How to manage a demanding class

If you are new to teaching, or have just moved jobs, behaviour management can be difficult. Without any relationships with staff or students it can be a lonely and frustrating few months. Regardless of how many people tell you that challenging behaviour is not personal it still feels very personal. You have probably spent a great deal of time creating fantastically engaging lessons and are wondering why no one seems interested in them. Students who have never met you treat you with disdain. Before you reach for the bottle take a step back.

It is difficult to judge if you are doing the right things when all the feedback you get from students is negative. You need a plan. A plan that you can use to measure you own success. Spend some time on it. Map out your plan for the basics. How you are going to:

  • Teach behaviour
  • Manage your emotions when your authority is challenged
  • Keep your focus on the students who are doing the right thing
  • Deal with those who refuse or disrupt or challenge
  • Manage violent and aggressive behaviour
  • Build positive realtionships with students who don’t want to know you

Decide where you want to be by the end of term. Be realistic. In challenging circumstances it can take up to a year to establish yourself. Write down the stepping stones to your goal and use this map to judge yourself against at the end of term. With an hour of planning on behaviour you can get some perspective on where you are and where you are going. (We tell students to do this all the time. How often do we do it for ourselves?)

As you launch back into the firefight hang onto the thought that this baptism of fire is normal, predictable and temporary. You are being tested. Tested to see if you are going to stay, to see if you are going to freak to see if you will break. Get your poker face on, pretend you are confident and keep showing all students unrelenting respect. When everything looks impossible just remember that all those experienced faces in the staffroom went through the same thing. They may not like to admit it, they may like to conceal it, but in all of us lie the scars of that first term.