Don't Just Stand There, Yell Something!


"Don't Just Stand There, Yell Something!" - Extracts


When I inform other teachers, friends or acquaintances that I work as a Behaviour Management Support Teacher, the responses are generally a variation of the following:

a) "I wouldn't want your job";
b) "You must get to see some pretty naughty kids"; and/or
c) "My own kids are enough for me"

My responses to their responses are then usually along the lines of:

a) "I find it challenging and with a lot of variety"
b) "I probably see more naughty teachers than naughty kids"; and/or
c) "The students I work with don't misbehave for me"

The problem is that school communities, and society at large, tend to have a misguided and negative view of behaviour management. The thinking is that only inappropriate behaviour has to be managed or addressed, and therefore behaviour management is about the 'bad kids'. Not only that, there is also a popular belief that if a child misbehaves in one setting, the misbehaviour is a personal defect that will emerge in all settings, and so a label is attached to the child. "Look out, he's a naughty boy, he'll give you trouble." Teacher networks being what they are in staffrooms and across school campuses, there is rarely such a thing as a 'clean slate' when a student changes year levels or schools. The labels are quickly passed on.
And what about the labels society, especially the school community, attaches to students with inappropriate behaviours? Naughty, bad, disruptive, lazy, troublemaker, problem child, little sh*t and a myriad of other derogatory terms. To be told that a 'naughty child' is going to be in one's class this year is enough to send many teachers into depression or panic, and for good reason. How do such labels help the teacher to proactively support the child? The teacher adopts a negative attitude towards the child from the beginning, and looks for the misbehaviour to emerge, in a classic example of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
What is needed is a complete reframing of the way we view behaviour, a reframing that encourages refreshed attitude and affirmative action rather than negative thought. And a natural place to start in this reframing process is with the labels attached to students with behaviour problems.......


In a class of 28 students, approximately how many students would you have to manage with regard to behaviour? When I have posed this question at teacher workshops in the past, typical answers have included 6, 5, 4, 10, 2 and so on. And my response to those teachers has been "Then what do you do with the rest of the class?". The fact is, in a class of 28 students, we should be managing the behaviour of all 28 students. Behaviour management is not just about handling "naughty kids". It's about teachers influencing others to behave in socially-appropriate ways. If students are displaying inappropriate behaviours, we try to influence them to adopt more appropriate behaviours, and if students are displaying appropriate behaviours, we should try to influence them to repeat those same behaviours.
There are problems for teachers who focus only on the negative behaviours.
Problem 1 - there is a negative impact on the teacher. If they focus only on the 5 or so students, spending most of their management time using a language of correction, they can begin to feel negative about the class in general and their own teaching performance.
Problem 2 - there can be a negative impact on the classroom environment, particularly if a negative emotive element is added to the teacher's language of correction. When teachers start to get angry or frustrated, and translate this into their interactions with the misbehaving students ("John, I'm sick and tired of your lazy attitude", "John! GET ON WITH IT NOW!"), it is not just the misbehaving student who is exposed to this. The on-task students within earshot also hear. They are exposed to 'sidestream negativity', which can impact on their own mood and attitude, particularly over time.
Problem 3 - some of the on-task students, on observing that the students with inappropriate behaviours get the majority of the teacher's attention, may decide that they wish to tap into this attention themselves, and therefore copy inappropriate behaviours to do so. The 80% of 'behavers' are lured towards the 20% of 'misbehavers'. This is particularly problematic in the primary school setting.

For the sake of their own well-being, for the preservation of the supportive learning environment, and for the promotion of appropriate behaviour, teachers need to reverse the negative feedback loop, and instead focus on positive behaviours. How? The following are a few suggestions.........


© 2007 Don't Just Stand There, Yell Something!