Tip #20: The little book of behaviour consistency.

What’s worse than dealing with an incidence of poor behaviour? Dealing with it more than once.

Consistently inconsistent behaviour management

Early in my career, my behaviour management consistency was virtually non-existent – I’d dish out behaviour sanctions and forget them afterwards. Pupils took advantage of my forgetfulness (I know I would’ve when I was a pupil), knowing they could cross the boundaries without having to face the consequences. A regular chorus of ‘that’s not fair’ lingered – when I did actually administer missed playtimes, chats to parents and the rest, the pupils felt my decisions were arbitrary and unreasonable as a direct consequence of my inconsistency. As a result, my classroom climate swung between bouts of fiery backlash and icy indignation.

While the behaviour problems weren’t all my fault – my NQT year was spent in on my own in year 6 in a very tough school in inner-city Birmingham that had 4 headteachers in a year and no deputy – my inability to consistently apply a behaviour system means I bear a significant slice of responsibility.

The behaviour booklet: the backbone of the turnaround

Thankfully, a lot has changed. My class climate is now characterised by a positive, supportive vibe and is a place where fairness and high expectations are more than buzzwords that roll off the tongue. Pupils are happy, parents are happy and I’m happy. And what was the catalyst to change my classroom from a battle zone to a focussed, happy environment? It may seem banal, but it was a behaviour booklet: a little A5 booklet with behaviour sanctions that graduated from losing some ‘golden time’ to time-outs and contacting parents. I created it with a fabulous deputy headteacher and it instantly filled me confidence, reduced my stress levels and established the consistency my class craved.

As I’ve written about before, pupils need to know the effects of their behaviour and what they are supposed to do and they need to know what will happen if they don’t do the things you expect of them. Failure to do this opens you up to negotiation tactics and secondary behaviour strategies that undermine pupil-teacher relationships and the very sanctions being imposed. The behaviour booklet gave me a consistent language and my pupils consistent signposts to manage their behaviour. It had 3 significant benefits:

  • Graduated script – it provided a consistent language that didn’t require thinking about in those potentially stressful moments when dealing with behaviour issues. All the sanctions were already mapped out so they weren’t arbitrarily grabbed at in awkward moments and pupils knew what was coming each step of the way.
  • Log – as it was an A5 booklet, it was easy to fold up and put in my back pocket, so I could quickly log issues and sanctions given out. This made forgetfulness a thing of the past.
  • Reporting to parents (as well as SLT and colleagues) about behaviour issues became much easier. I had a running record of every behaviour issue I had to deal with and it created no extra workload.

Using the little A5 booklet reduced poor behaviour considerably – it gave the pupils and me the consistency we craved. Rather than dealing with secondary behaviour (arguing and avoidance tactics after the initial behaviour transgression is dealt with) and then wasting time going through why pupils had the sanction they had at a later date, the scripts and instant log meant there was very little room for pupils to wriggle out of their sanctions. It meant I only had to deal with each behaviour incident once.

Every school is a different animal

Even as a teacher going in my 13th year of practice, the behaviour booklet is still a staple of my practice and is soon to put to use at a school-wide level in my current school. I have edited it a number of times from how I used to use it (here), to how it’ll be used at my new school (here) and I’ve found it helps to give structure to any school behaviour policy. Please feel free to alter them as you need – no two schools are alike and without adapting them to your context, it won’t be nearly as useful. I am currently engaged in a school-wide project seeking to find the best behaviour sanctions that are effective, allow lessons to flow and are fair and considerate to the needs and rights of our pupils. In future posts, I’ll explain these research-based findings in more detail.

Click here to download the little book of behaviour consistency in its current form.

If you too have moments of forgetfulness or inconsistency (we’re all human after all), what do you do you get over them? I’d be interested to hear in the comments below.

Any feedback on this post or the behaviour booklet is also warmly welcomed.

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