The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Simon Scarborough

Establishing yourself in a new school: my top tips for behaviour management

Starting in a new school can be a daunting process even for an experienced teacher. Simon Scarborough shares his advice for building meaningful relationships with students and staff.

For those teachers who have moved from a school where they became an established member of staff, it can come as quite a shock to feel like a newly qualified teacher again. Here are five top tips for asserting authority through positive behaviour management, understanding pupils’ needs and contexts, and building trusting relationships in a new setting.

1. Familiarise yourself with the behaviour policy

It is paramount that you fully understand the behaviour policy, which should be a core aspect of any school induction.

Resist jumping straight to the sanctions section, instead taking time to see how students should be praised and rewarded for their behaviour. This will enable you to build positive relationships with your students. A relentless focus on catching students being good is a great alternative to issuing sanctions when setting high expectations, helping set the tone for your lessons and establish a positive learning environment.

Don't take situations personally, even if you are on the receiving end of insults or foul language

Word soon started to spread among a class of mine where students started to get emails home about their positive work ethic in lessons. When students asked why they had not received any, I referred back to my expectations of behaviour, effort and work output, reassuring them that they had a chance every lesson to get that email sent home.

Watching established staff manage students and follow the school’s systems can be a really useful tool. Just remember that they have had the opportunity to build up those all-important relationships, so don’t expect all the students to replicate their behaviour with you straight away.

Of course, you also need to know how to sanction students in case your positivity doesn’t have the desired effect.

2. Familiarise yourself with your school’s systems

There are likely to be a range of sources of information on the school network or information management systems about students, particularly those in vulnerable groups. Your job is to ensure you find out how to access the right information about the students as quickly as possible.

Every school has a different system for sharing information, such as learners with SEND or EAL, looked-after children or pupil premium students. Different staff at different schools will be responsible for the maintenance of these systems and the sharing of updated information, from senior leaders to admin support, data managers to pastoral managers.

Find out who can help and ask for it!

3. Get to know your students

You can read a vast range of books, articles and blog posts (including this one!) to learn about amazing behaviour management strategies that will have every student hanging on your every word. However, unless you clearly understand the additional needs of your students and how these impact on their ability to learn, you will not know which strategies will have the desired impact for which children.

A good starting point is the one-page profile that all students with SEND have, which many schools extend to other vulnerable groups. Any formal record of student voice (often a part of the one-page profile) is really useful, particularly if you make it evident to the students that you have taken time to read about them as a person.

4. Become part of the support team

Get to know key staff including key workers, tutors, heads of house/year, the SENCO and pastoral support managers. They will be delighted that you have approached them seeking help in understanding how best to support their students, and are often more than willing to help you build those relationships.

It can be particularly powerful when you say to a child that you have spoken to a specific member of staff about what might help them learn in lessons. Having a conversation with the student alongside one of their trusted adults will support the notion that you want to support them in school.

5. Meeting the students

Having crammed in all of this preparation work before meeting the students, your interactions will play a key role in how they respond.

Be prepared: the most vulnerable students will be the most wary of a new stranger in their lives and so will be most likely to struggle. Having a calm, consistent and compassionate approach will help you to build positive relationships. Even those students that are rarely in trouble may try it on with a new face, just to test the water.

Calm  students will respect that you remain calm, particularly when the going gets tough. Although you may feel that a situation is getting out of control, by remaining in control of your emotions, you remain in control of the situation. All children benefit from having calm adults around them, especially those that lack the ability to remain calm themselves.

Consistent – have the confidence to maintain your expectations and consistently use the behaviour policy (positive and negative). It may take some time for students to adapt from their previous teacher to your way of working; they will get used to it eventually, but not if you start to shift the goalposts lesson by lesson. Offering a fresh start each lesson and looking to separate the behaviour from the child will ensure that you are able to build the relationship.

Compassionate – high levels of compassion will help you to stay calm and consistent in your approach. The behaviours you witness are not your fault; the problems and challenges that children face in their lives are not caused by you. Don’t take situations personally, even if you are on the receiving end of insults or foul language. You always have the power to choose not to be offended and calmly follow the school systems.

6. Find time for the basics

There is so much to get your head round when starting a new post and so many things that you will be required to do before you start to teach. Basic tasks such as logging onto the computer network, remembering the timings of the school day and even finding your timetabled classroom can be a challenge!

However, in order to build meaningful relationships, particularly with the most vulnerable students, it is vital that time is somehow found to get to know the students.

7. Teach brilliant lessons!

Having thought strategically about getting to know the cohorts you are teaching, we should remember the importance of preparing excellent learning experiences for our students. No child misbehaves watching a two-hour film in the cinema because they are captivated by the experience.

We should be able to captivate our students with the subjects we love for an average lesson length.  The better the lesson, the better the behaviour.

This mindset requires you to admit that student behaviour is more dependent on you, the teacher, rather than blaming the children themselves.

Further reading


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