Stephen discusses how to promote good behaviour as a supply teacher.
Good behaviour is something all teachers seek to promote in the classroom but it is seldom a given when you are teaching on supply.
When you take a class for the first time it’s usually a matter of assessing the behaviour and setting out your expectations to the class. Having worked in some particularly challenging secondary schools I have found that my expectations of behaviour have been radically different to the accepted norm in many cases. Attempting to raise the standard of behaviour in such schools is just making life more difficult for yourself and you are most likely to exacerbate the bad behaviour by being too strict.
I recall one particularly challenging school I visited and at lunchtime I was told that my afternoon class was going to be very difficult. I was advised by the regular teachers to use the stock of Haribo to reward good behaviour which I thought was tantamount to a bribe but figured if that is what the students expected I should follow suit. I tried handing out the Haribo but needless to say the behaviour wasn’t fantastic. Perhaps if I hadn’t handed out the sweets behaviour would have been worse.
Even in schools with higher standards of behaviour there are going to be students who are less compliant and more likely to test the resolve of the supply teacher. So what is the answer?
Knowledge is power and knowing the behaviour policy of the school is the key to managing the classroom. The variety of rewards across different schools is considerable and unfortunately these are not always available to supply teachers. I have been fortunate on long term supply to have been given an allocation of Vivos to reward students each week for their effort, attainment and behaviour. For those unfamiliar with Vivos (www.vivomiles.com) they are a form of electronic merit that students can convert into rewards ranging from stationery to iPods or for the more philanthropic students they can donate to charity. I found that these kinds of rewards were much more effective with years 7, 8 and 9. This was partly down to the fact that the bigger rewards required students to save up and by years 10 and 11 most students realised that the bigger rewards were out of their reach.
Another variation on this theme is Carrot rewards (www.mystickers.co.uk) which requires the teacher to issue an actual sticker to a student which has a code on it for the student to enter online. Interestingly whilst doing research for this blog I discovered that a school I occasionally work for on supply now uses Carrot rewards. Next time I am working there I shall have to ask for some to give out in my lessons!
Regular stickers and stamps with “Well done!” or such like can often be found adorning teachers desks and if I find them then I will use them at my discretion. Similarly a note in a student’s planner can be a simple way of rewarding good behaviour and surprisingly enough can be more appreciated by the student as a way of indirectly letting the parent or guarding know they have done well. Similarly some schools have specific postcards to be sent home to notify parents of good work or behaviour and I have found some students are particularly motivated by these. I have found that whilst younger students (years 7, 8 and 9) respond better to house points, merits and suchlike years 10 and 11 are motivated by a comment in a planner or postcard home. My experience tells me that whatever rewards that are available are worth trying as, like good manners, they don’t cost you anything and by being generous with them you are making the classroom a better place.
Like anything else it pays to ask around and find out which particular reward scheme is used in your school and if you possibly can make use of them. Failing that praise the students who behave appropriately and hopefully others will take note and follow suit.
Would you like to share your strategies for promoting good behaviour as a supply teacher? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can share.