Bill Rogers Classroom Behaviour Guide (Part 1): Ignoring the eye rolls!

Bill Rogers’ books have been recommended to me many times over the past few months. As a new supply teacher, behaviour management is one of the things I was most worried about as there’s little time to embed routines. I just drop into new classes for a day at a time (sometimes less) and have to very quickly set my expectations and establish behaviours for learning. I’ve actually really loved this and it’s been a great way to test out behaviour management strategies. Generally I think my behaviour management is pretty good, I try to be consistent and fair and I’ve had some nice feedback from the schools I’ve been to which is always great to know. One of the reasons I went on supply is because it’s sometimes hard to know what’s normal if you’ve only worked in one school, what if the feedback I get in other schools is different? It’s so interesting to see how different schools do things. However, I’ve still got loads to learn and I worry that sometimes I am too strict or handle things wrong. Children test the boundaries (especially with supply teachers!) and finding a balance is tricky.

I recently met a headteacher of a Pupil Referral Unit who was singing Bill Rogers’ praises, and I’ve heard his works recommended on Twitter and at a supply teachers’ CPD event I went to, so I finally ordered the book.

Secondary behaviours

Just the first chapter has already made me reflect on a lot of the way I do things – the key messages seem to be “relaxed vigilance” and focusing on primary behaviour (e.g., the first behavioural issue you address) rather than the secondary behaviour (eye rolling, back chat etc.) This has been interesting because I think I lean towards over vigilance and calling out disrespectful behaviour as it occurs (in front of the class if needs be), however I can see how this might escalate things in some situations (and it has). As a Key Stage 1 teacher, secondary behaviours (eye rolling, back chat) were uncommon, as a supply teacher I’ve noticed by Year 4 and 5 they seem to be a lot more common (..or maybe it’s just because I’m a supply teacher and they’re pushing it!). I must admit, eye rolling and huffing does particularly get on my nerves as it seems very disrespectful.

Rogers mostly seems to recommend ignoring this and giving some “take up time” for the student to follow the instruction, then potentially talking to the student after class for a deferred consequence (if the disrespect was extreme), or even just explaining to the student that their behaviour is disrespectful and modelling this.

I’m going to focus more on calling out this behaviour 1:1 and ignoring it if it’s low level and seeing what the results are.

Relaxed vigilance.

Relaxed vigilance seems to be mostly secondary-school oriented examples about things like chewing gum, earrings and having headphones in. The examples are of teachers non-confrontationally signalling the school rules (“Nice earrings. What’s the school rule about earrings?”). Conveying the expectation that the issue will be addressed (” you can either put those on my desk or in your bag” / “you know what you need to do”) then giving take up time for the student to follow the instructions (potentially ignoring secondary behaviours) and then switching back to task oriented conversation (“how are you getting on?”). I can see how this avoids confrontation and potentially wasted learning time. If the student doesn’t follow the instruction there would be a deferred consequence.

This is just my interpretation of what I’ve read so far so I’d definitely recommend reading the book if you haven’t! My main concerns are how these techniques would work for younger primary school students, but it’s definitely given me things to think about and try, such as ignoring secondary behaviours and addressing them with the student 1:1, and being less direct in some situations to avoid potential confrontation and build relationships. I can see how this could make sure there’s more learning time, which is the main point at the end of the day.

Another really interesting point was making sure to let students know if you’re having a bad day or not feeling well, and not being afraid to apologise if you think you were unfair. I think this is so important to build positive relationships with students and model that everybody makes mistakes and can take responsibility for them. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book and hopefully finding more positive behaviour management strategies!