It's a new year and a fresh term is just around the corner, so it’s a good idea to spend a little time reviewing how your classroom procedures are going, especially if you are new to the profession. The Autumn term is notorious for being long and potentially challenging, and not just for those starting out as lecturers. The stamina required to get through to the end of term can leave lecturers (and students!) feeling exhausted, but casting an eye back over what worked and what needs tweaking will always be time well spent. A new term can be as much of a fresh start for you as it is for your students. These ideas may help:
- Is there any behaviour happening in your classroom that you’d rather not have to deal with? Aim to be very specific about identifying what it is and when it occurs as this will make seeking solutions easier. Is there anyone in your college who doesn’t seem to experience this particular issue? If so, they would be a good person to consult about how you might tackle the issue in your room.
- Reflecting on the language you typically use in your classroom is worthwhile. What phrases work really well and get quick results? Are there any phrases you routinely use that make you feel like a broken record? What might work better?
- Now is a good time to talk to your class as a whole or to key individuals about your perceptions of how smoothly your classroom rules, routines and expectations are going. Do you have one rule or expectation above all others? Can they tell you without hesitation what that rule is?
- Remember that the Christmas break may have been challenging for many students. They would have experienced a shift in routine and a significant adjustment in the demands made of them. Similarly, the return to college marks another shift that is challenging for some to deal with. If behaviour temporarily takes a hit, get back to basics with a reiteration of your expectations. It’s not a backward step, and it will help all to refocus on how life needs to flow in your classroom. It’s also important to avoid talk of what gifts students may have received for Christmas.
- Pay particular attention to transitions through each day - are there any moments when there’s a risk behaviour can disintegrate? Aim to analyse why that might happen. Reiterate expectations and work closely with any students who are struggling to meet them.
- Make sure students know they can talk to you about any concerns they have on their return to college. If you haven’t already, put up the contact details for helplines in visible places around your room so that students can access help if necessary. For example, Childline is on 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk
- Revisit the core values that you work to as a lecturer. Make sure that students are clear about the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with regard to combatting bullying, racism and discrimination, regardless of what they may see happening in their wider communities.
- Older children may need some reminders about healthy choices – getting enough sleep, not having too much screen time, getting back into good studying habits and so on.
- Aim to build more silence into every lesson/session. That’s not to say there should be silence all the time, but periods of silence can be tremendous stress relievers for students and lecturers alike, and may even help students to deepen their thinking about whatever it is they are doing.
- Refocus on manners and kindness in your room. There is no doubt this helps to create an atmosphere of cooperation.
- Consider ways of developing the relationship between college and home. Can you call a student’s home with good news about behaviour? Take those opportunities whenever you can.
- No matter what some may claim, every lecturer has to deal with challenging behaviour to a greater or lesser degree. Despite how isolating it can feel, especially if requests for help are not always met constructively, you are not alone.
If you are experiencing excessive stress or anxiety about starting the new term, contact the Education Support Partnership, which offers telephone support 24/7 on 08000 562 561.
Good luck for 2020!
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.