The route to exceptional behaviour is not paved with a toolkit of strategies, a bag of classroom management tricks or magic dust from senior leaders. It lies in the behaviour of every adult and their ability to create a culture of certainty.
While some schools create ridiculous and vast lists of rules and codes of conduct for the children to abide by, others concentrate on what really matters - consistent adult behaviour.
Choose one issue, one behaviour that you need to change. One behaviour that has been ignored and become acceptable by default. Agree with all adults that this behaviour will be a focus for the next 30 days. Everyone will commit to persistently tacking this behaviour, to give time to the single issue to stop ignoring and intervene.
This focus must be shared by all adults who interact with the children; from the principal to the office staff, from the caretaker to the teaching assistants, from guest teachers to established ‘old hands'. Mark the day that you will begin the challenge. Tell the children, count down the days and make sure everyone is prepared for the changes that are about to take place.
Committing to make a change in 50 days allows everyone to feel that they are an essential part of a tight consistent team. It is the same consistency that comes from great parenting, where you can't put a cigarette paper between the approach of mum and dad. This is not ‘zero tolerance', where children are constantly berated by angry adults. This is pure consistency, gentle reminders, persistent nagging, everyone standing together.
Often things get worse before they get better, so be prepared to work hard at the 30 day challenge. There will be adults who try and give up, and there will be children and parents who try to resist the tightening consistency. Stay firm to your purpose and at the end of the 30 days not only will the behaviour have been eradicated but you will have proved to everyone that things can and will change.
While your colleagues are energised by the challenge you can begin to agree and shape essential aspects of adult behaviour. What three behaviours do you expect all adults to deliberately model every day? What routines do you expect to see middle and senior leaders engaged in to support all staff? How can you refine adult behaviour to have the most impact on the children?
The children who cause most difficulty in schools are often children with inconsistent home lives, children who have stopped trusting adults (with good reason), children who live with chaos. They need to be surrounded by adults in school who provide a better example and a stronger lead. If they are faced with the same anger and frustration at school as at home then they move from chaos to crisis every day. Some children follow people first then they follow rules.
Schools that transform behaviour understand that without addressing adult behaviour they are laying systems and strategies on sinking sands. They don't just discuss it they agree it, model it and work on it relentlessly. For adults who struggle to control themselves or those who simply shout at children there must be accountability. What kind of culture are we growing if the model of adult behaviour is so poor?
Surrounding children with angry adults and piles of punishment doesn't work. It is time to move on. Time to create a climate that is driven by calm and consistent adult conduct.
After all, in the management of behaviour it is culture that eats strategy for breakfast.
What behaviour issue would you like to change in your school?
Are all staff and parents aware of your school's behaviour management focus?
As a school leader, what three behaviours do you expect all adults to deliberately model every day?