This is the first of three posts on Behaviour Management in our schools. The other two posts to come are entitled:

  • What Are The Good Schools Doing About Behaviour Management?
  • Behaviour Improvement – Brilliant Approaches To Classroom Management.

A letter by the new Headmaster, Mr Barry Smith to parents prompted me to write this post. In part it read:

As the Headmaster of Charter Academy I cannot, I will not, allow the indiscipline, the disrespect, the failure, the bullying, the truancy and the lack of parental support, that were all a part of daily life at the former High School, to continue.

Parents let down their children when parents fail to support their education. As a Charter parent you must support the school 100%. 99% just won’t do.

At times you may think our approach inflexible, over strict, or unreasonable. But I ask that you trust us, and help your children succeed in ways you might never have imagined.

I have been in the teaching profession for just over twenty years – twelve of these teaching in inner London; two years in Kent and the rest in Africa with a month in Bath (UK) and Baku, (Azerbaijan) – and with hand on my heart, I have some home truth about classroom management. I can never say, I have got it all, because each school’s behavior policy is different and there is a whole array of misbehaving so common that you begin to wonder what is going on.

Hey folks, as a parent and a teacher myself, Mr Barry Smith, is not alone in addressing these issues.

Some Home Truths

Just imagine these quotes from teachers in the profession:

“I have been a successful teacher for 16 years. It is now with regret that I am leaving the teaching profession. This has been instigated by a period of depression, brought on by several physically threatening and verbally abusive incidents by students, both in school and outside as well.”

“…the most wearing problem is a constant degree of low level disruption in enough pupils to unsettle the whole lesson. Irrelevant comments called out, missing books, distracted by others, ‘I can’t do this’ instrumental music lessons, new pupils arrive mid-term, changes to the timetable ‘I haven’t got’ and general interruptions to the business of learning.”

“I am a teacher of 27 years and feel like a novice at times due to disruptive pupils. I feel vulnerable and under valued.”

“Pupil behaviour has seriously affected my health. I think behaviour can be improved by teachers being backed by management and applying consistent sanctions. Pupils who know they can get away with it, will.”

Broadly one in 12 secondary teachers said that more than 10 minutes of learning was lost per hour.

Before we look at how you can manage student behaviour, keep in mind that:

  • All teachers experience problems with behaviour.
  • You are not solely responsible for student behaviour.
  • All well-planned and interesting lessons do not prevent disruption.
  • Being entirely friendly and respectful of students does not always diminish conflict and bring order.
  • Whilst there is concern about a growing culture of violence among young people, such behaviour is confined to a minority of schools. The vast majority of schools are calm and ordered places, where teachers are effective and students learn successfully.
  • You can improve student behavior.

Why Do Students Misbehave?

There is no definitive answer. Students are not robots but individuals and it is difficult to characterise their behaviour. However, there are four main ways to why students misbehave:

  • They are bored.
  • They are stuck.
  • They have additional or different needs.
  • They are testing the boundaries.

Why Do We Need Behaviour Management?

We need behaviour management because . . .

  • It is fundamental to teaching and learning.
  • Behaviour problems can rapidly escalate.
  • Lack of behaviour management will destroy teachers’ confidence.

Disruptive Behaviour

Disruptive student behaviour is a frustration for many teachers. In fact, 70% of teachers in the UK alone have considered quitting the profession over poor behaviour. Poor behaviour is a barrier to learning and can easily threaten the health and wellbeing of teachers. On top of other pressures that can occur, the result is lost teaching days, unhappy teachers and failing students.

Is Disruption Low Or High Level?

The most common form of poor behaviour is low level disruption. This can be subjective as what concerns one teacher may not be of concern to another. For the purpose of this section, we are talking about behaviours which are not overtly confrontational or challenging, but which distract from teaching and learning.

There are generally five broad categories of low level disruption:

  • Talk and chatting
  • Movement
  • Time
  • Student-student relations
  • Teacher-student relationships

A plethora of misdemeanours which can be seen as low-level disruption include: Chatting; not working; not focusing on the task set, just sitting there doing nothing; uniform incorrect, including wearing make-up; rolling eyes at teachers or other impolite gestures or behaviours; lack of homework, making it difficult to continue with your scheme of learning; calling out; disturbing or demanding attention without regard for other students’ needs; not getting on with work; swinging on chairs; refusing or delaying with argument [about] taking off of coats and not placing bags on the floor; fidgeting or fiddling with equipment; turning up late, disrupting the learning going on in the lesson, or answering back or questioning instructions’

If these disruptions are not challenged, they can severely damage students’ learning and lead to frustrations and stress for the teacher.

Too many school leaders, especially in secondary schools, underestimate the prevalence and negative impact of low-level disruptive behaviour. Many teachers have come to accept some low-level disruption as a part of everyday life in the classroom.

They can then lead on to high level disruptions

High Level Disruption are more serious and are overtly confrontational and challenging. These behaviour patterns include:

  • Authority-challenging behaviour – Clearly shown in refusing to carry out requests, exhibiting defiant verbal and non-verbal behaviour or using pejorative language.
  • Aggressive behaviour – hitting, pulling hair, kicking, pushing, using abusive language
  • Physically disruptive behaviour – smashing, damaging or defacing objects, throwing objects or physically annoying other students.
  • Socially disruptive behaviour – screaming, running away, exhibiting temper tantrums.
  • Self-disruptive behaviour – day-dreaming, reading under the desk

Trying to manage this behaviour is extremely demanding and exhausting. If sustained over a long period, it can have a detrimental effect on a teacher’s physical and mental health. It will also have adverse effects on students’ learning.

Responses To Poor Behaviour

Before you can decide on what strategies to employ to improve student behaviour, you first need to think about how you already respond to inappropriate behaviour. This is often the key to deciding which changes you may (or may not) need to make and the types of strategies that would be best to use.

The choices teachers make in responding to students’ behaviour are crucial in influencing the subsequent choices students make about how they will behave.

Managing behaviour is not just about responding to inappropriate behaviour. It is about creating conditions that encourage positive behaviour.

Using the table below, tick all the statements that apply to you. Your answers here should give you a clearer idea of how you respond to poor behaviour and will be used again when considering the types of strategies to use.

 When a student behaves inappropriately:  


I display anger, shout or scream, or cry.  
I fail to react or pretend I have not seen or heard anything.  
I remain passive.  
I act inconsistently, I can be unfair.  
I threaten actions, but do not usually follow through.  
I make hurtful comments or I am sarcastic.  
I argue or I am hostile.  
I leave the classroom.  
I send for another member of staff.  
I send the student from the classroom.  
I tend to react rather than be proactive.  
I use a discipline plan.  
I follow the school’s behaviour policy and guidelines.  
I manage the situation calmly.  
I respond according to level of inappropriate behaviour (low, medium, high).  
I overreact.  
I use a planned, proactive, professional approach.  

The Type Of Teacher You Are . . .

Now that you have reflected on how you respond to inappropriate behaviour, let’s think about your relationships with your students. There are SIX types of teachers when it comes to behavior management in the classroom.

Which of the following best describe your relationships with students?


  • Strong sense of purpose in pursuing clear goals for learning and for class
  • Shows leadership.
  • Tends to guide and control
  • Prepared to discipline unapologetically

Too dominant/assertive

  • Too controlling
  • Lack of concern for students
  • Teacher- student relationship damaged


  • Great concern for the needs and opinions of students
  • Helpful, friendly
  • Avoids strife and seeks consensus
  • Working together

Too cooperative/collaborative

  • Too understanding and accepting of apologies
  • Waits for students to be ready and lets students dictate
  • Too keen to be accepted by students
  • Passes responsibility completely to students. Abdicates responsibility and leadership


  • Treats students as the enemy
  • Expresses anger and irritation
  • Needs to ’win’ if there is a disagreement between teacher and student
  • Sees the classroom as a battleground


  • Lack of clarity of purpose
  • Keeps a low profile
  • Tendency to submit to the will of the class
  • Entirely unassertive, rather glum and apologetic
  • Expects difficulties

Research has found that the most effective teachers find a balance between dominance and cooperation.

We will look at how you can improve these areas when we look at strategies to improve behaviour.

Does any of the aforementioned issues resonate with you? Behaviour management of our 21st century students is never easy but with calmness and dedication coupled with enthusiasm, we can overcome.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL




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