Corridors: The ultimate behaviour management tool.

I originally intended opening this blog post with a metaphor describing the corridors of a school as the veins of a school; the means by which those innumerable people that make a school a school go to and from the places that bring a school to life: the classrooms, the assembly halls and yes, it must be said, the meeting rooms. 
However, this metaphor wouldn’t do justice to the complex role that corridors play in our schools. Rather than viewing our school corridors as vascular pathways that simply enable students and staff to circulate the colossal torso of the school, we should instead see these corridors as a central nervous system: A web of intricate pathways made up of neutrons and dendrites, where messages are carried, delivered, and received all of the time. The corridor is not simply a means of travel; the corridor is a means of communication.
Of all the things @boxerhardy has taught me in his continued role as my mentor, the thing that sticks out most was his advice, “Always talk to kids in the corridor.” At the time I suppose this advice struck me as unusual- I’m a teacher, of course I’m going to want to talk to kids in the corridor- but, 4 years into the job and I’m realising that I was given this advice, because there are teachers who don’t utilise the corridors for what they are: a powerful tool for behaviour management.
Talking to students in the corridor makes it easier to manage difficult student behaviour. Why? Because offering a cheery ‘hello’, or asking a student how their go-karting event went at the weekend, shows you respect them. You care about them as a person and you understand that there is more to them than the three hours a week they spend in your lessons. Students often look visibly shocked when I ask them, in the corridor, about something they mentioned during a lesson a week or two previously. And, after they’ve blundered their way through a reply, I watch as they exclaim their surprise at my having remembered such and such in excitedly hushed tones to their friends. Talking to students in the corridor is an investment. If you respect students as people in the corridors, they are more likely to respect you as a teacher in the classroom.
I make as much, if not more, effort to talk to students I don’t teach as those I do. This is very important. Teachers who only talk to the students they know, are ignoring those that they don’t. And being ignored is not a nice feeling for anyone. You know when you’re at a party and your group of friends are introduced to someone they already know but you don’t. And that person only looks them in the eyes, and ignores you, as they tell you all about how successful they are. And you really want to punch them? Yeah, kids feel that too. Teachers who only address the students they teach, reveal themselves to be socially inept individuals who discriminate in their offerings of kindness. Be a model of good practice. Make eye contact with everyone; talk to everyone; smile at everyone. After all, the students you don’t teach this year, may be the students you’ll be teaching next year, or the year after, or the year after that. Having the foundations of a relationship with one or two students already, at the start of a new academic year, can prove invaluable.
But how do you talk to a child you know nothing about? ‘Good morning/afternoon’ is a nice start, but I often find a jocular ‘Stop smiling-you’re at school’ works well. As does, ‘Cor! You look very smart. What’s your name?’ and ‘Cheer up- only 4 more years to go and then you can play World of Warcraft all day, every day.’ Have fun with it. You’re an adult, you’ll be able to discern who you can have a joke with, and who it’s best to simply say a polite ‘Good morning’ to. And if you can’t, stick with the ‘good morning’; it’s just as valuable, and gratefully (albeit secretly) received.
Ask kids their names in the corridor. It’s awkward, but I will literally say to kids, “I must remember your name in case I bump into you again. What is it? Okay, nice to meet you John. Thanks for smiling at me.” Or, “Oit! You! The lovely human being who held that door open for me. What’s your name?” The value of names as a behaviour management tool is explored in this excellent blog post by Jonny Walker.
Be aware that the students you might wish to avoid most in the corridor, are likely to be those most in need of corridor contact. Some students are not given the chances they should, by some staff. Some students aren’t given a ‘fresh chance’ every single lesson. Some teachers harbour prejudices and grudges. Naughty Johnny, who spends his life being talked about as ‘naughty Johnny’ could do with someone treating him like an actual human being and not a delinquent. So say hello to Naughty Johnny in the corridor, only call him by his actual name. It’s not Naughty Johnny, or Difficult Johnny, or ADHD Johnny; it’s just Johnny.
So next week, when you’re on the way to the canteen to fetch your overpriced panini, do the right thing: spot a kid you don’t know who has also succumbed, shamefully, to the overpriced, pseudo-Italian carbohydrate snack, roll your eyes, smile and say: “Cor. You need to rob a bank to buy one of these don’tcha.”

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Author: PositivTeacha

Whole School Literacy Coordinator and Lead Practitioner

2 thoughts on “Corridors: The ultimate behaviour management tool.”

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