How to be a firm teacher: classroom tips

Whether you are just starting out as a teacher or have been in the classroom for years, understanding how to be firm with your pupils is essential.

Behaviour management is a massive part of any teacher's role. A disruptive classroom makes it incredibly difficult to deliver your lessons. If pupils won't listen, cause disturbances, are disrespectful to the teacher or their classmates or do their best to distract others, this can get in the way of your teaching and pupil's progress. By being firm and clear around your expectations of your pupils and how they conduct themselves in the classroom, you can remain in control and deliver your lessons more effectively.

Being a firm teacher - our top behaviour management tips

State your expectations from the start

Having clear rules about what you expect from students regarding their work ethic and how they act is essential. If you state this from the very start, everyone will be clear about how to behave and learn when in a classroom environment. Explain to your pupils what will not be tolerated. This can be a collaborative piece of work. Start the year by discussing what you think makes a good learning environment, what behaviour is positive, and how they would like to be treated. Create agreed-on classroom rules and stick them on a wall where everyone can see them. Every pupil should feel safe and heard and have the right to learn, and you, the teacher, should have the right to teach your lesson. Make sure you are thorough and transparent so that there is no room for misunderstandings about what the rules are and what would constitute breaking those rules.

State the consequences if rules are broken

It's all well and good having clear rules, but what happens if the rules are broken? By making pupils understand the consequences of rule-breaking, you are being completely transparent about what they will have to face if they choose not to behave in the way you've asked them to. Walk your students through what will happen if they decide to misbehave. There may be several stages starting with a verbal warning through to parent contact. Consequences need to be enough of a deterrent to make pupils think twice before breaking the rules but should be appropriate and commensurate to whatever rule was broken.

Ensure you always follow through

Once rules and consequences have been clearly defined, you must vow to follow through. Follow through has to happen immediately and consistently. If you don't follow through, your pupils will assume you don't mean anything you say, which is a sure-fire way to lose control of the class quickly. If you don't follow through or do so inconsistently, this will build mistrust, and you could be accused of favouritism if the rules and ramifications for breaking them aren't the same for everyone.

Create routines

A classroom routine will help keep everyone in line and demonstrate that you are a firm teacher. Routines create efficiency and reduce the instances of disruption and misbehaviour. Help establish practices for when pupils arrive in the classroom, how they ask questions, how they leave at the end of the lesson. Routines help everyone understand what is expected of them and make your classes run smoothly and effectively.

Stay calm, collected

Being firm doesn't mean you have to be an overly strict, shouty, army commander type of teacher. You can still smile, have fun with your pupils and teach in a way that engages them, allows them to debate and voice their opinions, and so on. You want to build a rapport with your pupils and bring out the best in them, and keeping a level head, never losing your cool, and being personable and friendly will help to do that and create a positive and effective learning environment for everyone.

Always maintain the student/teacher relationships

While it is important to build a rapport with pupils and make learning fun for them, it is crucial to always bear in mind how you must conduct yourself around pupils. You are in a position of great responsibility, and being transparent and fair is incredibly important if you want to gain your pupil's trust and respect. While you can laugh and joke with your pupils and show them your personality, you are their teacher first and foremost, and being led by that will help ensure you remain firm and consistent, which is something your pupils will appreciate.

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