PAUL THORNTON: Hello, and welcome to another Q&A session for this iteration of STEM learning, Managed Behaviour for Learning. Today, we are very lucky to be joined by John Bayley, who has, in one form or another, been involved with Behaviour management strategies for the last four decades. So, welcome, John.
JOHN BAYLEY: Four decades, I like the sound of that. Actually, I don’t like the sound of it. Before we look at the first question, I just want to make a general point because I really enjoyed reading all these questions. But I also picked up a lot of stress and strain and anxiety coming off– that fear that I think might be deep in every teacher’s heart, that one day they’re just going to tell us to go away and not listen to us anymore. And I think I wanted to make a general point and follow it up with a general tip. The general point is that all the stuff
that is being taught on this course: making sure that children understand the routines, they have clear expectations. You’re acknowledging them when they do the right thing. You’re using scripts when the going gets a little bit rough. You know how to make contact with parents. All these things work. It’s all good practise, and excellent stuff to know. But there will be outliers. There are some children who take longer to pick it up. It’s not an overnight miracle. And I think that we really need to understand that in a deep way. One of the reasons to press on is that all people mirror each other’s Behaviour.
So some children who you think are never going to change, they change because they see the others changing. It’s just human nature. And I was just listening to a talk recently about someone saying there are also going to be some more challenging children in schools. Schools are increasingly starting to have to do the work of Social Service Departments, and we need to bake that into what we’re doing. Here’s an idea, it’s half-term now, and when you go back after half-term one of the things that you might want to do is just find a second. Have a mini-meeting with your class. Wait for that kind of foundation period moment, when they’re sitting and looking pleased to see you.
And just do a little three-part trick. Tell them how pleased you are to see them and say something positive about what they did last half term. “We got really good at,” or “you got much better at,” then name a thing that you’d like them to get even better at. “And I think this half term we’re going to become total experts on transitions, and I know it’s going to work, so let’s get on with it.” So you’ve got that little three-part structure there. And as well as being a reminder of where you all are and what you’re doing, it also gives a little bit of script that you might need to use with one or two individual children.
So that was really my starter for 10.
PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant, thanks John. A great start, and I agree with everything you said. Brilliant. So let’s get into the questions. And for question one, there a number of people asking a very similar question around managing the Behaviour of particular individuals who regularly misbehave. And so, Holly, Alan, and Carlotta all have a similar question. Alan mentions a child who is very negative about himself and quick to escalate things. And he wants to know how to quickly mitigate against that so it doesn’t escalate into a serious problem. And Holly’s question is related.
She is the person who people call on in school when their children are removed, and she sees the same students time and time again who are regularly rude, defiant, and lie. And they both wonder if you had any advice on this.
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, yes I do. But first of all, student support can be a dog’s job, because what you’re doing is going around picking up children with whom the teacher has already lost it, or the other way around. So you do spend quite a bit of your time padding around the corridors talking to difficult children. Just before we talk about what you do then. I greatly admire those schools that have patrol systems, and use the patrol system to head off difficult children at the pass. If you know that Sally is likely to kick off period three, year seven, not a bad idea to have someone from outside drop in to help have her settle down and going.
Because, we can’t do this stuff on our own. And it needs a system. It is vexing when young people show their worst side. I can hear the feeling there, when they are regularly rude, defiant, and lie. Well, they do. They’re feeling bad about themselves and they show it off by being bad, feeling bad about you. So sticking to the script is really important. For me, I think that a really important part of the script to children outside the classroom is just to get them to show you a little bit of the work that they’re doing, which they, surprisingly often, they won’t have understood. They won’t have read it. It’s been a blur in front of them.
And then rehearse the re-entry into the room. “Show me how you’re going to talk to Mr. Parker.” “Are you going to tell him you’re sorry?” “Yeah, sorry, sir.” “But let’s do it again, I’ll pretend I’m Mr. Parker. Show me really how you are going to do it in there. Because, one of the most important ways of getting on with teachers is to give them good eye contact and say sorry like you mean it.” So that’s the kind of work we’re doing when we are going around outside the classroom. But this child, like some of the others to be mentioned here, or these children, some of them will need individual plans.
And I see that you’re part of the student support department, and you’re surrounded by people like, [? yeah ?] heads and [? form ?] teachers. What a plan involves, it doesn’t need to be terribly complicated. But it really suggests a replacement Behaviour. So all meetings are basically three steps. You meet and greet the student, and give them some reason to think that you’re pleased to see them. Because it’s a waste of time standing in front of children wagging your finger at them. In fact, many of them are used to it and they put their heads down and go away. I know this because I used to be naughty at school.
And then, you need to explain what the replacement Behaviour is that you want to see. Maybe rehearse it with them, get their feedback, and then sum up on an optimistic note.
Such a plan may involve some positive and negative consequences. Do remember with consequences they need to be light, but certain. That’s really the issue. They need to happen. Now, of course, this can get on and get more complicated when we’re working with special needs, and you may well be working with other staff and parents. But I think we need to, from time to time, review what we’re doing with these young people. And as well as having those scripts for just outside the classroom door. It’s useful to the child and also it’s useful to you. If you know you’ve got people you can go to and say, “Thomas was out of the classroom six times this week.
We’ve got to do some thinking about what’s going on behind there. What was the next one?
Yeah, the child who’s very, very negative. The one who, the short fuse little boy. I know that child.
I’ve seen schools handle this in all sorts of ways. I’ve seen secret signals between teachers and children. So, after I’ve had a little talk with you, I might be saying, “Thomas, I think I know when you’re about to blow. I’m going to come by and have a quick word with you. I might even give you a tap on the desk so that other children can’t see what’s going on. But it’s when you and I look at each other, if you give me that little bit of eye contact, then we can decide what to do. One of the things that we might do is put you in a different part, back of the room.”
I must say I’m not much in favour of sending children out of rooms, but I’m greatly in favour of departments having plans so that I can park a child next door if I think that that child needs a breather from the immediate environment around them. This child, this child here, on the short fuse, and another child who’s coming up in the next question. The minute you settle them down to work, he puts his hand up. “What have I got to do, miss? What have I got to do?” And those children who you know are going to do that. An absolute, I’m afraid, they’re a pain in the neck as far as your lesson planning is concerned at the beginning.
I was working with a teacher last term, who used rather long introductions at the beginnings of lessons. And I think the children got a little bit bored with the length of the introduction. But then, after he’d say, “Right, carry on, go on working,” and he’d stand there at the front of the room looking at them. And the children would look up, they’d see the target. And they’d immediately start asking for explanations about what to do. And one of the plans that he and I worked out, was after you set the work move quickly to the back of the room.
And it was very interesting to see children looking up, and all they can see on the whiteboard is what’s to be done, and no teacher in sight. So 90% of them got their heads down and got on with the work. And from the back of the room, you can spot the Thomases, and people who are going to jump up and need help. And you can glide up behind them like a waiter in an expensive restaurant and say, “Oh, Thomas, I see you need a little bit of help with your work.” So all that stuff is classroom tactics.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I really, really like that last point around almost removing yourself from the situation. Because that also, in my experience, helps you spot the Behaviour that might happen as well. Because you kind of take yourself out as a teacher, but also keep an eye on everything that’s going on. It’s a really good tip there. And on the first point around spotting an issue before it occurs, it’s really good practise to have someone within each year group to spot if someone’s coming in. And, you know, “Leo doesn’t look like he’s in best fettle today. Can someone keep an eye on him?”
And have that on-call, to go to those lessons before an issue happens, and just nip it in the bud before it happens. And that’s real good practise that I’ve seen work as well. So, yeah, thanks for that.
JOHN BAYLEY: That’s really great. Yeah, yeah.
PAUL THORNTON: We’re going to move on to question two. Anna asks a question about having a way to ensure you, as a teacher, are calm and are addressing the Behaviour and not the child. And she’s addressing the use of a script element part of the course. She asks, “What would be a good mantra to repeat to yourself, personally, to make sure that in a heated situation you can stay focused on your ultimate goal? Which is, to address the issue and not to sever the relationship you’ve already built.
JOHN BAYLEY: Well I really like this question. And you’re right to refer to the script, because you get in there and say “I have no choice, I’ve asked you three times and now you need to–” “Wow, it’s not fair.” Up goes the balloon. And I think the issue here is to really understand what’s going on. The reason why we have slogans like, “Don’t take it personally,” and “Blame the Behaviour, not the child,” is that what happens in a lot of human interaction, and especially in intense places like schools is that we tend to mirror Behaviour. So, if a child turns around and is spitting angry with us, bang.
Our adrenaline gets released, mentally our fists go up, and if we’re not careful in two seconds it’s quite difficult to tell the difference between ourselves and the angry child. Because your dander is up. It’s very difficult to control. But the issue here is that if we start leaking our dislike and our fear, then the situation turns into a spiral. And we’re absolutely stuck with it. So, we don’t take it personally is absolutely right. And what we need is mantras that are good for us. There was a long time when I worked in PRUs. I used to say to myself, “This child is going to trust me and like me, but he just doesn’t know it yet.”
And it allowed me to think, “Aha, this is going to be a two or three month job.” I also used to remember to do things like unfold my arms, cross my arms in front of me and stand back a bit. Just remember what I look like, try not to look like a huge angry potato looming in front of the child. And I worked in one school with an ex-nun who used to be absolutely fabulous with angry children. And when I asked her how she referred to them, she said “I like to think about my special mysteries.” So she had a little label that she put on when it was going on.
And I hope this is an inspiring story. I worked in a PRU, the leader of which, the head, was a woman. And one morning we were all standing in the front hall, and a little boy called Ricky came and said, “Good morning, miss.” And she said, “Good morning.” And he said “You know what I think you are, miss?” And she said, “No.” And then he used the C word. And there was a kind of shocked gasp of staff standing around her. And what did she say? She said, “Ricky, to me that’s water off a duck’s back. But for you, it’s two minutes in the timeout room. Off you go.” Do you see what’s going on there?
He hasn’t got the reaction he wanted. She’s got an absolutely perfect bit of script. “It’s water off a duck’s back.” And if you want to know more about that, there’s quite a few books on non-defensive language. So if children are [? F’ing ?] [? and ?] [? blowing ?] [? some, ?] “I’m very interested in what you have to say, do you think you could say it in a way that doesn’t involve all those swear words? Thank you very much.” So a lot of it is having the script, but deep down is understanding that our job is not to mirror the Behaviour.
PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant there, some really good tips on that one. Yeah, and I always find, and I think from what you’ve said you agree, is just take the emotion out of it. No matter what’s being thrown at you, it’s not personal. Don’t get emotionally involved, always be calm. And exactly what you’re saying, recognise the way you’re standing. Recognise the way you’re addressing them. Because most of the time they’re wanting a reaction, and they enjoy that angry reaction from a teacher. So, yeah, just always be aware of that.
JOHN BAYLEY: That’s such a good point. If we realised how rewarding an angry spitting teacher is, it would help us enormously not to do it when we feel reduced to it.
PAUL THORNTON: Exactly, exactly. OK we’ve got to move on to question three. So question three is about working with parents, and especially challenging parents, and Louise, Charmaine, and Daniel have similar questions about parents not being particularly helpful in helping to deal with the poor behaviours of their child. And so one of them mentions parents don’t have the time to support, or are in denial of their child’s poor Behaviour, or they don’t have control at home and they use the wrong approach to discipline. So Louise states, “I like using a positive approach with students. But one of my greatest hurdles is when dealing with parents who deal with their children’s Behaviour in an inappropriate and negative way.
So any advice on working with challenging parents, John.
JOHN BAYLEY: Well I’ve got a few ideas. There’s just one thing. I mentioned that I worked for quite a long time in the PRU, and I think one of my fears when I took up the job was I was going to meet lots of– this is absolutely my bad– I thought I’d meet lots of violent men who’d come in with their sleeves rolled up and say, “What’d you do to my Alfie? Do you want your head kicking in?” And I was very nervous about it. But I soon found out that wasn’t the case. Sometimes people would come in and bluster, but once you said a few diffusing words you’d very quickly realise that they’re often at their wits end too.
They don’t know what to do. And they’re also being reminded of bad experiences that they had in school. There was a wonderful programme, I think it was done by Lee Canter, Succeeding With Difficult Students, and he used to talk about key messages. And the key message was, so you meet and greet, “I’m very pleased to see you.” Maybe someone’s shouting. “I understand what you’re saying, but if you sit down I’m sure we can find a solution to this. Now I know what you’re saying, but I’m sure we can find a solution to this. Now let’s talk a little bit about what’s happening.” And then in the course of that conversation, you weave in some key messages.
One key message is, “You’re the most important person. I’m so glad you’re here. You’re the most important person in your child’s life. You’re the most important person in Susan’s life.” And you’d be surprised the number of people who say to you, “I wish you’d tell Susan that, because she doesn’t appear to know it.” And you can say, “I know, I know, I understand. Bringing up a teenager is really difficult, but you’re the most important person in your child’s life. The other reason why I’m glad you’ve come in here is that I think we need to work together to succeed.
We’ve got to find a way of working together, and I don’t care if it’s me phoning you on a more regular basis. I don’t care if it’s you coming in from time to time. I don’t care if it’s me sending you a note, and you arranging to give her a certificate when she does the right thing. And by the way, what do you do at the moment when she does the right thing?” And then the third message was we need to work together because it’s Susan’s future.
I wanted to go to college, I think she’s got a good chance of realising her idea of being– whatever it is– but she doesn’t stand much of a chance of that if she if she stays on a track to exclusion and further trouble. And that’s what she’s doing, unless we work together. And everybody has their own kind of script for this. I think you probably know, Paul, because you’ve spent a career doing this kind of work. But you’ve got to get into a flow when you’re talking to parents, and assure them that you’re on the child’s side. And incidentally, when we talk about difficult parents, try going to a parenting group and hear them talking about difficult teachers.
It’s one of those conflict situations. Both sides think the same thing as each other, and we have to step across the lines. Incidentally, the parenting group that I ran for quite a long time had a module on them, on aggressive Behaviour. And you know, one of our fantasies is that we’re frightened of sending it out in case a child gets bashed by their parent. Well, it’s a legitimate fear, and it does sometimes happen. But one of the things I learned in those classes is that every parent I met remembered with regret and remorse every time they’d hit a child. They’d say, “Oh my days, yeah I was in a supermarket. This was happening, that was happening.”
I so wish I’d been able to think of something else to do. So we need to think hard about our attitudes towards parents.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that one, John. And the only thing I would add to that is very similar, about sticking to the script, is I always started with this idea of we are a team, and we all want the same thing for this child. Trying to get them on side as quickly as possible, so I used to always mention the idea of a triad. So, as a teacher, as their parent, as the child working together as a team because we’re all working towards the same goal. Which is [? open ?] [? to ?] [? me ?] to have a successful education while in this building. So yes, lovely, thank you for that. OK.
Question four is about balancing of your time between managed Behaviour and time spent with the children in a class who are the well-behaved quiet ones. So Catherine asks, whilst I am fully invested in the positive approach, there is no doubt that it is time consuming and at times exhausting. Particularly when you have a number of students in the class who require quite a lot of your attention in any given class. My question is, how do you balance their Behaviour management side with giving help to those students who really need it on the learning sides of things? The quiet, unassuming children who want to learn but struggle to understand and need guidance.
JOHN BAYLEY: OK, now if we get this one right, you and I will win a Nobel Prize for classroom management. But a lot of this is around classroom craft. Let me just share a particular bee in my bonnet first, which is that if we as a profession have a fault, it’s because we talk too much. And I expect you’ve seen all those books of research that say that children’s talk should take up about 70% or 80% of the time in the classroom. But you go into the average classroom and we’re explaining and re-explaining, and talking our heads off and taking far too long over it.
And that most certainly was true of me, that when I do that is it’s anxiety. When I’m talking, I’ve got the idea that nothing much can go wrong. So I think that’s just one thing. Listen to the way we’re teaching. What we’re meant to be doing is not explaining everything under the sun. We’re meant to be creating situations where children can grapple with a task or an exercise and reach a conclusion, which we want them talking about. That’s kind of one of the central things that we’ve learned from “Assessment for Learning” and all that. And, once children are released on a task, you have much more opportunity to circulate around the room.
And then, what are we doing when we’re circulating around the room? There are lots of little craft techniques. One of one of my favourites is called command praise times three. Every time you give out an instruction nod or smile at a young person who’s carrying it out. So that means that you’re acknowledging appropriate Behaviour every time you give a command. That must be about 150 times a lesson. And so you’re changing your language flow. One of the things that I notice about teachers who are really good at this, is they give really rapt attention to children who are doing the right thing or answering the question. So if you’re answering a question, Paul, I’m looking at you.
Now I don’t know if the camera is large enough. If something else happens somewhere else, and I put up a hand like that, that means I know what’s going on over there but I’m really still intent on talking to Paul. And you see lots of really good teachers using those kinds of gestures. Also, there’s nothing wrong with a teacher talking across the classroom, and you need to do it. But the most effective messages– I like this little term– are air messages. You know, I might see someone who I think needs straightening out in the back of the room, but I finish what I’m saying here, and I make my way across to that child.
And then, like the murmuring waiter again, I get down and I say, “Paul, I can see you’re having an interesting conversation, but it would be much more interesting if you picked up that pen and we got on with the work.” And whenever we can do that, we’re bringing the tension down. In fact, while I’m on my way over to the person who’s misbehaving at the back of the room, I might just alter course a bit, because I might see someone close to him who’s doing the work right. And I might come over to them and say, “Charles, great job here. Look, you’ve finished a whole paragraph here.”
And I can do a bit of reinforcement on what the child next to you has done. And what I find is, usually when you do that, the target child sort of gets the message and carries on. So all this stuff circulating the classroom– using air messages, proximity praise– what it’s demonstrating is how to get the teacher’s attention. And one of the phrases I love is children are going to get your attention one way or the other. So you might as well start modelling the right way to get your attention, instead of obliging them with firework displays at regular intervals.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. In all the notes I had you’ve mentioned, and a book that really changed my teaching earlier in my career was Teach Like a Champion. And a lot of the techniques you’ve mentioned are mentioned in that book, so if anyone is interested in hearing some more of those techniques, a great book is Teach Like a Champion.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah, great. Great.
PAUL THORNTON: OK, we’ll be going to question five, and question five is another classroom strategy question. And your next point is this. I understand we should be careful with threatening, but if poor Behaviour continues there should be a consequence. What I do now is that, in this case, I write down the name of the child on the board as a last warning, and if the poor Behaviour so persists, he or she will get a cross behind their names.
In one of the videos you say we shouldn’t write names on the board as it’s embarrassing for the student. So the question is, how should I give them a last warning, in your opinion, and what should the consequences be?
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I mean, I’ve got a flat out opinion about it, which is keep a notebook or a clipboard. And write the names down in there, and keep it lying on your desk. I think there is a bit of an issue with sticking sanctions up on the board. Some children don’t like it, parents get upset if they hear that their child’s name is being written up on the board. And, of course, if you’re trying to establish yourself for the class, it can be a bit of sport getting your names on the naughty board. And I think we’re all familiar with that desperate feeling.
You’re halfway through a lesson and there are already 14 champions’ names up on the board, and they’re spoiling for another go. So, I think, keep it really low level. And the other thing is, choose your fights when you’re putting up consequences. You know, diffusing and deflecting. I remember someone was telling me a story the other day. I said I was going to give this talk, and they said, “Well, you should be like Jane.” And I said, “What’s so good about Jane?” They said, “Well she’s famous for having turned around one of those difficult classes in school.” And how did she do it? She got set on the class because everyone knew that they were difficult. And she did three things.
One is she rang every parent before she started the class and introduced herself, and said she was looking forward to working with them. She set a target of six positive phone calls home a week, so that the children were competing to get those phone calls. And then this is a thing, I daren’t even look at your expression when I tell you this, Paul, she also spent about 40 quid a month of her own money on making sure that she had a really good rewards box in the room. Now, you won’t be surprised to hear that she had them absolutely eating out of her hand.
They thought she was the best thing since sliced bread, and the class had been split in half. The other half carried on terrorising the school. Now, I don’t know how many people would be wanting to put in that kind of effort. But there are two things about that story. One is it does show you what a determined, consistent approach can do. In fact, it reminds me of a piece of advice I once got from an experienced [? as ?] [? it ?] [? would– ?] what would you want to tell NQTs? And she said, “I’d want to tell them in their first half-term they have to behave like friendly psychopaths. They follow up everything.”
So, there’s Jane giving out her rewards, and she rarely set detentions. She tried to make sure those sanctions were given as infrequently as possible. But when they were, she stuck to her guns. You couldn’t talk your way out of a detention with Jane. Either she had to get on a plane and follow you on your holidays. So she got the reputation of being the teacher who nailed it when the sanction was involved. Yes, and that’s it, so I suppose the last thing is–
I’m not happy to do it, it’s their responsibility to respect the class rules. Well yes, so it is. I know that feeling of, “Oh Lord, am I really going to give out detention for this?” But the way I sometimes used to help myself with this was to think, if this was my son sitting with his feet slung sideways out the desk, staring out the window not doing any work, what would I want to happen to him? And it wouldn’t be someone quavering away from giving him a sanction.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that main point around putting the name on the board and becoming ever an embarrassment, or as you quite rightly said, what I experienced as well, it was a game to a lot of mostly the boys. The boys kind of [? bound ?] [? to ?] [? seeing ?] what your name’s on, why is my name not up there yet? And it became like a bit of a challenge to get your name on the board, so having your own sort of system in place where you know who’s on their last warning, and the child knows that they’re on their last warning.
Or sometimes I used to put a small card on the desk, so that all myself and them knew. But everyone else knowing is not the way. It sits between you and that child, I would say.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah, yeah. Famous.
PAUL THORNTON: Lovely. Question six is about strategies for students who point blank refuse. And we all know those students, and how challenging they can be. Denise asks, “I realise that I can’t make a pupil do what I ask of them without their willingness to do so. I would like to know how to proceed when a pupil point blank refuses to do what I have asked them after I’ve used the interventions learned.
JOHN BAYLEY: Dear oh dear, I know that feeling. I was glad to see, thankfully, this has not happened to me yet. I’m very pleased to see that, Denise, and I think I’d like to say that it’s not going to happen to you very much. And also, it also taps into a really deep fear that all teachers have. Your “One day I’ll tell them what to do and they’ll say, ‘No, mate, we’re going fishing.’” And, you know, our authority will collapse completely. But I’ve never heard of that happening. So the first thing is not to catastrophize about it, and if a child backs off and point blank refused, then we back off and think.
“Sammy, you’re making a bad decision here, we’ll be coming back to it later.” It’s a little bit like tactical ignoring, where we’re buying time in the immediate moment because we know that we’re going to follow it up later on. And there are other things that we can do. I think all heads of you are familiar with the child who is absolutely, stone cold refusing to budge. And so you say to the rest of class, “Right, well we’ll go to the library.” And so you take away the audience and the rest of the class troop out to the library.
And then there’s the Sally or Ahmed sitting there not looking quite so brave, and a couple of adults can come in and do that. I’ve got to say that working, can’t remember now, five or six years, in a central London PRU, I think I used that tactic three times max. And I think, yeah, there was one time I remember when I said, “Right, we’re all going to move.” And I was absolutely thwarted because the target child decided to go with them as well. I can remember that, “What on Earth am I going to do?” feeling now.
But I think the really important answer to this question is buy yourself a bit of time, and don’t get involved in that slogging process.
If it goes on really badly disrupting the lesson you may need a call out team. But if it’s Thursday afternoon and you send for call out, you might as well pray for Christmas, because it’s not going to happen. So sometimes that idea of, “You’re making a bad choice, we’ll come back to this later on.” And there you go.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I think that the key point is, walk away from the situation, don’t give them the audience, and let them have time to think about what they do and usually if you give them the time they do just kind of, “OK, I’ll go where I need to go”. I have had twice the situation in my time as assistant head, the removal of a class, but I haven’t had to [? child move ?] with the class so that’s a new one on me.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yes, he’s probably going to go on to become prime minister or something, isn’t he?
PAUL THORNTON: Brilliant, brilliant. OK, question seven is from Chris, which is an interesting one about time management. So Chris asks, “I would like advice on how to manage my time to make relentlessly following up always possible and habitual.
JOHN BAYLEY: Well, I think two things about it. One is I would repeat that story.
She was a lead teacher when I asked her for some advice for NQTs on establishing yourself with the class. And she said, really only half jokingly, “When you’re first starting, you do have to be a bit of a psychopath.” And I said, “Well what exactly do you mean?” Well, it was in the context of a conversation when I got into the room, and she was a CDT teacher and there was an absolutely fabulous class going on it was like being in a design lab in some posh studio somewhere. And I said, “What a brilliant class. How have you managed to achieve all this? And she said something like, “Brilliant be damned.”
She said, at the beginning of the year, she said this lot had to be marched out and back in from the playground six times before I got them to come into the class the way I want and get them sat down the way I want. That’s relentless, isn’t it? And I think that when you’re establishing or re-forming a class, then you might have to do that. And that relentless following up needs to be planned, and you probably want some backup when you’re doing it. So that’s one thing. But then it goes on to say, “always possible and habitual.” Well relentlessly following up, which, by the way, means with positives as well as with negatives.
The first comment that I wrote down here was, “Choose your battles.”
If you’re going for detentions or if you’ve done tactical ignoring, you need to follow up. Incidentally, can I just say a word or two about tactical ignoring? The idea is, I don’t know, you ask a child to move from one part of the room to another, and they oblige. But as they go, they mutter something under their breath that sounds suspiciously like it has to do with your ancestry. But you’re kind of on the spot, aren’t you, because if you go chasing after and say, “What did you say, what did you say?” “Nothing.” So, you know, it’s a difficult situation. So you let it go, kids getting back and saying, Aren’t you going to do something about it, sir?
And you say, you know, “That’s between me and Ryan. On with your work”. But you do have to meet up Ryan afterwards and say, “Ryan, I really appreciated the fact that you chose to move this afternoon. I didn’t quite hear what it was you’ve said under your breath, but I don’t think I liked it and I don’t think you meant it as a compliment. So in future I’d be really pleased if when you follow with instruction you just follow the instruction and leave out the running commentary.” And two things about that. One is that 99 times out of 100 they’ll say “Right-o,” once you’ve got them on their own and with the audience out of the way.
And also, you’re not wasting your time telling them off, because relentlessly following up sounds like you’re going to be wandering around the school giving children lectures. It’s not like that. There are two or three children you want to get to before the end of the school day and have that quick word.
Does that correspond with your experience?
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. I think what I would add to that is it’s time well spent. Especially as you’re establishing yourself within the school. So as, I think, your example showed at the beginning that there was a class where she marched about six times and she got them back in. That’s being relentless at the start, but it pays dividends. So you won’t always eat up your time if you do it right from the very, very beginning, is what I would say. And I think the key thing is, never threaten something that you won’t do. That is just beyond your means of time management. So, always do what you say you’re going to do before.
Don’t overshoot what you would do is what I would say as well to that.
JOHN BAYLEY: Yeah, couldn’t agree more.
PAUL THORNTON: OK moving on to the next question. Paul has a follow up question about the course around recognition being more effective than rewards on their own. He states, “I found the articles on rewards and sanctions profound, and it has given me much food for thought. I would be interested to know what the course director’s and moderator’s views are on this, please. If there is a body of evidence that clearly shows that reward and sanctions is ineffectual or worse still counter-productive in the long term, then why does the profession continue with this practise?
JOHN BAYLEY: I think that’s probably the question of the year. And like most questions of the year there isn’t a clear answer to it but we can find some guidelines. I was at a conference a few years ago, along with another name that you might have heard of, Terry Hayden, because I noticed he’s in some of the STEM reading materials. A chap gave us a talk, neither of us can remember his name, but he said there was an audience of about 200. He said I’m going to divide you into two halves, pointing down the middle of the corridor. And he said, “I am going to put a problem up on the board to solve in a moment.
And this half of the room, anyone, if you’re amongst the first three to put your hands up you’ll get a sweet. And he held up a packet of sweets.” And he said, “That side of the room, put your hands up when you get the answer right, but I’m not going to give you anything, I just want you to solve the problem. Do you understand what to do? Yes? Go.”
I was on the side that could earn sweets, so I was quite motivated. So he then put up, it was a fairly simple sort of algebraic sort problem, that you could do it with mental arithmetic. And probably two or three minutes. But I didn’t have time to do it because the first three hands went up on the other side of the room. And we all ooh’d and aah’d a bit, and he laughed and he said, “I’ve done this demonstration all over the world,” he said, “I’ve never had to give away a single sweet, because the side that are doing it to win the prize are always slower than the others. And that’s what we’ve learned about mental processing.
That people need to be focused on the problem and not something else.” And that made, as you might imagine, that made a big impact on me. And it made me really review and try to re-understand what we’d learned from “Assessment for Learning.” Do you remember in the original midway experiments at the beginning of “Assessment for Learning”, that they divided some groups. Some were given numeric marks after they’d achieved math tests, some were given verbal marks. And the ones with numeric marks, it didn’t improve their performance at all. In fact, sometimes went backwards. But the one with verbal marks or with verbal comments that showed them what to do, it produced dramatic improvement.
And so that’s the whole of “Assessment for Learning” now. Really is you show children what to do, how to do it, show them how to assess it for themselves, and then look at their assessments and tell them what to do next. And that would make the chap that I was talking about just now very happy. So I think that when it comes to rewarding academic work that’s sort of become my lodestar. But when it comes to pro-social and Behaviour I think the situation is a little bit different. Because what we know is that rewards work very well if everybody in a school staff and students believe in them.
And you sometimes go to schools where they’re dishing out points and prizes and people are standing up in assemblies and being congratulated. I’ve even seen schools where the head takes it upon themselves to congratulate teachers in assemblies. And so I think it’s symbolic. It’s a way of saying we’re really pleased to see you, and we’re pleased with what you’ve done, and your part in the community, you belong here.
But, equally, I’ve seen schools, and I’ll bet you have too, where the rewards and sanction system quickly turns into a rote detention system. And there’s a little bit of, if you give people a hammer, they think every problem they’ve got is a nail. And so I think that the most important thing is the teacher’s Behaviour rewarding? Do I look like I’m pleased to see you? Do I acknowledge when you’re doing the task? And am I also very keen on effort? And I must say, I’ve never observed a lesson delivered by a smiling teacher that’s been a flop. Someone who’s glad that people are in the room and lets them know it.
So to sum that up, because that was a real mouthful, wasn’t it? The relationship between rewards and performance is very complicated. But, if we’re trying to create an atmosphere where children feel welcomed and appreciated, then teacher praise– verbal praise– is probably the most important thing going. And if you’re in a school where a reward system is working well and consistently, then stay with it.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. In my personal experiences, children respond well to the recognition of what they’re doing at that point better than having a go at the end of it. And my personal opinion was, what you often did with a reward system that gave people trips away or something at the end of it was you isolated the children who found Behaviour challenging, and put them down the opposite path. I’m never going to hit that reward so I’m going to be a bit naughtier. So it has a place if it works, I would say, as you’ve just mentioned, John. But recognition of the child’s effort there and then works far more for me.
JOHN BAYLEY: Great, well, I hope Paul found that useful.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, hope so. Well, I’m glad you answered it and not me. It was a very tough question, wasn’t it? OK, question nine, which I believe is, yes, is the last question. And both Grace and Claire have questions related to building relationships and routines when you only have children for a short length of time. So Grace works as a museum educator, Claire covers for the teachers. So I’ll go with Clare’s question, which is, “I find Behaviour management harder to manage doing my PPA cover. Part of the problem is not having relationships which are strong, as if you are a class teacher.
Are there any strategies to help with Behaviour management when you’re only with the pupils for an hour max each week?”
JOHN BAYLEY: I think doing things like PPA cover is really challenging. And I’ve got three ideas about that. One is that I think that you need to have your own rules and routines. I know there’s all this business of fitting in with what’s habitual here, but supply teachers often wonder and say, you know, “Good day, my name is Miss Jones, but remember we get on very well if– and then, my three golden rules are– and I’m very pleased to see that so-and-so is doing such and such and so-and-so is doing such and such.” So that’s really the first thing. The second thing is, it’s a good idea to have links with a regular teacher.
And I know that when staff are really busy that can be a bit of a pain, but comparing notes so that the regular teacher knows what’s going on and can give you tips on what’s happening in the room, really important. And then I’m a bit hesitant on the last one, because it just depends on the situation in the school. But being able to drop in on the regular class when they’re with their regular teacher, even if for 90 seconds, so that you’re standing next to an established authority figure and discussing with them. That’s really important. But can I use that just to hop to Grace? Because I learned a lot from thinking about this question.
But when someone says, “We only see students for two hours in the museum and we only interact with them very briefly.” And I read this question and I got this “Help!” feeling while I thought, well, I wonder how you do it. But then it all fell into place, and I was playing tennis on Sunday morning and along came a coach with a group of– I know they’re six-year-olds because I know the family across the road who sent their kids out and they were on their beginning of half-term tennis camp. And he had a bunch of children he was seeing for the first time in his life. And he said, “Good morning, everybody.
I want you to line up with your toes touching the line. Yes, just touching the line. That’s exactly what I want.” So you got immediate compliance with the kinesthetic activity, and then he asked them all their names, so they all got their personal bit of recognition. Then he said, “Right, now we’re going to run around the outside of the court, we’re going to run around the outside of the court two times. And we’re going to do it with really good running action like this,” and then he led them off. He gave them something to do right away. And I thought, of course, that’s what you have to do when you’re a museum teacher.
You have a set of activities that have a good level of base, and every time there’s that activity, [? that ?] [? helps ?] [? you to ?] Recognise what’s going on, and there’s the opportunity to learn something about the children as well. By the time they’d run around outside of that court twice, he’d already got an idea about who to pair up with who for the next exercise and all that. He had a kit bag with him, and I wasn’t able to stick around there long enough to watch what he was doing, but I’ll bet it had a few stickers and prizes in there as well for the top one of this and the top one of that.
And then, because I was worried about giving this answer, I talked to a friend of mine about it. And he said, well that’s it. The other thing about those kinds of people who are in that situation is they have lots of bags of tricks. They have different ways of dividing up groups. One activity doesn’t work, they turn another. They have the idea of it as being a performance, and they tweak it. So, you do something that worked well, didn’t work well the next week, and so on. You try and you take what you’ve got and just work with it as you go along.
And, presumably, if you spent a year doing that, or if you and I would spend a year going around leading bunches of children around museums, we’d probably have a whole bunch of devices like that up our sleeve. Children working in groups, children going and introducing one item in a museum to another.
I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along, a quick sort of “Think of five words to describe what a museum curator does?” And we’d be thinking like maniacs, wouldn’t we, because we’ve tried to solve this problem about how to grab their attention. And I expect Claire and Grace are both listening to this. I wonder if Claire’s listening to this as well, because doing PPA cover is a performance too, isn’t it? And I wonder what happens when she walks into the room? How she announces herself, and it’s cover time this week. I’m going to blow your socks off with the ideas I’ve got for us to be working on today. So here’s the first one, bang.
I think I’d find it exhausting. But I think you’ve got to throw a lot of energy at it. And I hope that doesn’t sound too lame, Claire.
I think the main thing I would sum up is, I’ve enjoyed watching Paul Dixon’s course, it certainly ticked all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I think two things really. One is, I always like getting top-ups on Behaviour management. And if I have a chance to go on a course, I go on it.
Like someone in your position, Paul, you’ve had a lot of pastoral responsibilities during your career, and at any particular time you’re using one box of tricks. Then you go along and look at a course and suddenly you think, “Oh, yeah, I haven’t done that for years and years. I’ll add that to armoury”. So I would say to anyone, you’re experimenting with this stuff.
After a while, Behaviour won’t become such a concern. There’s a kind of rubicon we cross as teachers where we’re very anxious about Behaviour, yet not of techniques under our belt. And then, all of a sudden, it’s the learning that is important and designing a really good lesson and grabbing their attention becomes the main thing that preoccupies us. But I think that from time to time revisiting this stuff is really important, especially and this will happen to you, because all teaching career has now happened the speed of light. You’re in one school where you’ve established your authority and you strike respect into the hearts of year eleven by raising your right eyebrow.
And then, you get given a new job and you go to a school where you’ve promised to rewrite the curriculum and take them into the 29th century. And you see a child doing something wrong and you raise your eyebrows, and he chucks a stone stone at you or something. And you suddenly think, “Oh, they don’t know me. The relationship isn’t there. The trust isn’t there.” And you go back to command praise times three, you know, the whole thing. So it will always be good to have these techniques under your belt.
PAUL THORNTON: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s almost just bringing those techniques to the forefront of your mind. And they do leave you. I mean, I’ve been outside of education now, or being inside a school, for 18 months and you forget. Me, I’ve got a seven-year-old who, June lockdown is very challenging. And just coming back to do these sort of quick question answer sessions and just, sort of, almost revising the techniques and stuff to teach to use on my seven-year-old was a really good thing to do. So I absolutely agree, just keep coming back to it. Keep reminding yourself of those techniques. And I think that you’ll be absolutely fine.
John, I’ve thoroughly, thoroughly, enjoyed this question and answer session and thoroughly enjoyed your answers. So thank you, again.
JOHN BAYLEY: Me too. Thank you.