You’ve got one of those classes.

You start to dread period 3 on a Tuesday (or most mornings if you’re in Primary/Early Years…)

You feel like you’re losing control of yourself and any supposed learning that should be going on…

All is not lost. I promise, I’ve been there.

In my trainee and NQT years I had a couple of classes that I thought I had lost forever, if someone would have told me (in fact they probably did, I just didn’t want to hear it) that they were the ones that would teach me the most about managing and supporting challenging behaviour successfully, I may have thrown my Teaching Standards evidence in their face.

But I got through it. Here are some of the things that worked.

1. Take a step back.

For you – When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep/had a good meal/did something fun? – Seriously, you cannot be an inspirational teacher to the next generation running on empty. Schedule some time in the diary- if you’re an over-worker get some accountability; get someone else to put it in your diary and hold you to it.

For the class – When we talk about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ classes we assign around 30 human beings the same personality trait. In fact, there are 30 individual relationships there between you and them, plus all the crossovers. Start to see them as individuals, is it really 100% of them that are being disruptive…?

2. List 10 positive things that have happened with this class.

Now actually do it.

No, really – one of them did some good work once? 5 now know how to use apostrophes/how to tie their shoelace/ask where the shop is in Spanish – when they didn’t before? For some with challenging homelives, mental health issues or other social issues, just being in school and in your lesson can be a big achievement for them. Write all of this down!

To change the culture of a classroom, you need to know that it is possible first, and this begins by a re-focus. If you think something is going to be bad, 9/10 it is – the power of thought. That needs to change before your behaviour or the pupils’ does.

Now, do the pupils know that you see them positively? – do they get positive postcards home? Smiley faces on the board? Positive phone calls? – these are all more-powerful-than-they-sound actions that help to shift the relationships you have with the pupils and their attitudes to being in your classroom.

3. What are your non-negotiable routines?

At the start of the year you most likely set out with some solid routines intentions in place: silence during the register, books collected by a book monitor, no talking over others… whatever they were, have you stuck to the?

If you haven’t stuck to all of them (or maybe it feels like none) – don’t worry! You are forgiven, it happens, sometimes things slip. Bleugh, move on!

Choose around 3 things that you will re-introduce to become your absolute non-negotiables. Communicate this with your pupils, along with the consequences. Get support from Line Managers or colleagues. Routines and boundaries make pupils feel safe (especially ones with SEMH – Social, Emotional and Mental Health issues). They may involve a bit of Tough Love to (re)-establish, but in the long run it is what will enable you to focus on the learning.

For more detailed information about this area have a look at my *Free Video Series: How to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom.*

Seating plan. Alongside routines is a seating plan – did you have one, but over the weeks it seems to have become a bit woolly? Or does it need re-doing now you know the pupils better? Even if you do group work and project-based learning, where do they sit for the register/when you’re delivering instructions?

Seating plans also segue into the final point – how well do you know these students as individuals? Where is the best place for each of the to be for their learning (not their disruption) to be the behaviour? Remember, behaviour is a way of communicating – what is the disruption communicating? This work is too hard/easy/I can’t read the board…?

4. Build Relationships

The pupils are individuals. Knowing what works for them, how the work may need to be adapted for them and how to engage them, all come before – and eventually make redundant – ‘behaviour strategies.’

For more in depth approaches on exactly how to build relationships take a look at these blogs:

What can Mark on the 12.46 teach us about building relationships?

Teaching students with Emotional Behavioural Difficulties

When Learning Stops

Or sign up for the *Free Video Series: How to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom.*


Did you put that self-care in at number one?!

And what if it’s still not working after all that?

Each pupil, class, teacher, school, situation is different – (un)fortunately there is no ‘One-Great-Textbook-That-Works-Every-Time’ in teaching – you are not alone.

If you want more specific support for you and your pupils book a one-to-one Beyond Behaviour session with me.

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