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Is your behaviour up to scratch?

The route to exceptional behaviour is not paved with a toolkit of strategies, a bag of classroom management tricks or magic dust from senior leaders, writes Paul Dix, founder of Pivotal Education.

It lies in the behaviour of every adult and their ability to create a culture of certainty. While some schools create ridiculous and vast lists of rules and codes of conduct for the children to abide by, others concentrate on what really matters: consistent adult behaviour.

Change your behaviour: 30-day challenge

Have a go at completing the 30-day behaviour challenge in your school.

  1. Choose one behaviour issue that you need to change. For example, you could decide to change the the ‘names on the board’ approach for bad behaviour to ‘recognition boards’ for good behaviour.
  2. Agree with all adults in your school that this behaviour will be a focus for the next 30 days.
  3. Everyone will commit to persistently tacking this behaviour, to give time to the single issue, to stop ignoring it and to intervene. This focus must be shared by all adults who interact with the children; from the headteacher to the office staff, from the caretaker to the teaching assistants from guest teachers to established ‘old hands’.
  4. Mark the day that you will begin the challenge.
  5. Tell the children, count down the days and make sure everyone is prepared for the changes that are about to take place.

Why is it a good strategy?

Committing to make a change in 30 days allows everyone to feel that they are an essential part of a tight, consistent team. This is not ‘zero tolerance’ where children are constantly told off by angry adults. It should be pure consistency, gentle reminders, persistent nagging, everyone standing together. One staff, one message one voice.

Work hard and don’t give up

Often things get worse before they get better, so be prepared to work hard at the 30-day challenge. There will be adults who try and give up; there will be children and parents who try to resist the tightening consistency. Stay strong to your purpose and at the end of the 30 days not only will the behaviour have been eradicated but you will have proved to everyone that things can, and will, change.

While your colleagues are energised by the challenge you can begin to agree and shape essential aspects of adult behaviour.

  • What three behaviours do you expect all adults to deliberately model every day?
  • What routines do you expect to see middle and senior leaders engaged in to support all staff?
  • How can you refine adult behaviour to have the most impact on the children?

Why is adult behaviour an important focus?

The children who cause most difficulties in schools are often children with inconsistent home lives, children who have stopped trusting adults (often with good reason) or children who live with chaos. They need to be surrounded by adults in school who provide a better example and a stronger lead. If they are faced with the same anger and frustration at school as they are at home, then they move from chaos to crisis every day. Some children follow people first; then they follow rules.

Schools that transform behaviour understand that without addressing adult behaviour they are laying systems and strategies on sinking sands. They don’t just discuss it, they agree it, model it and work on it relentlessly. There must be accountability for adults who struggle to control themselves or those who simply shout at all the children. What kind of culture are we growing if the model of adult behaviour is so poor? Surrounding children with angry adults and piles of punishment doesn’t work. It is time to move on. Time to create a climate that is driven by calm and consistent adult conduct.

After all, in the management of behaviour is culture that eats strategy for breakfast.

Online behaviour CPD

To learn more about achieving calm, consistent adult behaviour, along with the other Pillars of Pivotal Practice, check out Pivotal’s suite of online, self-paced behaviour management courses.

Paul Dix is a behaviour specialist, trainer and founder of Pivotal Education. He is also author of When the Adults Change Everything Changes.

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