to pick one out from Anna, who says, how do you deal with pupils who do not appreciate praise or recognition, especially with their Behaviour? For example, praising a child for making the right choices, and then the child will throw it back– a comment back at you, and run off? And there’s also some questions around what other students– how they react to giving other students praise. So there is two elements to this question– students receiving praise and not dealing with that well, and other students not responding well when other students receive the praise.

Skip to 34 minutes and 0 seconds So the first one, as with a lot of Behaviour issues– and we’ve mentioned it quite a few times already– again, it is really knowing your children that’s in front of you, and knowing their emotive triggers, and knowing their background. Very often, they have low self-esteem, attachment issues, or sometimes it’s just bravado– they don’t want other teachers or other students to see that you’re getting praise from the teachers. So if you know that child reacts negatively to open and loud praise, then again, try a bit more of a personal approach– perhaps rewarding or giving them praise within their book.

Skip to 34 minutes and 36 seconds With younger children, I think– Tanya will elaborate more, perhaps like a star chart within the book, et cetera– that sort of thing. And so then they don’t get that embarrassed feel, that shame feel, that perhaps they’re feeling when they get praise from an adult because of their background.

Skip to 34 minutes and 53 seconds If any sort of praise, regardless of setting, can cause an issue, you know– if it, again, this is all background and [? setting ?] dependent, you really need to know that child. Sometimes, you can give them praise in a lot different ways– phone call home, postcards. You can let the parents know so that they can praise them. But again, that is all background dependent. One that [?

Skip to 35 minutes and 17 seconds used ?] to always work in our school where we have children like this was to know which member of staff did have a great relationship with them that they would take that praise from, and letting them know, and just say, he’s done something really, really good today, and can you let them know that I noticed that? And then they could have that conversation with them.

Skip to 35 minutes and 38 seconds That really does work because they understand that you’ve seen the improvement without that embarrassed feel that they may have.

Skip to 35 minutes and 48 seconds Keeping the praise for a time you know he or she will accept it– again, so we’ve mentioned this before– outside the classroom, you could go and say yesterday in my classroom, I’ve seen what you did when you helped out, and really appreciated that. And again, that just takes the sort of whole class seeing that, and hopefully they’ll respond positively to that. But like everything, you have to know that child, and know what they will appreciate and what they won’t appreciate. And the second comes back to some of the case because of Behaviour management over time.

Skip to 36 minutes and 19 seconds You just have to– so when other students are not reacting well because they’re not getting the praise, [SCATTING] you just have to be consistent and fair with the praise in the classroom. And I think you made some real good comments on that. It’s about relentlessly assuring those children that they are important, and that you care about them as well, even if you’ve given other people praise, because obviously that self-esteem issues as well causing that envy. Tanya?

Skip to 36 minutes and 47 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, I’m not going to elaborate much more on that, because it’s beginning to sound like a broken record. It’s about knowing your children and knowing how they’re going to respond, and being genuine with your praise, because if it’s not sincere. then the children see through that. I did just think of another strategy of maybe sending a letter home to the parents, or just catching the parents at the end of the day to say they’ve done really well today. Can you just let them know that? That type of thing, so they get that pride at home. But it’s knowing your children, and knowing works for them.

Skip to 37 minutes and 19 seconds And if it doesn’t work, that’s not necessarily a bad thing– you just take that as a learning point. And one day, some of these strategies are going to work, and one day they’re not. So it is sticking with that, and it’s a long process. But don’t become disheartened if it doesn’t work the first time.

Skip to 37 minutes and 37 seconds PAUL THORNTON: OK. We’re moving on swiftly to the next question, which was around students reacting to Behaviour management approaches and seeing a level of unfairness around it. So there’s a question from Nicholas– as someone has already said, some children are viewed as getting away with more, but they may have different or more limited level of understanding, so they have to be viewed by other children, and they seem to be getting away with something, which causes that unfairness because they see an inequality within the classroom. So yeah, this one really is important to me at the minute, because I’m contending with that in this home environment with me two-year-old and me six-year-old.

Skip to 38 minutes and 16 seconds So me six-year-old is struggling to understand why the two-year-old gets slightly different treatment when he is misbehaving, you know? It’s hard to explain to them that it has to be different. So this is all, again, personal view. So what I try to do is explain to them– and this would work in a school environment– is, you shouldn’t really be measuring yourself, per se, against your peers or those who are younger, especially those peers who often seem to be getting it wrong. What you need to try and do is think of a role model, and start measuring yourself about how they would react to things. How would that person react to that situation? How would that person respond to that challenge?

Skip to 38 minutes and 56 seconds So they’re not measuring themselves on someone who is getting it wrong. Again, as much as possible, you should be consistent in following the school policies with those children, that they can’t seem to be getting away with it. And I know it’s not always possible, and I know this– there’s tough circumstances that the children are coming from, the background they’re coming from. And as I said before, you know when they’ve come into the building in a certain mood, and therefore, you have to think about the way you approach things, but they still are misbehaving, and therefore they still need to have the consequences at the end of that.

Skip to 39 minutes and 32 seconds So yes, you need to be as consistent and as fair as you possibly can, but just keeping in mind how to approach that with the student in question. Perhaps you could follow the policy calmly, and then have the discussion with the child later around that. If children do start to question it, again, I would say where you need to go forward to be successful. We don’t want you to slip, so we support you if you get it wrong– whereas with some other students, we know they get it wrong often, so we’re supporting them in getting it right. OK?

Skip to 40 minutes and 13 seconds That’s how I often try to explain to those students who felt that they were being picked on because they are being dealt with maybe more severely than others because they’ve– just this is the first time they’ve done something wrong, per se. So it was always the case of– well, we know that you are where you need to be, and therefore, if you get it wrong, we are putting you right. Whereas with the with that with the other students, it’s the other way around. Tanya?

Skip to 40 minutes and 36 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, I’ve got my mum’s voice ringing in my ears about when I used to say, it’s not fair, and she’d turn to me and say, Tanya, you’ll soon learn life isn’t fair, and it’s just kind of– great, thanks for that. But again, using the example of the child that I spoke about before– I had to be up front with the class, and when he was out doing something else, and if it came up in conversation, or we’d maybe plan some like PSHE activities, we talk about the fact that we are all different.

Skip to 41 minutes and 9 seconds And related to maybe academic ability as well– well, so-and-so’s better at maths than you are, and you’re judged on different levels because of that, and it’s the same with Behaviour. And naturally, we are all trying as a class to be better and to work together, and if we can help this child to actually improve, then that’s our responsibility as well.

Skip to 41 minutes and 29 seconds So making sort of a collective approach– we’re being upfront with the children, as I’m sure you are with your two-year-old and your six-year-old and saying, well, yes, but you know better, and you know how you should behave, and I’m sorry that you feel it’s unfair, but– It sounds like I’m being a bit flippant there, but it’s I think honesty is the best policy with that one, because there isn’t a quick fix. Because as we all know, we do treat these children– they do seem to get away with more than the better behaved children, and trying to explain to a young child– in the long run, you can’t do. So there isn’t a quick fix.

Skip to 42 minutes and 10 seconds But it did have some improvements, talking to the children, helping them to understand that we are all different and taking it from that point of view.

Skip to 42 minutes and 18 seconds PAUL THORNTON: OK. I think we have time for one more question, so I’m going to go down to the verbal abuse one, I think, which is the one that we have left that is very different to the rest, if that’s OK. So yeah, very often– the question is from Christine is, as a probationer teacher, I had an incident class where I had a child who was being disruptive– out of their seat and throwing things. When I asked them to leave the classroom, they told me to eff off in front of the rest of the class. How would you advise a teacher to deal with this situation? In this instance, it was primary school aged eight. Obviously, I’m secondary background.

Skip to 42 minutes and 57 seconds It happens a lot, far more often in the secondary setting, you know. It’s one of me favourites actually, so being head of Behaviour in a challenging schools– it was a daily occurrence where a member of staff would come up to me and just say, he told me to eff off. And I think the first thing to remember is– and this is key– it is not personal. It is absolutely not personal. No matter how personal it feels, it’s not. And it always needs to be responded to without emotion. You’re the adults– don’t go back to them– obviously you would never swear back at them, but don’t try and argue with them at that point.

Skip to 43 minutes and 33 seconds You need to keep yourself out of that situation a little bit. Again, it obviously all depends on the school’s policy about how that should be dealt with, and obviously different schools have different policies around swearing and abusive language.

Skip to 43 minutes and 48 seconds So yeah, often it would be asking the child to go and leave, and go to the relevant place. In my school, we had what we called a time out, so if something like that would happen, they would go down to be the inclusion centre, if you like, to have a bit of time out, and then it can be dealt with at a later date. But what needs to happen, I think, at that point is, what I often used to do– and ask myself to do– is, don’t say anything when the child is leaving the room. You don’t want it to flare up even more.

Skip to 44 minutes and 20 seconds But so the other children in the room know, you’re basically saying, I’m going to deal with that child later. Let’s get back to learning. So they know that it’s not a big deal in terms of the classroom situation– we’re going to get back to learning, and you are going to go away and be with that child later. But it goes back to the point– you will have to go back and deal with that child later, or get someone to do that child later. Relentlessly, and over time, they will know you’ll never that ride.

Skip to 44 minutes and 49 seconds And another thing– you need to be clear on the school’s policy, what it is, because very often staff expected too much of a consequence on the students within my school. We had to make it very clear what was abusive language towards staff. And again, I come from a very challenging school, so the word eff off isn’t abusive to staff, whereas saying something like, you are an effing so-and-so is, and then there is definitely a different consequence to that. So you just need to be clear on that, and staff need to be aware of what is and what isn’t, and again, it all depends on the school’s policy with that.

Skip to 45 minutes and 35 seconds But the key thing from that is– and I go back to it– it is not personable– personal, sorry– and you have to deal with it in a non-emotive way.

Skip to 45 minutes and 44 seconds TANYA SHIELDS: Yeah. It really isn’t personal, is it? Quite often, these children will be hearing this language as commonplace at home. And I remember seeing some children in an art lesson, and once they’ve sat next to each other, and somebody had mixed the wrong colour paint with something else, and it was– oh you effing this. And he didn’t do it as an aggressive thing– it was with his mates. I overheard it, he caught my eye, and I just said, I don’t think that’s appropriate conversation for the classroom.

Skip to 46 minutes and 16 seconds Again, if it’s being directed to the teacher, and that child left, I would be very clear– once that child had left and was out of earshot, to then speak to the class and say, that really wasn’t acceptable Behaviour, and [SCATTING] and that child is going to be dealt with after they’ve done the lesson– after we’ve finished this lesson. So the rest of the children know what those expectations are. I just want to try and link in the last question from Chloe there around EYFS, and kind of how you want to reward better Behaviour.

Skip to 46 minutes and 48 seconds And I think that wraps it nicely with what we’ve been saying throughout this whole Q&A session– it’s about knowing your children and knowing what triggers are going to work for them, and that’s exactly the same for your EYFS. So just thinking of my little girl, who’s 3 and 1/2– if it’s Paw Patrol, then that’s going to be the trigger. Try and give her Peppa Pig, she’s not interested. So I would say for EYFS, it’s getting to know your child, and maybe speaking to your parents of what reward would actually help.

Skip to 47 minutes and 18 seconds Maybe it is five minutes in the dressing up area, or maybe it is a sticker, or maybe it is that– I’m going to send this letter home to your parents. But it is all about relationships, and these things take time, and it’s being consistent and making sure that you stick to whatever the plan was, and what your school plan is, and helping these children to actually fit in with the normal classroom life.

Skip to 47 minutes and 49 seconds PAUL THORNTON: Thank you, Tanya, and that concludes our question and answer session today. I just want to summarise very quickly some of the key things that we said and some of the key things I always try to get across to members of my team. First and foremost, it’s always about relationships and knowing the child– what makes them tick and what are their triggers. You should never have emotion in dealing with it– it’s not personal. You need to be consistent and persistent in following through, and you need to follow through relentlessly. And on the back of that, never threaten something that you wouldn’t then do. That’s a key one.

Skip to 48 minutes and 27 seconds And what I always try to get across is, every day is a new day– when that child comes back into your classroom, it is a fresh slate. You are the adult, you should be treating them like every other child, they should not be any grudge. And the other one is, positive every time. Always be positive. Don’t be thinking, oh, here comes Joe Bloggs. It’s going to be a nightmare. Positive, positive, positive. And go from there. So thank you, everyone, for taking the time to listen to us.

Q&A session

The Q&A sessions on courses from the National STEM Learning Centre provide you with the opportunity to ask more about the course content and issues from your own classroom practice.


Paul Thornton and Tanya Shields recorded their responses to a selection of your questions on 20 May. The video is being processed now and we’ll email with an update. Topics included:

  • Low level disruption
  • Positive climate for learning
  • How to develop assertiveness
  • Inconsistency amongst teaching staff
  • Cover teachers and support
  • De-escalating single students
  • Unintended consequences of praise
  • Student responses to behaviour management
  • Verbal abuse
  • Early years sanctions and rewards

Some questions may be carried forward to our Q&A with Tom Bennett, independent behaviour adviser to the UK Department for Education. See step 5.1.

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Please note: if you post a question here it may be featured in the video recording along with your first name. The recording will be publicly viewed via this step and may also be uploaded to the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre