Every classroom I've been in has rules. Some are phrased as a positive statement "we are good listeners", others are more clear cut, "Don't rock on your chair". Teachers view these are the backbone of the classroom. Their proverbial rod of iron, so to speak. In one class I went into, they had a full display board of rules. 15 of them. In my opinion that's way too many.
As an NQT my main focus was to be a good teacher by ensuring my teaching happened. I needed rules that allow me to teach the lessons I'd planned. Nothing unusual about that. But the interesting thing was, one year, I didn't put up my class rules display (I had 7 rules on my display and I think it's probably lurking on TES resources or primary resources or somewhere) and the strangest thing happened... The class did as I expected them to do without the big list of things they had to do.
Instead, I invested in them. I created private spaces in class that they owned, that I wouldn't go in unless I asked them. These were nothing more than a tray with their name on, but the simple act of explicitly making it private meant there was significantly more value attached to it than a normal tray would have. The other staff also respected these spaces and as a result, they had ownership (physically) of the classroom and also the beginnings of respecting a shared space.
So what has this got to do with rules? Lots actually. It prompted me to look at the need for rules. Why did I no longer need to refer to a definitive list of rules? What had changed? What was I doing that was different? The answer was nothing had changed. I have always set my stall out and stuck to my word.
It is actually the act of being consistent in your approach, coupled with clear expectations that ensures good behaviour management. I know this all seems common sense and it's nothing new to those of us in the job, but here are my tips for effective classroom management.
1. Be consistent: if you say you don't accept that type of behaviour, there had to be a consequence for the offender's actions. Don't move from your position, but also, don't put yourself in untenable situations. Similarly, praise will be valued, not when it is lavished upon them, but when it is hard earned. Praise the small things, they are more important. The big things will follow, I promise.
2. Care: obvious, right? But vitally important. If you care, they care back; it's human nature.
3. Embody the values that you want them to value. If you ask them to say please and thank you, do it too. To everyone, without exception. They will copy you.
4. Create a class identity. Don't say 'my' class, say 'our' class. Talk openly about the classroom being their space as well. Perhaps create a class parody of a popular song, or a poem that includes them in it.
5. Value their work. Display it. Get parents in to see it. Photocopy it and send it home.
6. Don't tell them lies. Even when you want to.
These are some of the things I do. I now have two rules in my classroom. Always try your best & be honest in all things.
That applies to everyone, teachers and pupils alike.