Explore the powerful impact of body language on classroom behaviour.
Join us in this episode of School Behaviour Secrets as we delve into the subtle cues that can make or break your classroom dynamics. Discover how to use your body language intentionally to foster better student-teacher relationships and enhance classroom management.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
Now when a child presents challenging behaviour or the whole class presents challenging behaviour, it's easy to turn that disruption or defiance into a personal power battle between you and the child. When you get into a power battle, it erodes relationships with pupils. We need the pupils on side we need leaders for the pupils so that they will follow us neutralizing that power battle. That kind of me versus you conflict is all about making the behaviour that you've seen in the classroom or the consequences that you have to give, make it all about the rules a bit like a referee on the pitch. In this essentials episode, my co host Emma and I reflect upon some of the key classroom management skills that we feel every successful teacher should know. Earlier in the original episode, we talk about the importance of relationships. But we're actually going to join the conversation where we began to consider the effects of body language and the impact this can have in creating effective pupil relationships.
Emma Shackleton 2:05
The next point to make then is really being conscious about the way that we use our body language and our tone. So being really intentional about that, if you think about it, teaching requires top class acting skills on a day by day basis, great teachers develop their teaching persona, that side of themselves that they bring to the classroom every day, we become aware that we are being watched, just like actors on a stage at all times. So remember, even when you're having a conversation or an interaction with one person, there's usually going to be other children or other adults around who are seeing and hearing and picking up on the subtle cues in that interaction. So it pays to check out your body language, your tone of voice and your facial expressions, and be aware of how you are presenting to the world. The funny thing is that sometimes what we think we look and sound like is not the same as what we actually look and sound like to others. So I'd urge you to be brave and ask a trusted colleague to observe a lesson and give you some honest feedback on the way that you come across to others. It's incredibly powerful in getting your teaching persona just right, so that you can make effective pupil relationships and communicate with crystal clarity. It's not about being fake, because kids can sniff that out a mile off. But it's about refining and tweaking your presentation in your manner, so that you really communicate the messages that you want to communicate.
Simon Currigan 3:50
I would go as far as to say that videoing yourself and looking back at that footage, however hard it is, is the fastest way to improve how you use your body language, how you use your tone of voice in the classroom, we think back to our actor, an actor will open the script and he will look at each scene in turn. And he will think about how I need to portray myself in this scene. And in the classroom, we have a number of different scenes. So let's think about whole class time. That's when we're addressing the whole class. That's one form of scene. Another form of scene might be where we're addressing a behaviour issue with a student. Now what we need to do when we're approaching those situations, usually we need to approach those situations using assertive body language. Do go back to Episode One, our very first episode of School Behaviour Secrets, because in that episode, we go into the detail of how to look and sound assertive, assertiveness is all about looking and sounding confident speaking in a way as if you expect the kids to follow the instruction that you've just given them standing in a way that says I'm confident I'm not nervous. I'm not scared of you. This is different from being aggressive. This is about having a presence. And when you have that presence, children will naturally tend to follow what you do and say
Emma Shackleton 5:07
So as well as mastering being assertive teachers also need to master being neutral. And this is especially useful for de escalation situations. So when things are heating up when emotions are riding high, for example, teachers being able to look and sound neutral is really effective for not accidentally escalating a situation. This links nicely back to raising awareness of what we look like and what we sound like to others. It's really good to learn a good poker face, particularly in situations where students might say or do something that we find shocking, for example, and it's important to remember that when students are triggered, they are likely to be hyper vigilant, and they are scanning for further threats. And this can actually lead them to misinterpret other people's gestures and behaviours. Because their signal reading systems go a bit awry, it is a good idea to practice neutral stance, neutral facial expressions and tone, try tight in the mirror at home, try it out on the cat, the more you practice, the better you'll become.
Simon Currigan 6:23
And be aware that when we're trying to be so more assertive, we can tip over into aggression if we don't practice these things and get them right. Assertive language is the language of I'm calm, and I'm in control. So use that video recording, practice at home practice on the cat speaking and looking either confident or neutral, because those are the two key body language postures that you're going to need to really boost behaviour in the classroom with your whole class management.
Emma Shackleton 6:53
Another really great skill that I've noticed many effective teachers doing is light housing, sending their beam or their vision, their view all around the room. So you know that wherever they are in the room, whoever they're talking to, or working with, they are consciously actively scanning the rest of the room to keep an eye on what's going on. And also to let the pupils know that they are keeping an eye on what's going on. So constantly monitor what's happening and pick the right language for the right situation. Don't leave any of this to chance. It really is an art that needs to be practiced and reflected on and it will have a huge impact on classroom behaviour.
Simon Currigan 7:38
Okay, then. So we've looked at forming relationships with kids and we've talked about being intentional with our body language. The next thing we're going to look at the next skill is de personalizing conflict. Now, when a child presents challenging behaviour, or the whole class presents challenging behaviour, it's easy to turn that disruption or defiance into a personal power battle between you and the child. When you get into a power battle. It erodes relationships with pupils, we need the pupils on side we need to lead as for the pupils, so that they will follow us neutralizing that power battle. That kind of me versus you conflict is all about making the behaviour that you've seen in the classroom or the consequences that you have to give, make it all about the rules a bit like a referee on the pitch, the referee confines the conversation about what's just happened to the rules, they never make it personal. And the minute you stop making that conflict personal, you're going to sort of kill your relationship with a child or the group of children that you're working with. So when something goes wrong, bring it back to the rules back to what will happen next, not about your personal relationship with the kids, or about your authority or a personal power battle.
Emma Shackleton 8:51
I think the analogy of the referee is a really useful one because you see, don't you good referees have got excellent, assertive and neutral body language by bringing the emotion out of it and bringing it back to the rules. And this is what we need to do as well. This is super, super hard, but it can be done. In most cases, the child's behaviour is the result of something underlying something deeper, it could be due to stress from a diagnosis or from their family situation. For example, what we need to do is to learn to shrug this off, not to take that personally or as a criticism of our teaching skills, even when they make it personal. And some children will do that they will try and go do into a response but you are the adult so it's up to you to develop that Teflon coating and the ability to let things bounce off. And this is really valuable for your own mental health and well being too.
Simon Currigan 9:50
And that goes for conflict from parents as well never take them personally. Often parents might have had a bad experience of school maybe deep down they feel nervous. They feel worried about the conversation. And that can sometimes spill over into a defensive aggression. Or maybe they feel their child's being attacked, and they've got this protective urge to defend them. So when they're on the phone, or they come to you, they're already highly emotional. And do be aware in terms of not taking it personally, if you've got explosive kids in your class, it's likely that they've learned that template from an explosive parent. So it's not a reaction to your individual teaching style. And the parents reaction to you is not a reaction to you as an individual. It's a template that they've learned from their families.
Emma Shackleton 10:35
So it's about learning to be resilient and making classroom behaviour all about the rules, not about your personal or authority and power battles. You have the power in your response to make a situation bigger or smaller. So decide that what you say and do is going to de escalate this situation not inflated. This leaves everybody with their dignity intact, and preserves positive rapport and relationships with pupils.
Simon Currigan 11:09
And that's all we've got time for on this essentials episode, where we've covered three of our five essential classroom management skills. If you've experienced problems with pupil behaviour during lesson time, there may be some simple tweaks you can make to improve this. So if you want to hear all of those tricks, and tips, head back to Episode 17. To discover all five I will put a direct link in the show notes. If you've enjoyed listening today Do please remember to rate and review us It takes just 30 seconds and when you do it prompts the algorithm gods to recommend School Behaviour Secrets to other podcast listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents are while you've got your podcast app open. Please remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today. And I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)