Behaviour management

Read below to find out how you can use 8ways for behaviour management.

Here's how Lightning Ridge Central work with symbol/image to teach their school rules:


Elders were consulted to develop these meaningful symbols. The turtle was chosen as it is the totemic animal for Yuwaalaraay people. Each section on his back carries a symbol for each of the 5 school rules. "Quality Work" is represented by a bowerbird's display, because they work so hard on these and they have to be perfect. "Right place right time" is shown by a meeting symbol, to give that idea of protocol and Law in knowledge exchange. "Hands and feet to self" is shown with emu tracks - because they have no arms, and in conflict they have to either use their heads or move away, or both. "Respect" is represented by an owl's eyes and beak - a locally significant animal that even non-Aboriginal folklore recognises as wise and deserving respect. (Owls see everything...) For "follow instructions" there is a winding line indicating a journey, with an adult footprint on one side and small dots for children's footprints on the other. Children are following the adult, not being herded or chased - this is a significant point. They are following, but are still on their own side of the track, showing that balance between self-direction and social support.

Now, some ideas for Behaviour Management, from each of the 8 ways.

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Direct way is least effective. You have to go around, come at it from the side, approach the problem from different angle. Indirect way, redirect students with something that is unrelated to the problem. When kids get wild, that is not the time to lecture them about rules – do that later when the crisis has passed. The best way to redirect students is with curriculum. If the work is not connected and rigorous though, don’t bother – start them on a new activity that is. It has to be something they care about. If we look at “misbehaviour” from a new angle, we might see it differently, as a learning opportunity rather than a crime to be punished or an insult to be avenged. Students learn appropriate behaviour the same way they learn anything else. Thing is, are you teaching behaviour the same way you might teach long division? Like do you growl and punish a child when they get a sum wrong? No, that is an opportunity for learning and teaching, giving feedback and alternative strategies.

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This is the same in every culture. Least intrusive approaches work the best when applied with care and foresight. That’s your non-verbals – using small gestures, eye direction and facial expressions, cues that you have arranged previously with the class as coded messages. It’s proxemics too – positioning yourself meaningfully in the room, moving closer or further away to send a message. It’s there at that spirit level as well – where students pick up on your “vibe”. You need to search your feelings and clear your heart. If you deep down believe your students are no good and don’t belong there, they will pick up on that even if it isn’t at the front of your mind, and even if you do all the right things. Be self-reflexive – reflect on your baggage and unpack it. We all have colonial baggage that needs sorting out – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. A lot of this can be done explicitly as part of the curriculum, if you are challenging texts and the unspoken power relations that can be found between the lines. Critical thinking and problematic knowledge are about making hidden meanings explicit and defining your standpoint. This work neutralises that student attitude of, "They just picking on me because I'm black," and that teacher attitude of, "I'm colour blind, I don't care what your background is." It demands deeper thinking around those issues of ethnicity and cross-cultural relationships that can cause behaviour problems. Clearing these issues, clearing your heart, gives your non-verbal communication integrity and power.

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Community Links
Understand those different ideas of behaviour in the school and community, and teach about these explicitly. Really, you are teaching students to code-switch from one cultural context to another. Once again, they are learning and will make mistakes. Relationships are the key to making this learning about behaviour successful. Families must know you. You must know the families too, so you can build on the strengths of positive behaviours that can be found even in the most dysfunctional families. What cultural values can the community teach you that you build into your behaviour management? What support can community people give? Indirectly too, if your curriculum is related to community and student work is to be displayed or used in the community, then students are more easily redirected and reengaged through meaningful work.

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Story Sharing
Narrative therapy is a very effective form of counselling. You don’t have to be trained in this to work through hard situations with students by telling stories of people who have faced the same problems and overcome them. This is a good way to come at a BM problem from the side – telling a story where the parallels to your situation are obvious. No spotlighting then, no shame. In every situation you need to listen to the students’ stories too. And story is part of your relationship building as well – you have to bring your stories of relatedness alongside those of the community in which you are working, in order to find that common ground and establish your role and place as a person. This relationship and understanding is what gives you the moral authority to direct students in their behaviour. Without that, you only have positional authority that may mean nothing to your students. Your stories of who you are - these give your role as a leader some meaning.

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Land Links
One criticism of the schooling system in Indigenous education literature is that it is “placeless”. Classroom environments and programs are set up to be so separate from land and place that Aboriginal students feel acute distress at being severed from their local context and intimate connection to nature. This can cause students to act out. If you can design your learning space to include local environmental points of reference (i.e. with local natural shapes, materials, pictures and objects) then this will go a long way towards making the students feel welcome, calm and culturally safe. Outdoor learning is also helpful, although you need to make sure this is proper learning that supports your class work. If it is just an unstructured “take the black kids out bush” activity, then you might be disappointed with their reaction.

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This way is all about modelling. The same way you provide model texts for students in class, you also provide models of behaviour. This can be from within and outside the class, when you draw attention to good models of behaviour that people demonstrate. Break these down and make explicit what it takes to behave in this way, right down to how you take on attitudes and values. Model these yourself as well. As with all learning, you need to scaffold the students and support them towards self-directed learning. In this case, the skill set they need to learn is self-regulation.

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Symbols and Images
You can negotiate symbols with the students and community that represent class or school rules. Referring to these symbols is an excellent least-intrusive strategy for behaviour management. It is also a good memory aid to help students remember the rules. Students who are not strong on verbal and print learning styles will have a better chance of understanding teacher expectations this way. 

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Learning Maps
Symbolic maps, or graphs and charts can be used to track student success in learning appropriate behaviours for school contexts. These might use colour codes or different kinds of stamps/stickers to indicate different behaviours. Rather than just being rewarded arbitrarily with stickers and punished with timeouts, students are assisted with visual feedback on their progress. They can also back-track on this map to reflect on their progress and spot patterns or trends. For example, over a term you and your student might notice a spike in disruptions on every payday, and plan strategies to have in place on those days. This chart might become part of their personal learning plan.