Are you considering teaching in a remote community in 2022? Or new to your remote teaching role and learning ways to manage challenging behaviour?
It’s easy to think- more behaviour charts, more rules, more discipline, more consequences. But without reflecting on the why of the behaviour puzzle and addressing the factors that may contribute to unwanted behaviours we are only doing a reactive, bandaide approach. We, as remote teachers, must do some reflection on the environment, mood and the things we can control- in order to reduce behaviours.
We cover a huge range of other hints and tips in our free Behaviour Management Survival Guide here.
Here are 6 important considerations to improve behaviour in your outback classroom:
The saying goes ‘they may not always remembers what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel’. Our motto for remote teaching is ‘relationships, relationships, relationships’ or ‘relationships first’.
Remote community schools can have extremely high staff turn over rates. Students must then spend time learning the new teacher’s way of teaching, way of managing and way of responding to behaviours. Some of those teachers will have been amazing (…and left), some of those teachers will have been less than competent, others there for a week, some their full contract (…and left). They have to learn to trust new teachers again and again… which might lead to attachment issues and students developing a mistrust of teachers and the system in general. Showing your students that you are here, that you care, that you have steady and predictable reactions to behaviours- will all help increase trust and develop a strong teacher-student relationship.
“It is teachers who have created positive teacher-student relationships who are more likely to have above average effects on student achievement,” according to education researcher, John Hattie. He rated Student-Teacher relationships as having 0,52 effect size (average effect size was 0,40)- which is significant.
Make time every week to do ‘getting to know you’, ‘team building’ and ‘class building’ activities- maybe as warm ups, bell ringers or brain breaks. This will help not only your students developing a relationship with you, but your knowledge of your students (that you can then use to create engaging activities tailored for them), as well as your students relationships with each other.
Classroom Management Skills (SSEN:BE Department of Education WA) include ‘winning over’ as part of their low key skills. These are little routines that help create relationships of care and trust- such as using a smile, greeting students at the door, using student names. It is also deeper than that though. Teachers who are really great at developing positive, professional relationships with students learn about their students, remember key information and then use that to engage and respond to their students- such as knowing that your student loves the rodeo and creating a task about the rodeo for a writing lesson and inviting them to share as your expert, or remembering they might feel sad after visiting their other parents house and just checking in with them the next morning.
Routines and procedures
Routines and procedures create safety. Safety reduces behaviour issues because students know what they need to do and what will happen when they do it- they can trust the process.
Routines: clear, explicitly taught routines that happen often and reduce stress for teacher and students. This can include morning routines, pack up routines and other.
Procedures: clear, explicit steps to take to accomplish a task/routine. These can include how to use the drink fountain, how to line up for class, how to behave in the canteen line etc.
Being clear on your routines and having visible procedures will help you reduce and manage behaviour on auto-pilot. When you don’t have to think or plan for every thing a new way each day- it frees you up and keeps you fresh to deal with behaviour (and create amazing lessons)!
Transitions (into the classroom, between the mat and desk, between activities, during brain breaks, to specialist classrooms and out to breaks) are often opportunities for inappropriate behaviour to come up.
Thinking about how you can ‘tighten up’ your student movements in your classroom can have a huge positive effect on behaviour in your classrooms. Your students will feel less anxious as well as they know exactly how they should move around, and they will feel safer.
Transitions to think about:
- into the classroom
- between activities
- to specialist rooms
- into different groups
- from high energy activities to calm activities
Carefully considering who should move and how will help you to reduce behaviour management incidents. Think about which students need calm for a transition so should move first, which students might need support- so ask students to move off in pairs, which students can model how to move so might be asked to show the rest of the class. Transitions can become routine- students are explicitly taught the way to move using a procedure and do it on auto-pilot.
You, as the remote teacher, need to find a way to create culturally appropriate lessons for students. However, chances are you are not from the cultural background of your students. A challenge.
Working with and learning from your First Nations colleagues will be vital to understand your students culture, ways of learning and ways of being. This can be done through attending cultural awareness training, having a regular two-way meetings with your Aboriginal Education Officer, spending time listening and learning from your colleague, observations, asking specific questions.
Reflect regularly what lens you are viewing your classroom, lessons and students. Check your unconscious biases. Seek advice, be open to suggestions. Ask your students what they liked about your lessons, how they would do ‘it’ their way, where they would see ‘it’ (the content) in community.
Engaging and relevant
If students are engaged in learning that they think is relevant to their lives they are less likely to behave in inappropriate ways. Your challenge, as the remote teacher, is to find ways to engage your students.
- On Country learning, outside or in community
- Teaching younger students a concept they have mastered- create a picture book, film a video, run short activities or games, mentor the younger kids
- Enter competitions with real life outcomes and rewards
- Kagan Collaborative Learning structures- making learning collaborative and fun
- Weave learning into a context your students can relate to and understand (prior knowledge)
Ask your long standing colleagues if they have seen engaging lessons or ideas on the topic previously, if they have suggestions for excursions or camps. Get student feedback- thumbs up or thumbs down for how much they engaged, how much they enjoyed or how much they learnt in a lesson and then use that to inform future activities.
Without having needs met, your students will not be in the optimum state to learn which could result in inappropriate behaviour. So to improve behaviour in our remote classrooms we need to reflect on how our students arrive in our classroom- and meet them at their need. This can be supported with routines for the morning or entering the classroom, getting to know you activities regularly to help new or transient students to fit in (some ideas here and here), the expectations you explicitly teach and maintain with your students and how you value and include their strengths.
It is also very interesting to reflect on these alternative views of Maslow’s image- from a First Nations perspective.
What do these charts show about what comes first or what is the base of wellbeing? How do First Nations people see themselves, their health and wellbeing? What matters most? Is this a true representation of students, First Nations colleagues and your community?
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