Five Behaviour Myths that Could Be Affecting Your Classroom Culture

9 July 2021
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

As the debate continues over whether Covid has worsened behaviour in the classroom or not, we've consulted our in house trainers (global professional instructors) to uncover the top five myths that can hinder a positive classroom culture.

Maria Taylor, CPI’s International Director of Training for Education said: “There is no evidence to suggest that Covid has actually made classroom behaviour worse, as a lot of people may have expected.

“However, education is still shrouded in behaviour myths so we asked our team of education experts, all of whom are former teachers, to see what other myths they’ve encountered that they’d like to challenge.”

Top 5 behaviour myths

1 – Don’t smile until Christmas

While this is a metaphor for beginning the new term by establishing clear boundaries and expectations, you should be able to smile as often as appropriate and possible.

Building genuine connections with your learners is essential to developing a healthy rapport which in turn supports a relational approach. Your learners need to know you value their presence and if you are too detached, they will question if you care at all.  It will be the sense of certainty you provide and your respectful approach that will establish necessary boundaries.

2 - Children just need to do as they are told

Thinking this doesn’t help anyone. Children and young people are not mini adults, they are ‘adults in the making’. We need to make sure we continue to model, teach and recognise key learning behaviours as they develop their own self-regulatory skills.  Behaviour is learned; being transparent with boundaries, setting clear routines and supporting positive behavioural habits are essential elements when communicating expectations.

3 – There will always be some who just won’t behave and don’t want to learn

We are born curious, wanting to seek and consume information about the world around us. Is it that they don’t want to learn or don’t want to behave, or have the adults not yet unpicked the origins of this perceived apathy?
Just because what you’ve tried hasn’t worked yet it doesn’t mean nothing will work. There may be several factors influencing a learner’s behaviour and so it can be difficult to quantify and measure strategies.                 The reality is human beings are complex, trauma is complex and life experience is complex, so we need to focus on what is within our power to change. By consistently giving our first attention to the behaviour that we want will allow us to be very clear about our expectations. You will get more of the behaviour you notice the most.

4 – If I adapt my responses depending on a learner’s needs, other learners will see it as unfair/special treatment

Differentiating for behaviour is not about letting some learners sidestep expectations because you’re more aware of the difficulties they face at home. It’s about keeping your eye on the culture you want everyone to be a part of and deciding on the best route for different learners to get there. Children and young people show notable sophistication in their understanding of fairness. Talk overtly to your learners about the need for varied responses and levels of support. Talk frequently about fairness, equality and equity and  invite learners, when appropriate, to question decisions as opposed to allowing their frustrations over what may appear to be special treatment to fester.

5 - Punishment teaches young people how to behave

It takes time, effort, persistence to turn things around as well as consistent commitment across the staff team. The relationships you hold with your learners need to be robust as they can be fragile at times. The delivery of punitive sanctions will likely chip away at the core of these relationships. It is far more effective to invest time and energy into supporting young people to identify their inappropriate behaviour choices and help them learn to improve their decision making. It is essential that a leadership team fully supports this ambition and you are not left as a lone voice championing a cause against the tide.

For more advice and help around creating a calm, positive classroom culture, go to our Classroom Culture programme page.

When teachers ask for advice on behaviour management it's often suggested that they give out stickers or use reward charts. Initially you may see an improvement in behaviour but these strategies are not a long term solution.

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