How much does your behaviour policy weigh?
Most school behaviour policies are a collection of confused and rehashed ideas that barely worked for yesterday’s children, let alone today's.
There are 1000 rules that nobody can recall, punishment tariffs that absorb more time from adults than children, and bureaucratic processes so long-winded that nobody has ever read them. Teachers dream of consistency then create policies that shatter it in a heartbeat.
Do the children know the rules of your school? Can they recite them without thinking? Or, do they reply to the question in misty-eyed wonder ‘Errrr ... is it hats? Mobile phones? Uniform?’
Take a tour of your school and collect all the posters that show rules from every space, all the signs which highlight the expectations of learners. Stand back and look at them. Count them. Now test your staff. How many do they actually know? Is it any wonder that there is no true consistency?
Along with imaginary rules that are designed to cover every eventuality, behaviour policies often contain punishment tariffs that demand a 'tick box' mentality. Many policies encourage adults to be process monkeys, stepping naughty children through the system to the cliff edge of exclusion.
Behaviour management is not a job for a process monkey. Great schools develop problem solvers who use a policy as a daily reference, not as a stick to beat the sin out of children.
Great policies embed basic expectations with absolute certainty while allowing professionals the autonomy to meet the needs of individuals. A good policy needs the stability of basic consistencies coupled with the flexibility to differentiate according to need.
Most schools have a token economy at the heart of their behaviour policy, almost by default. Yet, even with the best of intentions, points, stamps and tokens corrupt even the finest system. Why? Because no two adults can ever give points equally. For one teacher points are sprayed liberally around the classroom in genuine adoration of exceptional behaviour, for another a single merit is kept in a locked dungeon guarded by an evil troll for the chosen one who may never come.
Token economies build inconsistency into daily practice. They seed resentment between teachers, parents and learners. They reward the most visible children and ignore the grey children, the ones who come every day, are well mannered, polite and diligent. The ones who watch in amazement as the most badly behaved end up with the most points.
Throw out the token economy. It is corrupting your culture and making a game out of behaviour. Replace it with a new expectation: Over and above.
Acknowledge behaviour that meets minimum expectations but only praise that which is over and above. Refocus on pride and positive communication with the home. Ask all adults to praise those who go over and above, send two positive notes home a week and make one positive call. Start with those who deserve it most, not those who have decided to behave for 20 minutes to get a reward.
Let’s simplify policy to promote the greatest consistency in practice.
Ensure that rules are relentlessly reinforced, pursued positively by all adults, referred to in every conversation about behaviour and emphasised in every ripple of school life. Use a single A4 sheet as a daily aide with simple agreements on adult behaviour, positive recognition and consistent steps.
Focus on simple ways to recognise outstanding behaviour, simple scripts for intervening when a student exhibits poor behaviour, and simple ways to begin restorative conversations.
Are all staff and parents aware of your school's behaviour policy?
Are there ways that you can simplify it?
Think about your classroom. Do you operate a points or token system? Do you reward students for meeting minimum expectations?