Classroom management is an essential skill for making sure your pupils are on task, engage with lessons and learn well. But precisely what should we be saying - and doing - to make this happen in our classrooms?
Rob Plevin is an author and expert on the topic of classroom management. And in this episode, he explains the exact techniques he uses to create a productive learning environment, how to encourage more positive student behaviour AND build strong adult:pupil relationships in the classroom.
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Show notes / transcription
Rob Plevin 0:00
If you have a very negative attitude. You use a negative toolbox, it's obvious. You have a positive attitude and you'd be more inclined to use positive responses. And as we all know, the positive responses are the ones that work. When kids see that we are there to help them, to care for them, to help them succeed and really are interested in them and really value them as individuals. Then they will respond. If we're constantly on their backs, nagging them, threatening them, punishing them, at best, we get reluctant compliance, at worst, we get a brick through our car window.
Simon Currigan 0:29
Hi there. My name is Simon and welcome to episode 46 of school behaviour secrets. Some people say we're too emotionally immature to host a podcast on behaviour and kids social, emotional and mental health needs. And so those people I say, my dad could definitely beat your dad in a fight. I'm joined as ever by my more emotionally stable co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.
Emma Shackleton 1:30
Simon Currigan 1:32
Emma, I'm never want to break with tradition. So I'd like to start the podcast by asking you a question. According to a survey of 1000 parents a few months back, what are the key life skills most adults wish they'd been taught at school?
Emma Shackleton 1:47
Ah, okay, so the key life skills that the parents wish that they had been taught when they were at school? How about something about picking the right life partner? Maybe something about how hard parenting is? Probably they would have liked to have been taught more about managing their finances perhaps. What do those 1000 parents say?
Simon Currigan 2:09
Well, no one mentioned life partners. Maybe that was a little bit too close to home. But but the top answers were, how to save money, how to start a business, how to look after their own mental health, how to create a CV, interestingly, and how to use maths in real life.
Emma Shackleton 2:26
So why do you ask me this question?
Simon Currigan 2:28
Well this week we're lucky to have Rob Plevin on the podcast, and he's going to talk about the skills that are essential for good classroom management. That's how we as adults manage the whole class. And when I speak to many teachers, they say these are the exact skills they wish someone had taught them during Teacher Training and their early career, rather than having to pick them up through painful trial and error. So Rob is going to share some practical strategies for managing classroom behaviour. And he talks about a mindset shift that makes all the difference when it comes to managing behaviour, which is really interesting.
Emma Shackleton 3:02
Sounds good. But before we press play on that interview, I've got a small favour to ask, please share this episode with one or two colleagues that you know, so that kids in their classrooms can get the help that they need. All you've got to do is open your podcast app hits the share button, and send a direct link by email messenger or however you like to communicate with your friends. And now here's Simon's interview with Rob Plevin.
Simon Currigan 3:31
Today, I've got the pleasure of welcoming Rob Plevin to the show. Rob is an expert on classroom management and managing student behaviour. He's authored 11 highly respected books on classroom management, including Take control of the noisy class, which has over six hundred 5 star reviews on Amazon alone. He is a highly sought after speaker and has had the highest ranking on YouTube for the term classroom management. With over 3 million views of which I am not envious. Rob, welcome to the show.
Rob Plevin 4:02
Thank you very much, Simon. Great to be here.
Simon Currigan 4:04
I'm very excited to have you on the podcast and I'm going to tease that you've got something special to offer our listeners later in the interview. So keep listening to find out exactly what that is. But I'd like to start by asking you classroom management is essential for the smooth running of any classroom. Can you describe to us what classroom management actually is and why it's so important?
Rob Plevin 4:25
That's such a really good question. When I started teaching, I found classroom management really confusing. To me it was obviously managing the classroom but I was very much focused on what to do when it all went wrong. So to me classroom management was a remedial thing was about what do we do when it goes wrong? How do we sort behaviour out when the problems have already happened?
Simon Currigan 4:28
A reactive process?
Rob Plevin 4:34
Very much so. When the kids do this or that what do I do? And I think the real essence is preventing problems from happening in the first place. So it's about establishing and maintaining appropriate classroom environment, you know, tackling things when they're small or better before they even get started. So it's what we can do. You know, for example, a student comes to the door, at the start of the lesson, they've got the hood up, or they're a bit surly. Sometimes we might just let them in the classroom, but they're probably gonna, things are probably going to escalate from that point, unless we tackle those things early on. So I'd pull that child aside and just have a quiet word, you know, find out what's going on. Because we leave these things on checked, that's when they can start to grow and bother us later on. Yeah, so it's about prevention, really.
Simon Currigan 5:31
And of course, when you do that, you sort of send the message to the child that I'm interested in you as a person, you're not just a unit of work.
Rob Plevin 5:37
Exactly, exactly. And I think we'll probably come more into that as we go on that is fundamental, it probably the most important aspects of it, what message were given to these kids, you know, in terms of how we feel about them.
Simon Currigan 5:47
What's the impact when teachers get classroom management right? Then what's the benefit of investing time and effort in classroom management?
Rob Plevin 5:54
The benefit to the teacher, obviously, they can do their job, you know, can enjoy their job, they can be a little bit more creative, they can take those vital risks in the classroom that encourage great learning for the student about feeling valued, enjoying school being included, and perhaps succeeding where they otherwise might fail.
Simon Currigan 6:11
If you see one common classroom mistake being made in schools, what is it?
Rob Plevin 6:16
I think almost exclusively, certainly in my own experience, personally, and in classrooms, where I've been an observer, it's almost always focusing on what children are doing wrong, and then reacting to that after they've done something wrong. So it's the exact opposite to what I said at the start. That creates a very oppressive kind of atmosphere in the classroom, if we're always focused on things going wrong, we're always looking out for that student who's going to make a mistake or going to cause a problem, the kids pick up on that very negative way.
Simon Currigan 6:46
When we become reactive, I guess it's very stressful. And often teachers talk about treading on eggshells, because they're waiting for something to happen. And what you're saying is actually, we should be more proactive about avoiding that situation in the first place.
Rob Plevin 6:58
Absolutely. And again, I think we'll kind of segway more into that when we get into this, but kids are very, very good at picking up the undercurrents the underpinning message of whatever we're doing. They're very good at reading our body language, our facial expressions, and they know how we're feeling about them. You know, when I used to counsel kids, when I used to work with kids who were either at risk of being thrown out of school, or had been thrown out of school, I'd sit down with them. And I'd say, you know, what was causing the problem for you in certain lessons where you always ended up getting kicked out every single time they would say, it's because they felt that the teacher didn't like them.
Simon Currigan 7:30
And I guess when you feel like that, it kind of like leaks out through your body language, there's not a lot you can do to sort of hold it back.
Rob Plevin 7:36
I would disagree in that I think there's always something we can do. You know, we're the ones that are in charge of that. It's just that when we get caught up in the moment, we're very stressed out where time pressures against us. And some of these kids can literally press all our buttons at once and drive us mad. But yes, they pick up on that. And it just feels like there's nothing we can do. But we can actually change everything very, very quickly by paying attention to how we are behaving ourselves. When we change, actually, we find that the whole situation changes.
Simon Currigan 8:04
Okay, so we've talked about what goes wrong about being reactive, the adults who are good at classroom management, the teachers that do this really, really well, what specifically are they doing differently that sets them apart?
Rob Plevin 8:15
Well, I reckon if you go into a really good teacher's classroom, where the kids are on task, and everything's humming along nicely, I think you'll often be quite hard pressed to pinpoint specifically what they're doing because often it can seem like they're just going about their job. And you may think, Oh, well, they've got a really easy class because there's no problems in but then you see that same group of students in another classroom with another teacher, same students, totally different situation. And it's because that first teacher, that teacher is very good at classroom management is very good at establishing and setting that very important atmosphere, that classroom tone that encourages teaching, they're very good at maintaining that. So they know their students, they're really clued up on all the little triggers for each individual. And they're really quick to respond to anything, which is going to upset the applecart anything that's going to cause a problem if left unchecked, so you won't see a lot but they're the ones that are going round the classroom offering support, they're very quick to spot a child who's just simmering, you know, just about to go off the boil, and they jump on it quickly. They respond swiftly. And so they cut out the problems before they even occur.
Simon Currigan 9:21
So it's getting in early before things escalate.
Rob Plevin 9:23
Simon Currigan 9:24
So what's the specific classroom management techniques do you find have the most impact then on encouraging more positive behaviour in class?
Rob Plevin 9:31
Okay, so in terms of encouraging behaviour, I think one of the very best thing to do there are many, but one of the very best thing is to focus on positive reinforcement. We've got to do that right now. I'll give you an example. My daughter, she's seven, she had a friend over a little while back and they're both quite lively. My daughter's quite lively and friends quite lively. It was in danger of becoming mayhem. I found myself almost slipping into being that type of dad that does a lot of shouting and it's quite angry and very stressed out. And I don't want to be that dad. I've been that dad before and it doesn't work. So I don't want to be that kind of person. And I just remembered that this really is the key to it positive reinforcement looking out for things going right. Rather than being quick to jump on things that go wrong. It's a totally different environment, it's a totally different way of working in terms of managing behaviour. And it brings very, very different results. So basically, all I did was as soon as I saw the slightest improvement in either of them, or either one of them doing something, right. I immediately praise them and thank them and said, you know, you're making the day go really, really smoothly. I'm making everything wonderful by the way you're behaving. And immediately the other little girl wanted that positive attention. She wanted that positive reinforcement, and the behaviour changed in an instant. Kids love to please they love to do the right thing when it's acknowledged and when it's reinforced. So it was really just about paying attention (Dog barks!) to them doing anything positive. I've got to apologise for my dog.
Simon Currigan 10:56
It's desperate to get on the interview.
Rob Plevin 10:58
Every single time we do anything online It's there in the background.
Simon Currigan 11:01
It's more than welcome.
Rob Plevin 11:02
I give strict instructions to my family to keep the dog quiet. They need to do some praise with him. You see, he'll respond to that. But yeah, so when we switch to that watching out for them doing something right, it's miraculous and amazing never ceases to amaze me how quick they respond and how quick they change. So positive reinforcement has to be done, right. Because this is really important. Years ago, when I was teaching in special schools, and there was this directive that came around from senior staff saying we really need to address positive atmosphere in our classrooms, we need to do more to establish and maintain this positive language and positive environment. So from now on, you need to be using far more positive language than negative. So we want a lot more praise and a lot less criticism. So you got this situation where support staff were going around literally with a checklist, and they were putting a checkmark on a piece of paper every time a member of staff said anything positive such as well done. That's great, excellent. And a little cross every time we said anything like don't do that. Don't do that. Not that. So any negative got across and then positive got a tick. And at the end of the lesson they're supposed to forget this is incredible. We've said like 80 positive phrases compared to five negatives? Isn't that brilliant? But actually what was happening was that we were paying all our attention to volume and quantity. And it was all about how many positive comments can you say? So you've got these wishy washy throwaway comments like excellent, well done, brilliant. And staff in many cases weren't even looking at the students they were talking to, they were so concerned with getting through the lesson and saying a load of positive comments that they didn't really pay attention to the kids and the comments didn't really hit home. And so consequently it had very little effect, praise has to be really authentic, it's got to be from the heart real authentic praise comes from the heart and it goes straight to the heart as well. So if we notice what a student's doing, if we notice they've done something, right, and we jump on that and acknowledge that, then we will see differences. And we see it very, very quickly. And it doesn't have to be huge thing, you know, just thanking a child for holding a door or, you know, in some cases, actually bringing a pen to class, they are very small things. But if we just let them go, unacknowledged, then what's there to make them do it again, you know, behaviour is reinforced. And we get what we pay attention to. So if we're constantly saying, not that way, this way, and don't do that, do this and don't do that, then we're not going to get the positive change that we're looking for.
Simon Currigan 13:21
Let's just unpack one thing, actually, I just want if you've got any sort of strategies or advice, you said, it's very easy to slip into this reactive highlighting the negative, we need to be intentional about our practice, if we want to change it and encourage more positive, authentic praise in the classroom. How do we change that as the person in the front of the room?
Rob Plevin 13:39
Actually, youre dead right to unpack this, because I think in any training situation, as a trainer, you know, we're very quick to say this is what needs to be done. But oftentimes, we don't say this is how you do it. Now we can talk about changing behavior on a superficial level, ie on the behaviour level. And we do it with kids by reinforcing it through praise and through reward and things like that. But with adults, how indeed do we get them to change their behaviour? It's a bit like making a New Year's resolution to lose weight or go to the gym. And seldom does that habit get ingrained unless we're really committed to it. And we put everything else on hold, we really diligently say right, I'm going to lose x pounds or whatever. Focus is a big part of it. But I think we've got to get underneath what actually drives our behaviour. And this goes for kids as well. It's our emotions, it's our feelings. It's our beliefs. And it's our attitudes that lie underneath our own behaviour. So if we have the attitude, for example, that these kids are frustrating, time consuming, really annoying, un teachable and really bad then our behaviour in terms of the responses that we use, in terms of the strategies we use and the tools we use to manage them is going to be very different to having an attitude of care, support, dare I say it? love and actually wanting these kids to succeed. You have a very negative attitude, you use a negative toolbox, it's obvious you have a positive attitude and you'd be more inclined to use positive responses. And as we all know, the positive responses are the ones that work when kids see that we are there to help them, to care for them to help them succeed and really are interested in them and really value them as individuals, then they will respond if we're constantly on the backs, nagging them, threatening them punishing them. At best, we get reluctant compliance at worst, we get a brick through our car window. And I've seen that at times and some of the centres I've worked in. So if we're going to make the changes, it really starts with our attitude. And I'll give you one really good way to, in fact, I'll tell you about the way to find that out later. I'm going to keep that one because it's game changer.
Simon Currigan 15:43
I just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in that Inner Circle programme. The Inner Circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos, resources, and behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety, support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. Practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole class, setting out your classroom environment for success. Resetting behaviour with tricky classes, and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions, step by step, just like Netflix, you can turn an Inner Circle subscription on or off whenever you need to, with no minimum contract Plus, you can now get your first seven days of Inner Circle for just one pound. Get the behaviour answers in you've been looking forward today with Inner Circle, visit www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk and click on the Inner Circle picture near the top of the homepage for more information.
Which technique do you think has the most impact on managing negative classroom behaviour?
Rob Plevin 17:08
I would say without doubt it's the relationship. So the relationship that we have with our children, the relationships that we build in the classroom, so not just the teacher student relationship, but the peer relationships, that that whole classroom camaraderie is really essential to rectifying behaviour problems and encouraging more positive. I believe it's the single most important aspect actually of classroom management teacher student relationship. There's a saying in marketing that people will only buy from you if they know, like and trust you. And if we look at teaching and working with kids, it's actually true too, you know, kids are going to behave better or work harder for a teacher that they know, they like and they trust. It's a basic human need to be connected to others, we're pack animals. And so if you're aloof and you you don't really want anything to do with these kids, your view is that they should just be taught and they should sit down and quiet just listen to you because you've got all this knowledge to impart and nothing else. And you're not going to get the same results as a teacher who really wants to get to know these kids really values them as individuals puts the relationship at the forefront of their practice.
Simon Currigan 18:10
And I guess if we all think back to a teacher who influenced us, or, you know, inspired us from the past, that's the one who took interest in us as an individual. There was a form of connection there. It wasn't just business, we felt they cared about us in some way.
Rob Plevin 18:26
Absolutely. Yeah. 100%. I mean, I can remember back to my favourite teachers at school. Well, the only teachers I respected actually, I had a rough ride through the education system, I was kicked out of school, actually, the only teachers that I remember with any positive kind of memory are those that I had a relationship with, you know, those that took that time to get to know me and who I was,
Simon Currigan 18:45
With all your experience now, if you could go back in time and speak through a time portal and give a newly qualified Rob Plevin a piece of advice about classroom management, what would it be?
Rob Plevin 18:55
It would absolutely be changing that attitude first. That to me is the is the fundamental strategy if you like, but it's also a mindset shift, to move from this attitude of maybe you're tired out, maybe you're burnt out, maybe you just frustrated, or maybe you just see these kids as you know, problems, then switching that to an attitude of care and support is going to make all the difference. My mother had a lovely saying, my late mother, I should say, had a lovely saying and it was she used to say to me whenever I got wound up whenever I was in one of those foul moods as you are as a teenager, she used to say to me, Robert, she talked like that, Robert, life's like a teapot. You get out of it, what you put in. If you put weak tea in, you're going to get weak tea out. It's all about your attitude. And it's so true. You get back what you put in. And I learned that the hard way when I was early on in my teaching career. I didn't really put a lot in I'll be quite honest. And it was it was actually a pupil who really made this apparent to me. It was a kid that I really liked and a good relationship with. But this particular day I was up and down like kite you know, and I was really in a bad mood, and he just said to me, he said, Sir, why are you so moody? Why are you so up and down? And I'm really frustrated with this. And I sat back and thought about it and realised that actually, I was just treating the job as a job at that time, I was going through a few things, but I wasn't putting anything into it. And consequently, the kids were getting really fed up. And I was getting very little back from and when I change that, when I started putting the kids first, everything changed, teaching became a joy, it absolutely became a joy. I have this phrase on my website, about being Pied Piper, teachers. These are the teachers that can walk through the corridors and the kids just make a beeline for them. They're the teachers that go out into the yard at Breaktime. And the kids want to be with them. They're the kids that want to sit with them at lunchtime. They're the ones that the kids want to go and visit in their classroom. They're the ones that the kids stick up for, you know, if other students are given them a hard time those kids will stand up and say Be quiet. It's not fair on Mr. Plevin, you can have those kids eating out the palm of your hand if you put them first. And that's what I learnt fortunately, quite early on, and it changed my teaching. And my life. I have to say,
Simon Currigan 21:01
Rob, I think we maybe you've already touched on this. But I'd like to ask you Who is the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read that's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?
Rob Plevin 21:11
Well, there have been so many, I think we can learn from any situation and any body if we look hard enough, but I'm going to pick one actually, that just sprung into my mind. And it's perhaps not what you're thinking of, or even what I was thinking of sometimes things just spontaneously come in. And I remember very early on when I was on teacher practice, I picked up a book called and we get it right troublesome behaviour in the classroom by a guy called Mick McManus. And I use this book, in my first seminars, when I was doing teacher training, when I first went self employed, because, not a particularly brilliant book, I've got to say, But it highlights what is to me the undisputed heavyweight championship title of the world in terms of classroom management, because what this guy said was, he had all the teaching shops, you know, it was a really good teacher, he'd won an award, I think it was and he was also a professor was very educated chap, one year decided to take a sabbatical and he left teaching, and he went back a year later. And he found out that he was no longer able to get bums on seats, he could not control the kids at all. So it was a new cohort of kids. But in the past, he had been able to walk into a classroom, get them set down and get them working, no problem. Now suddenly, it was floundering. He just couldn't get them to do anything. You know, how can a guy who's got all the skills, he's a professor of education, he's already succeeded. It's been at the top of his career, I think he was a head before he went away, or certainly a senior teacher, and suddenly find themselves unable to control the kids. Same type of kids, same type of area, same type of school, and yet couldn't do anything with any and he finally came to the conclusion that he didn't have a relationship with these kids. He'd gone away for a year, just a new face, no relationship, and he just thought it'd be able to pick up where he left off and get them eating out of his hand. The relationship has to be there. And so that book kind of highlights that for me. Like I say, it's not got an awful lot in it in terms of how to manage behaviour. I found it very difficult finding anything that had a clear system for managing behaviour. To me, there was a lot of confusing advice out there and still is, do it this way. No, actually, you should do it this way. And then there's a bit of statistical proof to prove that this right. And then there's something that proves that's wrong. It's so confusing, trying to get good classroom management advice. But this to me highlights the most important thing, and that is that relationships should be there.
Simon Currigan 23:20
OK Then, So in this interview, we've only really scratched the surface of how to get classroom management, right. And I'm excited to say that you've got a very special offer for our listeners. For the listeners to this podcast, Rob is going to be hosting an exclusive free webinar about improving classroom management in schools. Rob, would you like to tell us more about it?
Rob Plevin 23:41
I would, because it's fantastic. I've been running this, this web class, actually, for a couple of years now. And the comments that we get are just phenomenal. Because what it presents is a clear system for dealing with behaviour for managing behaviour for classroom management. And that's something that I never had when I was teaching. And I know most teachers who come through teacher training, are still left wondering how the hell do I manage behaviour. When I go into the classroom, we're taught how to deliver a subject. We're not taught how to manage these kids in terms of behaviour. And I just love this programme because it is just a clear step by step system. And it really works. We've been in hundreds of universities and colleges all over the world. 1000s of schools now use this system. And I've put everything into a very short, succinct, simplified little taster, if you like, and it's a free web class that runs on certain days and with certain people, and I've decided to do one with you, Simon, because we've done it once before, and we're going to do it again. You've got a great audience. I've had tremendous feedback and tremendous interaction with your teachers. So really looking forward to doing it again. And I'll tell you that as a little teaser, all that stuff I was saying about attitude being so important. There's a nice little tip in this programme about how to change your attitude. It's very simple but it works
Simon Currigan 24:57
How can our listeners sign up for that webinar?
Rob Plevin 24:59
Okay, so if you go to my website, which is www.needsfocusedteaching.com. So that's www.needsfocusedteaching.com/liveweb-beacon
Simon Currigan 25:17
And that's going to be on...?
Rob Plevin 25:18
it's going to be on Tuesday, January 25, at 8:30pm. And I'm going to do my utmost to make sure that the dog is not even in the house.
Simon Currigan 25:29
And I'll drop a copy of that URL into the show description as well. So it's easy to click through and find, Rob, it's been a massive pleasure to have you on the podcast. He knows so much about this subject. And I'm sure our audience and our listeners, I've got a lot from listening to you today.
Rob Plevin 25:42
Oh, I hope so. I must admit I was floundering a little bit at times because of the dog. Hopefully, you've all got something from it.
It's been brilliant. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.
Emma Shackleton 25:51
I really enjoy listening to Rob because he always shares great sound advice that you can go away and start using in the classroom straightaway.
Simon Currigan 26:01
Absolutely. And again, if you'd like to take part in Rob's free web class, head to www.needsfocusedteaching.com/liveweb-beacon and I'll put a copy of that link in the show notes and full disclosure... If you're going to buy something from Rob using that link, we will receive a percentage of the sale but that's not why we're getting involved. We think his materials are really high quality, and lots of our listeners can benefit from his time and knowledge. And there's tonnes of practical information included in that free webinar.
Emma Shackleton 26:34
Next week, we're going to do a deep dive into oppositional defiant disorder. So we'll find out exactly what it is and how to support those pupils in your school. ODD is a condition many teachers and teaching assistants really struggle to manage successfully, and it can be incredibly challenging in the classroom. So this episode is a must listen
Simon Currigan 26:59
To make sure you catch that episode, open up your podcast app now and hit the subscribe button and then your podcast app will automatically download every episode as it's released, so you don't miss a thing. And to celebrate the win. Why not share a cryptic crossword with a neighbourhood badger. They love the abstract nature of cryptic crossword questions, particularly the anagrams, but they're sharp claw like paws make it difficult for them to grasp a pen. So by acting as scribe and writing down their answers, you'll bring the Badger great joy and who knows, you might even have made a friend for life again, badger claws are sharp. So make sure you wear protective mittens before high fiving after a correct answer. And please do try not to catch TB.
Emma Shackleton 27:42
And finally, as we mostly rely on word of mouth to promote our podcast if you know someone or maybe even a badger, who'd find today's interview helpful spread the love by sending them a link to this podcast. In most podcast apps, you can do that by clicking on the share button next to this episode. Just sharing this episode with one or two colleagues could have a really positive impact on their lives and the lives of their pupils. Thanks for listening today. We'll see you next time on school behaviour secrets. Have a great day.
Simon Currigan 28:15
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)