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Bad behaviour during a lesson is disruptive to all and frustrating for both the teacher and the remaining pupils in the class who want to learn. Persistent disobedience can mean that precious time is spent trying to sort out the issue which then means that the amount of teaching time is greatly reduced.

In turn this can mean increased amounts of homework to ensure the class stays up to speed with the curriculum and adds to their spare time workload when combined with that of other subjects.

There are a number of ways to tackle bad behaviour and to keep a classroom calm and on track.

Keep your dignity with a quick in and out strategy

Giving sanctions to a badly behaved pupil should be delivered in a clear, simple and non-negotiable message. With the pressures of a busy classroom around you, it can be all too easy to be drawn into an argument with the pupil – often the point of them misbehaving to start with is to try to force you into a confrontation where they will try to take control. Move in, deliver the sanction with discretion and move on. Create a phrase where you can give the message and then withdraw such as “it’s important that I see you working as well as the task you undertook in the last lesson, thank you for listening” or “I will return in five minutes to give feedback on the work you need to be making progress on”.  Give the disruptive pupil time to change their direction of thought while you make a positive conversation with another pupil who has a question. Return once the dust has settled. Pupils don’t enjoy sanctions and the longer you converse with them, the more likely the situation is to escalate. Move in, deliver the sanction, and move on with your dignity intact.

Used closed requests

Use ‘thank you’ at the beginning of a request and the results will almost always be positive. If you give the comment of “thank you for picking up your bag from the aisle” or “thank you for placing the chewing gum in the bin” this psychologically instils trust in the pupil and clarifies the situation so they then carry out the request without comeback. There’s no ‘hook’ for a defensive remark by return as it’s a closed request. These kind of requests make it embarrassing for a pupil to act in any way other than positively.

Proactively develop relationships

This isn’t about trying to speak or act in the same way as the pupil. It’s about gently and gradually finding a way for them to open up and to have conversations with you. The best time to try this is when they are relaxed and unguarded. You could simply say ‘hello’ as you pass by, engage in casual conversation or ask for their thoughts on something you know they are interested in such as information in a newspaper cutting or on a website. It’s a slow process as there may be little trust of you or what they think you are looking to achieve but if you take the time to take small opportunities as they arise – and expect nothing in return – you will slowly gain ground over time and their disobedience will recede.

Bad behaviour in a classroom is a difficult and stressful topic to try to rectify. It’s an element of teaching which is about respect, trust and boundaries. Look to combine a number of strategies and there will (eventually) be progress.