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Book Review: The Behaviour Guru

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This is essential reading for any and all teachers – supply or permanent – and cover supervisors; it starts off with some general observations on human behaviour and how this can be reflected in the classroom before moving on to specific examples of classroom management. This reads more like a ‘Question and Answer’ forum (check out Tom Bennett’s behaviour forum on the TES) than an advisory book, which is really helpful as you can look up some quick real-life examples that mirror, or are at least similar to, something you may have already experienced and take the advice given on that page.

Bennett’s experience, understanding, and wit give this book a genuine feeling of humanity, rather than offering general, stock advice that may not be applicable to individual scenarios or educators. My recommendation would be to keep this booked tucked away to refer to throughout your career, dipping in and out of the real-world examples to gain the understanding you need in real time rather than drudging through the whole 200 pages and forgetting a lot of the lessons this book offers.

At a glance, this book offers the following ideas:

  • Your body language in the classroom is integral to the success of your lessons – move around the room, be expressive with your hands and maintain good, strong posture to exude authority without even opening your mouth.

  • This leads on to being conscious and present in the room; keep your attention focused on the students and the classroom, so if there is any low-level misbehaviour like chatting and unwarranted moving around, you’re aware right away and can stop it early.

  • Keep your voice to just above conversational levels – you might be used to your own volume but there may well be students at the back of the class who can’t hear you; also, having a louder voice automatically adds to your air of authority in the room.

  • Expect to be heard – once you find your most comfortable, slightly raised voice level, be confident in its effectiveness and expect all students in any class to be able to hear you.

  • Keep your cool and remain composed always; no matter the circumstances you are the professional adult in the room and you are in control at all times.

  • Positive reinforcement can be more useful than negative reinforcement, so praise difficult students on what they do well, rather than dwelling on what they do wrong all the time.

  • Behaviour changes need ongoing support and assessment, so leave notes for teachers highlighting who has misbehaved and how they have done so. If and when you return to the school, having had your punishments followed up previously will give you instant authority.

  • Acknowledge that some classes just don’t and won’t go to plan, so don’t get disheartened and annoyed if this does happen, everyone has bad days and this includes the students. If it is one of those days consider why and adapt the lesson to be more active, challenging and engaging with varied tasks and possibly seating arrangements.

  • Boisterous boys can derail a lesson, but they’re typically competitive and you can use this to your advantage by adjusting lesson plans to get them competing on-task.

  • Punctuality is key – always be early to your class when possible. If it’s a late morning call or if you’re stretched all over the school you should do your best to get to class as early as possible to greet students and let them into class only when you decide.

  • Assuming you do get to class before the students, set standards before they go inside – check uniform, for example, and be firm with your expectations right away.

  • First impressions are super important! We all make our minds up about people when we first meet them and students are no different, that’s why body language and movement are so key. Be confident, be assured and be authoritative right from the word ‘go’.

  • Think like a boss, be the boss – pace your punishments (in line with the school’s behaviour policy) by not rushing to the most extreme reprimand in your power right away and raise your voice at the right time, don’t stay at one level or your loudest will become background noise.

  • If a student insults you directly, including your teaching ability, ignore it – students will always try to provoke a reaction to disrupt the class. Again, remain composed in your response; your job is to teach students, not engage them in verbal battles. 

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