Tried and tested tips for behaviour management

The first year of teaching was and still is the most challenging year of my career. There were alot of factors involved in this that were out of my control, but at least half of the problem was that I was new, inexperienced and very scared. 

Behaviour management is 100% not something that can be mastered in a single term and even now that I've been teaching four years, I still have so much to learn. Anything I have learned has come from a combination of trial and error, observing others and trying really hard not to give up. 

I've put together a list of the best advice I have received during my somewhat short career and hope it can be of use to someone who is at the beginning of theirs.

Meet and Greet goes a long way

At the start of every lesson, greet your class at the door. Ensure that they line up appropriately and make sure to wait until they are quiet and calm before letting them in. This can be a bit tricky if your classroom backs on to a busy corridor but keep at it.

'Hands up' signal for when you want their attention

In our school, the teacher will put their hand up and this is the signal for the class to be silent. It's definitely alot better than the teacher shouting for attention and adding to the noise (from previous experience at other schools). The only con is if other teachers in the school aren't using this signal in their lessons - you can quickly find entire classes ignoring your signal altogether.

Establish clear boundaries and expectations

In my first year of teaching I made the mistake of trying to be a 'cool' teacher and trying to be 'matey'. It was mostly out of fear and the somewhat desperation to be liked by my students. The problem with this isn't immediately obvious until you need to discipline an unruly student. 

My best advice on this is to avoid non-class related discussion at all times, simply shut down and redirect any conversation back to work.

Make an example of role model students

If a student's done something great, however small, highlight it to the rest of the class. It can be as simple as:

"Olivia's table is working fantastically. Let's see who else is working this well?"

"Great work Edward, you're using strong shading on your drawing. Can you hold up your workbook for your table to see?"

Rotate the classroom...

Avoid teaching from your desk. Not only is it bad for your health but it creates the perfect storm for low level behaviour to erupt into something worse. Circulate the classroom frequently throughout the lesson and use it as an opportunity to give verbal feedback and monitor behaviour (good or unruly).
I sometimes walk around with my mini whiteboard and a pen, making notes on who should get 'star of the lesson'. The class respond well to this.

Be clear on the behaviour policy and reward system

Know what it is and remind the class of it frequently. I sometimes start the lesson off with a reminder of the school expectations and just how many achievement points are up for grabs that lesson, or casually letting them know how many of their mates from last lesson got star of the lesson. They seem to like this and I find it calms them down if they've arrived a bit energetic.

In terms of negative behaviour, try and give warnings before intiating any 'strikes' (assuming your school has a 3 strikes system). Try to redirect their behaviour with work in all instances.

Use a seating plan and stick to it

This year I did all of mine (not including year 7s) in the summer holidays. I colour code my students and try to seat calm, quiet students with reactive, talkative ones. So far it's worked well.

At all times, try to redirect students who complain about their table. You will always get one who wants to sway you to sit them with their mates but stick to your plan.

Be aware of any special needs

This comes back to your seating plan and ideally you should seat any students with special needs in an appropriate seat. For example you may want to seat a student who has ASD with a suitable buddy (have a look in the playground at who they feel comfortable around), or a student with an eye condition near to the board.

Be aware of any student profiles that may be available at your school and try to read them as soon as they become available during the year. These profiles are extremely useful as they give the bigger picture on your students and usually have lots of advice on their particular condition if they have one. 
Always keep your HOD and SENCO informed if anything arises in a lesson that concerns you, however small it is.

Have a plan B and plan C for every lesson

It can be as complicated as an extension task for the quick worker or something as calming as a colour-in sheet for the student who needs some 'time-out'. Try to create a few different worksheets every term and come the end of the year you'll have a whole bank of work on standby.

Communication is the key 

Be aware of who the SENCO and the safeguarding officer are. If you ever have any issues, big or small, always keep your HOD informed and try to always keep it through email unless there is a emergency. Email is great for creating a paper trail and schools will use these as historical evidence of the issue should it be needed.