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Q&A session

Course Educators answer learner questions about behaviour management, with Becca Knowles from the National STEM Learning Centre.
PAUL THORNTON: Welcome, everyone to the latest question and answer session for STEM Learning’s Manage Behaviour for Learning course. I’m delighted that we have been joined by John Bayley again who has a vast amount of experience in this field. I thoroughly enjoyed our last Q&A John, so welcome again.
JOHN BAYLEY: Thank you.
PAUL THORNTON: We’ve got many different themes to discuss today, John, including routine, scripting, and SEN exceptions, isolation rooms, challenging parents, low level Behaviour, and most challenging students. We’re finishing on something very topical which is managing Behaviour when teaching online. So I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts. So let’s get started into question one. So question one. The first question comes from Andrew and Alison around the theme of rules and routines. Andrew wants to know in regards of rules and routines is there a limit to how many and do you dedicate a couple of classes to them at the start of term or limit to x number of routines per session.
Or is it time well spent teaching all classes or routines. And in addition to that, Alison wants to know your three golden rules and routines. So over to you.
JOHN BAYLEY: OK, well, I must be careful that I don’t write a book when I answer this, because there’s an enormous amount of material here. First of all, let’s make sure that we’re clear on the difference between rules and routines. Rules apply all through the school day. They’re kind of universal. So they’re usually things like arrive on time, properly equipped, listen when the teacher is talking, and so on. So they’re general. And it’s a very good idea to have those, particularly if you’re starting out, to have those prominently displayed because it helps you to teach them. Although I should say, my experience is that in most schools, the rule teaching is done in assemblies and by senior staff.
But it’s good to have visible reminders in your classroom. Not least so that you can refer to them. So if I want to lean across and say, Paul, have a look at rule number two, I think you’ll find it means that you shouldn’t be talking in my room. And it just helps depersonalise things a little bit. It’s not a conflict between you and the child. You’re referring to something up there. Routines are a different thing. They’re more specific to time and place. And I think they belong to you in your classroom. They’re how children come in. They’re how they put their bags away.
Particularly in STEM classrooms, they’re how to do with how you handle equipment, getting stuff out, putting it away, safety concerns, and all those things. So those are the routines. I like the idea that routines also are things that happen every day. Because the idea is that habits may turn compliance into a habit. So pretty much the same thing happens every time. Now, I just want you to introduce one idea that I finished writing my book about this. I think I got this from a trainer called Bill Rodgers, that I expect many of your viewers will be familiar with. But he talks about foundation periods. And foundation periods are the times when children are listening.
Sometimes the beginning of term, that first meeting, it’s sometimes the beginning of the week. It can sometimes be just that moment in the lesson when you know you’ve got their attention, you’ve got a chance to remind them of something. So choosing your time to teaching routines is very important. I think the idea of teaching them as you go along– coming into the room, leaving it tidy, where you want their diaries, and things like that– that’s probably the basic stuff. I think you can teach them– I’d be able to teach them as I’m going along, chap, really. But really, the clear thing about them is you need to know exactly what they are.
What you don’t want to be doing is being flustered and confused when something isn’t going right. So I usually recommend to teachers, particularly when they’re starting up, to make a list of what for them are the most important routines. And last point, and then I really will stop writing this book, is you can find those teachable moments. So for example, when the class is working quietly, without disturbing, you can say to them– class, this is what I mean by working silence. I absolutely love it. And what you’re doing is just dropping in from time to time what you think and expect.
PAUL THORNTON: Very clear. And a couple of points on that– yeah, the thing with the habit– that habit creation is a big one. So, yes, they are routines and you’re teaching them rules. But as soon as you embed that as a habit for each child in your class, it becomes far easier. So you have to be consistent, right? You have to be consistent in those routines. Never let those routines slip. And the other point, I think, was really up there was you need to know as a teacher what they are and why you’re doing them. And therefore, you can explain why they’re important to students.
If you just tell students do this, and they don’t know why that is the case, then sometimes you can lose them. So those two points are important, aren’t they?
JOHN BAYLEY: Absolutely. And also when it gets to– I think, a little bit later on, we are going to be asked about some of those children for whom it doesn’t seem to work at first. And we’ll come back to our old friend, having the individual meeting with the child. And what I usually say is don’t waste much time on your individual meeting being angry with the child and telling them off, because they just put their head down and wait for you to go away. But what you can do in a together meeting is ask them to explain your rules and routines to you and ask them why you have it, why you have those routines.
And in my experience, children always accept that invitation and they always relax as that meeting goes on. So you’re rehearsing future Behaviour and you’re giving them the chance to feel that they belong in your classroom. Yes, of course, I know what the rule are, sir. Jolly good, well, just spend a few minutes explaining them to me.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, no. That’s a really good point. So we’re going to move on to question two which follows on nicely actually. And it’s about looking at routines and resetting them. So Emmanuelle and Dan ask, is It too late in February to give students rules and routines. And how would you make changes during the school year? And Molly asks, if certain rules or routines are not working, what is the best way of changing them?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, in a way I think this is part of the same question because I think that I’m organising those rules and routines, particularly the routines. It’s something that you can go on doing throughout the year. You look for that foundation period, you look for those teachable moments. And I like to do it or I like to see it done in the context of a review. Yet here’s what we’ve got really good at the last year. I really like the way you’re arriving and I’d like all the work we’ve done with working together as groups, that’s been absolutely terrific. But I tell you what.
This term I really want to focus on getting the equipment away at the end of the lesson because the room didn’t look like a battlefield when you left. That’s enormously useful to the next class and enormously useful to me. So have a look around the room now because it’s very tidy and I’m going to ask you a few questions about how we can make sure that happens at the end of the lesson. So I think we can always do that as we go through the year. Doing in the context of what we’ve already achieved and looking at what we need to do next. And that’s the same if something isn’t working very well.
We can say we’ve been very good at that. I’ve been thinking hard about how we get the equipment way and I think I’ve got a better way of doing it than we have last term. And so that’s the way I’d do it.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. So resetting and adapting and changing routines is fine. Putting new routines in is fine. And it’s all about why are we in the classroom. How do we improve the environment the classroom gets the goal of what we’re trying to achieve in the classroom, isn’t it? So if you need to reset the goals, reset the routines, that’s absolutely fine. I agree.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah, bingo. One of the things in particular about STEM lessons, I really like it when I see scientists or technicians explaining how we work in a science lab, how we work in a technology lab because it gives it more context. It helps the youngsters to feel a bit more grown up about what they’re doing. And it comes back to your point that you’re giving an explanation that they’re understanding why those routines are in place.
PAUL THORNTON: Yes, absolutely. So let’s move on to question three. A question, which I think follows out nicely from resetting again, because Mariasole feels she’s experienced the first distance learning damages on the teenagers she’s teaching. So Mariasole’s question is how do you manage a classroom of 18-year-olds who are noisy and find it hard to follow rules? It sounds like she has a new issue with students since they’ve arrived back from the first lock down. So what’s your thoughts, John?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I’ve got– two ideas sprang to my mind when I was looking at it. I’ve got sympathy for Mariasole, if I’m saying your name right. First of all, some things change. They’ve been away and they’ve come back. They’ve got a bit older. Some of them been away for quite a while, that’s quite a long time in the life of a young person. And it may be that you’re relying on some techniques that used to work in the past. Come in, you know what to do. Settle down. Then they don’t settle down. Then you find yourself getting a bit annoyed. And I think that probably there’s a little bit of back to basics here.
Of saying, I’m so glad you’re back, but I need to concentrate on two or three basic expectations, because you’re 18 now. You’re going to be in college or the world of work next year. So here’s some stuff that we need to get sorted out. So it’s really like resetting, but being just a little bit more strict and straightforward about it. And we also, in that context, now have up our sleeve the idea of an individual meeting with the people. So there’ll be one or two people. I can remember it myself. I remember thinking I was too old for school.
I wasn’t too interested in paying attention to what teachers had to say, because I thought I was about to go out into the world and knock it down. And I can remember a couple of people sitting me down and saying, John, you’re still here for another couple of terms. Here’s what you do well, here’s what you need to do. And I’m looking for you to do this. So it’s that question of reaching out.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, and it’s that last point about reaching out that I think we have to take into consideration. We know these students have lacked structure, they’ve lacked routines, they’ve potentially lost their kind of self-esteem that cause maybe suffering with mental health issues. So I think time to sit down with them again and just almost reset their mindset a little bit into you’re still here, you still need to learn. This is what we expect and try and build them up a little bit. I think that’s where we need to go, isn’t it?
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah. Yeah, that’s absolutely brilliant. And in that context, as well as thinking about their Behaviour we probably need to think a little bit each time about our own teaching. It may be that in the past we got away with the slightly rambling 10 minute explanation from the front of the room because they knew us and trusted us to get to the point eventually. And perhaps we need to be a little bit more tight and episodic in our teaching. An idea that I sometimes try with newly qualified teachers is say imagine you had laryngitis and you couldn’t talk to the pupils.
I want you to design the lesson that you could use on the whiteboard so that there’ll be clear and explicit instructions about what to do and what to read. And you’d hold your throat and just point at the sign, telling them what to do next. And if you did that, the instructions that you would put on the whiteboard and the tasks that you would give them would be crystal clear. And you’d be amazed at how well they all respond to it, as well.
PAUL THORNTON: It’s a real good technique. I like the sound of that one. And I’ve seen it many times myself where lessons have fell down just because teachers have spent too much time with teachers speaking and you lose some students. So getting them onto a task as quickly as you can is also key to that. So yeah, I really like the technique. OK, question four is moving on a little bit and it’s around the idea of scripting and enough feeling natural. So Mrs. Smith asks how do you stop being like a robot when you’re trying to implement this consistency of habits? I feel like I’m going to be following a script which might be unnatural for me.
JOHN BAYLEY: That’s a good one. There’s an article I read years ago about the sociology of work that I really liked, which talked about you can think about all public service work– and teaching is one of them– as having kind of three phases. One is where we’re just going through the motions. Good morning, children, sit down. Well done, well done, good job, sit down, well done. And you can feel awfully robotic when you do It. But then you get a bit more used to it and you put the clothes on. I’ll bet you do this a lot more. You can arrive at work not feeling absolutely brilliant and not wanting to do a day’s teaching.
But the first thing you do when you see a child going into a lesson with their coat on is you say, you’re looking really nice and smart this morning, Andy, to put a smile on his face. Saw your football team did quite well last night. By the way, pop that coat off, will you? It’s what you do. And you’ve habituated those commands and it becomes less robotic because it belongs to you. It may be that we can get to stage 3 in our work, which is where we’re being completely and naturally ourselves.
And maybe we can get to the stage where we can say to a child, I’m not feeling terrific either, but let’s go in there and do the best we can. But I think that most of us put on the clothes. And so we develop this language and start using it on a regular basis. Someone once gave me some advice for the first two weeks of teaching. And she said, John, the best thing to do is be a bit of a psychopath. And I said, what on earth do you mean by that? She said you cover everything up. You make a promise, you keep it. If you set a rule, you enforce it.
And if you’re up to midnight phoning parents, don’t feel too bad about it. So I think she might have been saying that maybe you go through a bit of a robotic phase when you’re starting off. But pretty soon they’ll know where you stand and you’ll start wearing those clothes naturally.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. And it’s this idea of performing. I think you’re actually right. We’ve all had those days where you’ve gone in and you’re just like, oh. And you get there and you perform. It’s a performance sometimes. And I think the more you perform, the more natural it becomes. So following a script becomes a habit and then as you said, you can hopefully get to the point where that habit becomes so natural. And I believe it’s 66 days of a habit which gets you to the point where it feels a bit more natural. So yeah, keep going and I love the point around relentless.
You have to be relentless, especially in those first days with follow up and the students soon trigger on that they won’t go away. If you do it with Mr. Thornton, he’s going to get you in the end because he will follow up with parents. And as soon as that message comes through to the students, I think that’s when you’ll see an improvement in their Behaviour for you. Obviously, there will be exceptions to that, where students are difficult for every teacher. But that’s another question we may delve into a little bit later.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yes, I agree absolutely with all that. I’m looking forward to talking about the exceptions because there are exceptions. There will be.
PAUL THORNTON: Absolutely. OK, we are moving actually on nicely to potentially discussion around this. And Joanna and Mary had a question around SEN. They ask, would any of your Behaviour management techniques differ with SEN pupils that are in mainstream classroom. And if the rules are working for all students apart from, let’s say, one child, should we be making separate rules for him or for her?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I’ve thought a lot about this. In fact, I went for a wee walk around the park before we talked this morning because I think we need to have a really clear internal answer to this question. Do we need to make exceptions? The answer is yes, of course we do. I’ve recently been doing quite a lot of reading on aces, adverse childhood experiences. And there are things like growing up in a home where you’re abused or neglected or under daily threat or there’s drug misuse going on. And those figures, certainly in the United Kingdom and the United States and quite a large part of Europe, are very high.
And I think probably all around the world the effects of COVID will have had an impact on the way young people think and feel. And it reminds me of that bumper sticker idea that I use a lot, which is that 9 times out of 10, children aren’t trying to cause problems, they’re trying to solve them. And children who suffer from mistreatment or neglect have the fight and flight mechanism turned on all the time. They’re often too ready to argue or they don’t want to communicate with you. And working with those children we certainly do have to make allowances. Now, I think two things about that.
One is that when we’re introducing rules at the beginning of term and we’re explaining why we have them, I think fairness is a really important issue. And saying yeah, all these rules are important, but the most important thing for me is that you do well in the classroom here and that you feel fairly treated. And I’ll make sure I treat everyone as fairly as possible. And then that breaks down to situations. One is that the expected one. Maybe there’s a child who has permission because they have a Behaviour plan, and so on, to leave the room if they feel that things aren’t going to go quite right, they’ve got a signal.
And a child says, sir, why is Ahmed allowed out of the room? You just need to say, it’s an arrangement we’ve made. If you remember, I’m being fair to him and I want to be fair to all of you. And I make sure that I deal with everything in good time. And secondly, though the unexpected situations where we might make an allowance. A child settles down in the corner, Ahmed still won’t get on with the work, that’s my concern. Your concern is to get on with your work as quickly as you can. So it’s a tough issue and I hope it doesn’t come up too much at first.
But if we nail ourselves to the framework of ensuring that every child follows every command first time bang on the nail, it’s not going to happen. We need to be quite clear about that.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. No, I agree with everything you’re saying there. And it’s again, I think it goes back to the point of understanding the needs of every child and ensuring the needs are met. So SEN covers a broad range of needs, so you have to go by case by case. But if you know your child and you’re ensuring that their needs are met in a fair way, then that’s the best approach. It doesn’t mean you’re lowering your expectations. I think it’s more about patience because of the different need that that child has. And yeah, the point on other students seeing that and then seeing unfairness.
I think that’s a real challenging one which I’ve dealt with in the past as well. They see unfairness because they’re not being tracked in the way that they’re being tracked. But it’s kind of allowing them to understand that at the start I think is what you said, which is key. Yeah.
JOHN BAYLEY: There’s some other stuff that wraps around that.
I was going to say a colleague. But it was my wife– wrote a book that’s got a large interview with several series of interviews with troubled children. And they say some remarkably insightful things about other children in their class. They’ll say things like, when the boys are playing up, there’s always a reason for it. There’s always a reason. They understand each other much better than we give them credit for. And the other thing to bear in mind is that we’ve got programmes like guardian angels, big brothers, big sisters, mentoring programmes in schools. And the more we use that, the more we’re beginning to give young people emotional intelligence. So that all comes into it as well.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. And I really enjoyed that discussion. So going to move on a little bit into question 6, which follows that a little bit because it’s about the challenging needs of certain individuals. Chris, who works in an isolation room in his school, has a question about students who arrive to him in a negative state and an often angry state. And this is what he says. I get to see the same students regularly and trying to build a rapport, but I’m dealing with negative situations that are between the students and other staff members. How do I encourage the students to follow the rules in my room when they don’t follow the rules in general?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I first of all want to send my regards in respect to Chris. Working in the isolation room, particularly if you’re doing it for long periods of time without a break, demands an enormous amount of you. So I want Chris to be kind to himself. I also think we need routines in the isolation room. And having the language to say to children, come in, calm down, you’re not in the classroom now. You’re here, you’re going to be here for another hour and there’s work for you to do. Get your coat off, sit down. Take your time, and I’ll come back in a few minutes see when you’re ready to get started.
Having that vocabulary for managing is really important. And sometimes those children come in– what’s the phrase he uses. I’ve got it on the screen here. In a negative state, often angry. And it can be useful to think of the child’s anger cycle. Some children blow up and then after it’s over it’s completely dissipated. They can’t understand they’re there. For other children, anger takes a lot longer to die away and they can come back at you again and suddenly get your full of a sense of injustice about what’s happened. Still, other children feel slightly ill or sick after they’ve been angry.
And having a think about the profiles of the children you’ve got in front of them helps you to think about what language they need to use. In the larger context, and this is getting on to where it’s more difficult to talk about. A timeout room is in my opinion, meant to be a solution to a problem of not being able to teach in the classroom. So the child goes to the timeout room to cool down. And then there are two theoretical routes after that one is you’re ready to go back to class. And we mustn’t forget the idea of rehearsing them.
Are you going to go back in there and say and then sit in the corner or are you going to give the teacher some eye contact and say, I’m sorry, sir, and then sit down in the corner. Or if the child’s been coming to the timeout room frequently, something else needs to be done. Someone– and it may not be Chris– but someone needs to talk to the teachers who are sending those children out. If it’s happening across every lesson, then that child has problems and the school means to be addressing them. And again, it depends a lot on how you get on with your colleagues.
But the teachers are sending the child out, if it’s possible to have a word with them so you can talk better about how you can cooperate with it. I think we talked about this last time when we were talking about being the person with the walkie-talkie or whatever, who goes around poking troubled children out of classrooms. And it really needs to be part of a pattern of care. And it is a pattern of care. Remember again, children aren’t trying to cause problems, they’re usually trying to solve them. Does that good an answer Paul?
PAUL THORNTON: No, that was really good. There’s loads of great points. And yeah, I think on that last point around identifying trends, is it a problem with the child? Is it a problem with the child and that particular teacher? So some form of data collection going on as to the child coming in and where he’s coming from, so that someone– probably pastoral team or senior management can first analyse that data, see what the issue can be, and put things in place for child or be around the room at known times of conflict to support the child in those rooms. I think that’s really key. I think, as well– I think you touched on it about when they’re coming in.
They do need to have a routine. But also give them a little bit of space to calm down.
Depending on what your isolation rooms are used for and what the routines are, but you don’t want to be saying crack on with your work straight away. When they’re in that sort of fight or flight mode in their mind, they’ll not be able do that. So giving them some time, even have a chat with them about the issue, letting them calm down, I think is key. And I just want to reiterate what you said. Running an isolation room is a thankless task. So hats off to Chris for doing that.
JOHN BAYLEY: And also, I don’t want to just chuck him away by saying it’s a horrible job, good luck with it. Chris needs someone to talk to from time to time about these children and about the strategies that he’s using. And wherever possible, he needs to find out more about those young people. Because we can talk about it being part of the larger system. But if you’ve got three hours sitting in a timeout room with a bunch of difficult characters coming in, it’s hard work. And he has to really put those clothes on in the morning and wear them to get him through the day.
So I do want to encourage him not to go moaning to other teachers, but to be addressing them as another adult and saying, now, I’ve had Charlie in here three times a week for the last four weeks. Can we discuss a bit more about what’s happening with him and what the eventual solutions are? So I think maybe that’s a bit of assertiveness as well.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think it’s good practise to have conversations with at minimum the pastoral lead. So whether it’s a head of house or a head of year to say, I’ve had x in here three times today– and keep them informed of that over a day or a week, so they can have the conversations, if needs be. But, yeah, it’s a tough old job the isolation room. So as I say, well done, Chris. And be kind to yourself. OK. Question seven is about dealing with some challenging parents. And I think we discussed this slightly before.
But a question from Sarwat who asks, how to deal with parents who are not cooperative when told their child is not following said rules?
JOHN BAYLEY: I hope this isn’t repeating. Did I talk about key messages for parents last time?
PAUL THORNTON: I think so. I think, yeah. I think so.
JOHN BAYLEY: Let’s just think a little bit more about those. Because it comes back to this idea about adverse childhood experiences.
Let me take it from three directions. Number one is when we’re in trouble with children, it’s very easy for the different agencies who are working with those children to stop splitting. And splitting is a psychological term. It means putting all the bad in one place and all the good in another place. So we don’t know how to work with this child, because his parents are absolutely hopeless. They don’t cooperate with us. So bang, we got rid of a solution by attributing it to the parents. If we then took a television camera into the parent’s house, we’d probably hear that school is really irritating and sends us these notes all the time.
And the teachers don’t really understand how to work with our child. So that’s one thing. We really have to make an effort to reach out to those parents and not do that splitting. Secondly, and this comes from my experience with– I did quite a lot of parenting classes at one time. And I always thought I might meet some parents from hell who would tell me it’s a good idea to batter your child, and what’s your problem? And I never met those parents. I’d sometimes meet parents who would be angry at the beginning. But after a little while, they’d say, well, I don’t know what to do either. And they’d be just as upset and distressed themselves.
And by the way, if they had ever hit their children, they always remembered the occasion on which that happened and how bad they felt doing it. They’d start saying, I was in the supermarket that morning and I felt horrible. And then the third thing is, as well as giving them those messages that we talked about last time, you are the most important person in your child’s life. I can’t succeed unless we work together. And it’s your child whose outcome where focus on it is the important thing. And so the plan that I’m proposing is.
And so I think that we need to present ourselves with a plan with those care messages and with a really earnest attempt to reach out to them. Because look at the phrasing of the question. I’m sure Sarwat doesn’t mean it. But we can’t deal with those parents. We can’t report them to the international parenting authority to behave differently. And one of the things that we need to remind ourselves of is that most children who end up with Behaviour difficulties coming from troubled homes, they’re usually stressed households. There’s very often not enough money, not enough space, not enough time, difficulties. They’re people who need help as well. So we need to be the professional.
And I suppose the answer is, don’t try twice. Let’s try five or six times and always be reaching out to them.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that point around the parents in that situation usually amaze me and usually do need that support as well. It’s not that they don’t want to be involved. It’s they need that little bit of support themselves. So this idea of this triad, I think I mentioned last time, all working towards the same goal– So? establishing what we all want for that child. And we agree that we all want that. And therefore, what is the plan going forward to get that? And in the same way as being relentless, follow up relentless– and, yeah, reaching out to those parents.
I’ve been in situations where I haven’t managed to get parents inside regardless of the amount of time or any engagement. That’s always going to be the case. But we do keep trying essentially to do that, don’t we?
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah. We must not forget the positives either. They must be– I think I said last time, the positive concord is the thermonuclear weapon of the school. And those golden stickers going home when something’s been done right, they’re not only designed to get some positive stuff going in the current situation. But they’re money in the bank when we’re building those relationships with parents.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a fantastic point. Because you accept a phone call from school, and they’re going to expect a negative. Then they get a positive. And then their mind changes as well. And I think schools can give a lot of support to those parents as well. The last school I was in, we started offering the similar sort of counselling that we give to the students, for certain parents as well. So there’s a rule in that as well, I think, for schools to start to look at.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah, absolutely.
PAUL THORNTON: OK. We’re going to move on to a question around– which comes up in pretty much all of the Q and A questions around low level Behaviour. And this one asks particular managing noise in the classroom. So we’ve got a user named ERB and Graham who have similar questions. One asks, what are your most useful tips for low-letter chatter? And how do you figure out who it is? And Graham’s question was, what I tend to struggle with most is numerous students making noise when I’m talking or presenting information to the whole class. In that situation, I can’t deliver a micro-script and then walk away. I need quiet so that I can keep talking to the whole class.
How should I find the right balance talking over them and keeping a good pace or waiting quietly and potentially wasting time?
JOHN BAYLEY: [LAUGHS] Well, I think we might be about to write another book here, Paul. I think we might try taking this in turns. First of all, I think it has a lot to do with how we teach and reteach our rules and routines. I find it quite easy to say to children, you’ve made a lot of progress over these last few weeks. We’ve done this, we’ve done that. And you’re so much more mature in your answers. But I’ve got to tell you, I’m still getting talking under when I’m making a presentation. Just between you and me, it drives me absolutely nuts because it means some of you can’t hear. It means some of you can’t listen.
And it means I can’t teach properly. So we really need to nail it. And so we’re going to go through the teaching with Bayley noise procedure now. So when I say the word turn to your partner and talk to them in your low-level voice, because this is the voice you can use when you’re working together. And I’ll give you a signal to stop and a signal to start. And they do that. And then, I say, that was very good. That’s pretty near to a low-level voice. But as a matter of fact, (QUIETLY) a low-level voices are even quieter than that. So I want you to take that to add another 50%.
And then, tell your partner– repeat what your partner was saying to you. And do it now. And they always do it more quietly when you’ve rehearsed it with them a second time. And then I say– and I go and model it myself, (QUIETLY) that’s what low-level talk is. And then I say, while we’re here, we’re just going to have another second talking about silence. So I want you to listen to the noise the room makes. And then we have five seconds and I say, (QUIETLY) that’s what I want to hear when I want silence. Are we all clear? And then I don’t practise with them being too loud because I’ve established my quiet noise and my talking noise.
Now, there are lots of other tricks around that. Some teachers use music. While we’re on the on-task phase, the music will be playing. And remember, I always want to be able to hear the music and not you. So you can talk quietly, but do it under the level of the music. And it means that you can just walk up to John. And instead of nagging I can say, I can’t hear the music, Paul. Sorry, sir. And then it gets a bit quieter. Then I turn the music off when I want children to listen.
And just before I give you the chance to write the other half of the book, the other thing to remember is that I think one of the iron laws of teaching is that teachers talk too much. All our presentations are too long. We take up too much air time and we don’t let them get on with it. So I need quiet so I can keep talking to the whole class, says Graham. I know what you mean, Graham. But don’t go on talking and talking and talking. Because to get young people on task, it probably takes about 10 sentences, max. And then make sure there’s a clear indication that’s on the whiteboard of what it is that they’ve got to do.
Then get ‘round the room. Come at them from behind. Most of them will be working. And then you can get up beside some children and talk to them about– give them those low-level messages. I forget where I learned the phrase, but ear messages– that’s what I think when I hear Paul Dix talking about coming in and talking. Ear messages really gets the idea of coming in and leaning in and saying, (WHISPERS) Matilda, a word in your ear. Here’s what I need for your talking level. So your turn, Paul.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, Absolutely. I agree with all those strategies and techniques that you would use. And the point around actually showing them and teaching them how to do it is key, not just saying I need silence. Show them what silence looks like. Show them what it looks like if they are observing you to demonstrate or observing you present. What does that look like? And I think a few additions to what you are saying is– you’re absolutely right. Don’t talk for too long. However, I think Graham said something along the lines of, yeah, waiting for quiet. Don’t be scared to do that, especially in the early days.
Don’t be scared to stand there and just say, I’m still waiting for three people. I’m still waiting for two people. You don’t have to name them, because that gives them what they want sometimes. But they know that I’m talking. He’s talking about me. He’s talking about me. And just wait until you have that silence. And stop if you need to. There’s a great book. And I think I pushed this book out last time. But if you didn’t hear the last one, which is Teach Like a Champion. I don’t agree with all the things in there. But there’s some great things for low-level Behaviour.
So it’s nonverbal communication, I think you touched on it, in people’s ear at the appropriate time so you can carry on teaching. But you’ve noticed who it was, and therefore have a quiet word in their ear afterwards. You know, I can appreciate when I was delivering that you were having a chat with your friends. They know that you’ve seen that but you’re not making a big deal of it. And another one– and I think again, John, you mentioned it– circulating the room. If you’re presenting, you don’t have to be always presenting at the front. Present by circulating the room. And walk over to the people that are potentially not listening and present from there.
And that sometimes supports them in getting it right as well. So, as we say, we could write a book. There’s literally a book about this out there. But these are some of the techniques that we would use.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah. Brilliant, that circulating one. I’d love to be on the corner of someone’s desk who’s bursting to have a talk with their mate. But it’s no good because I’ve brought myself there. [LAUGHS] I’m doing a really interesting exploration right in front of them. [LAUGHS]
PAUL THORNTON: Exactly that. Exactly that. OK, so we’ve got two more questions left. The next question is from Molly about the most challenging students that she deals with, who seem to simply refuse to listen or follow the rules. So Molly states, I still worry about how to deal with the most disruptive students. Most of them ignore me completely. They don’t respond to me or look me in the eye. Just wondering if there is different ways to deal with the most extreme students– or situations. I apologise.
JOHN BAYLEY: Molly, I know what you mean.
I suppose there are children who, when they’re going through adolescence, have difficult patches. And that happens. The same happens with pubescent children as well. In fact, I think I’ve talked before about that idea in adolescence. Children go through some of the stages that they went through puberty before. So you’ve got a perfectly reasonable 14-year-old who can turn into an argumentative, worrisome, difficult child. So that happens. And again, I would recommend anybody who’s got the time to briefly read some material on the ACEs study, Adverse Childhood Experiences study.
Because these children who don’t respond or look you in the eyes– a starting point when thinking about them is instead of thinking about how much they annoy you is to think about what might have been happening to them to produce this kind of Behaviour. But you are still, we are still, assertive teachers. You have the right to teach and they have the right to learn. So you’re using your rules, rewards, and sanctions in the classroom. You’re teaching well. And you’re still getting no response. Then you have to have other people involved with you as well. So you might start off with some one-to-one meetings with them, making sure the door is open and all that.
But it’s sometimes a really good idea to have a two-to-one meeting with them. Find someone else who’s of authority or who they know well. And it’s not running for help. I can sit down with a child and say, I’ve wanted to have a talk with you because at the moment, I think you’re finding it difficult to listen. And that makes it difficult for me to teach. And I don’t think either of us are making much progress. And that’s why we’re having this meeting with Mr. Thornton today. And Mr. Thornton says– because we’ve talked about this beforehand, Mr Thornton says, Charlie, we’re very lucky to have Mr. Bayley teaching in the school today because he’s a maths teacher.
And it’s difficult to get a hold of maths teachers right now. And I need you to be working to build a relationship with him. And so far, it isn’t working. What have you got to say about that? The chances are, we’ll get him talking. He might say something like, I’m not always interested in maths. That’s a huge victory, because the young man’s talked. And then, you might say, I know that maths isn’t your most brilliant subject. But I think next year you want to go into record producing. And it’ll be a good idea to have some sense of numbers.
And I’ll jump in right away and say, yes, I see what’s needed and we might not have got off to the best start. There are 101 different ways to have a meeting with a student. But they all have that business of a beginning where we state some optimism. I’m glad we’ve met you. I appreciate that we might be having some difficulties. There’s an exchange of information. And then there’s an optimistic end. But I think doing it with another adult present, provided it is done in a way that doesn’t make you feel demeaned, is often the first step into working with really disruptive students. And also think about– and it doesn’t mean that you lose your assertiveness.
Because, Molly, I don’t know whether or not you’ve got children of your own. But if my boy was sitting– he’s grown up now. But if my boy was sitting in schools blanking a teacher, being angry, and refusing to recognise him, I’d want someone to do something about it. And I don’t, by that, mean that I would want the teacher to go and scream at them. I would want the teacher to have an expanding package of strategies for dealing with him.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. There’s lots of really good points raised there.
I think the key thing from that was, is there someone in the school who has a positive relationship with them, so that that conversation can be more impactful? I think coming from someone with a positive relationship is a big thing. And what we did as a school, oh, many years ago now was we had 50 or so students who were causing issues across school. And we asked which staff had real positive relationships with these students that we could support them through like a mentoring package. But also we know who to go to if we’re starting to have issues with that individual child. So I think that’s a good strategy to push.
I think, if I step back a little bit and look at it is where does this kind of Behaviour from the child stem from. Is it across school? Is it you as an individual? And therefore, the response to that is different. If it’s across school, then it’s a bigger issue. There needs to be a support package put in place et cetera. If it’s just you, where is that born out of? Is it a poor relationship that you need to build? Is it because potentially you need look at yourself and you haven’t been relentless in the follow up? So you have to think about that issue first before you can solve it.
JOHN BAYLEY: Couldn’t agree with you more. And also, just look at that. They don’t respond to me or look me in the eyes. Now, that’s an interesting remark, isn’t it? And it may be that we may be talking about a boy who’s being a little prince and not deigning to look at a woman or not deigning to look at a girl. Or it might just be– it might be a boy or girl who’s dissing you. But it reminds me of some of the extreme Behaviour courses I’m on. If you’re thunderously angry, I’ll say to you, Paul– Paul, I can see you’re angry. Right now, I need you to sit down. And you stare off into the middle distance.
And just to model this on the television, Paul, just look away from me now. If I say to you, Paul– Paul, we need to get this sorted out. But the first thing that you need to do right now is to sit down. And then I let five seconds go. I can repeat a message like that three times. Did you hear me when I said that? That’s right. You’re being yourself. You can go back to being yourself, Paul, now. [LAUGHS] That thing about wanting eye contact, children sometimes aren’t ready to give us eye contact. And we don’t necessarily have to be thrown by it.
We repeat our message and then we either decide we’re going to deal with it later– because if we tactically ignore it, we have to follow it up. Or we might say, you’ve made a poor choice. I’ll be filing a report after school. But having a strategy for when children are blanking you is really important.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the point you just made around the non-eye contact– I wouldn’t take that personally. There’s a lot of students can’t do that because of their issues, their self-esteem, what they’ve been going through. So I wouldn’t say it would be the main issue. It would be the refusing to follow the instructions you give him, which is the bit you need to solve more than the eye contact issue. And that would be my final addition to that.
PAUL THORNTON: OK. So moving on to question 10, which is a very topical question. And I’m looking forward to hearing some of your thoughts. I haven’t had experience of it. And we discussed previous to the recording that you have no experience with it. But we can give our thoughts on the situation. So we’ve got questions from both Sarwat and Barbara. One is, how can light touch interventions be applied to remote learning setting. And the other is how do I manage Behaviour online? How do I get all of my students to complete their tasks? So it’s questions about Behaviour while delivering teaching online. So what are your thoughts, John?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I’ve not done it either, but my online experience has been with training teachers. [LAUGHS] And they always behave. But I think are some– but I’ve done a bit of asking around since I saw this list of questions. I’ve discovered instantly that schools are wildly various in the amount of latitude they give the staff for using Teams or whatever the remote system is that they’re using for contacting students. A couple of really good examples I got was one where a special school does a lot of online teaching, but they’re in control of the cameras. And a lot of times, they turn the children’s cameras off.
They set the tasks so that there aren’t opportunities for children to make secret signals on the screen, and all that kind of stuff, so that children get tasks down the line and then carry them out. And they’ll get occasional one-to-ones with teachers. But the gallery view, where everybody can see each other, is really strictly limited. And I asked about sanctions. Because paradoxically, one of the things about Teams and all that kind of stuff, is that you can do a lot more routinizing of the positives that you give out when people you give right answers and so on. You got all the reaction buttons. You can check them well done.
But also in the case that I was thinking about, the sanction was just being put out of touch with the lesson for five minutes. And also I was being told that another advantage is that your feedback to the students can be emailed to parents as well. So you’re enlisting the support and help of people at home. I was very interested in talking to these people about the way they do their presentations. And two of them said– it goes back to that point I was making earlier on about the laryngitis lesson, making lessons much more episodic, understanding how long children have got to listen, how long they’ve got to process the material, and how long they’ve got to respond.
So that’s my early research on it. What about you, Paul?
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I agree. I think the key point is– and I’ve said it recently around live lessons not being the gold standard. And I think these Behaviour issues might be occurring because the opportunities for them to occur are there. So if you are delivering a lecture almost, and you’re trying to talk to the students, and you’re allowing the students have the cameras on and watch and mics on or whatever it is– that’s going to lead to misbehaviour essentially. We as adults could struggle to be in front of a computer listening to people for two, three, four, five hours in what’s happening in some cases. And therefore, students are going to. So I agree with exactly what you said.
It has to be around small snippets of what you’re asking them to do. But then, they’re aware they’re doing the task. They’re working as if you would in a normal classroom. And you can keep– they can stay online without their mics on. But you can chat with them and ask if anyone has questions. Be there for questions to come back you rather than this kind of delivery. So, yeah, take control firstly of the platform. So allow what you want them to do and to see. So the camera’s off, mic’s off. I’m talking, so there’s no opportunity then. Make sure it’s short, sharp, to the point. As we said before, the laryngitis idea, I think that’s key.
They do the work, but you’re there for them if they want to ask you a question via the live chat or whatever. And I think you’re absolutely right as well, if we can engage the parents, if it’s going right and if it’s going wrong on the feedback, that’ll be supportive as well. Again, that’s just my thoughts on it. I haven’t had the experience of it. So me hat goes off to all the teachers that are currently doing that.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah. Yeah. And I guess the next place to look would be to talk to some people who are specialists in blended learning. Because the technology does allow for student presentations on work that they’ve done and achieved. I’ll do some more mugging up on that as well.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a great point. So that’s all the questions. Again, I’ve really enjoyed the conversations, the discussions, and the strategies that we’ve discussed. And hopefully you at home have taken something from it and some strategies that you could take away and try.
JOHN BAYLEY: Good. Good. Yes, I’ve enjoyed it too. Before I started this morning, I was looking back through those Paul Dix’s programme. And at the end, he’s got a 10 top tips, which I greatly enjoyed looking through. I must say, I would strongly recommend it. It’s a really rich course, isn’t it? It’s got a lot in it. And those 10 tips, I thought, golly, they’re a really good thing to measure your teaching against. And he’s very good, isn’t he, on we can’t change children’s Behaviour directly. It’s us that has to change. We’re the ones who have to adopt these techniques and develop our understanding of the children in front of us.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. So I believe the people who have seen this Q and A have seen the top tips. So I’m sure they agree with those top tips.

All online CPD courses from STEM Learning provide an opportunity to ask the educators more detailed questions as part of the course Q&A session.

The course educators will record responses to your outstanding questions from your reflection grids and course discussions. If there are ideas from the course you wish to explore further or issues about your own teaching context, then the Q&A provides a final opportunity to explore these with expert insight.


The Q&A session was recorded and uploaded on 4 March 2021. Thank you for the questions you asked. Another Q&A opportunity will be available in the next run of this course.

  • 00:50 Rules and routines
  • 06:30 Resetting rules during the school year
  • 09:20 Older students
  • 13:30 Developing consistency
  • 17:20 Special educational needs
  • 22:50 Isolation rooms
  • 29:30 Parents
  • 35:10 Low level behaviour – managing classroom talk and volume
  • 42:20 More challenging students
  • 51:05 Home learning

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