Classroom management begins as soon as you open the door to your classroom. You see your students; they see you and opinions are formed. Do you walk in smiling or looking stern? What will your initial impression be? What do you want it to be? Some believe you shouldn’t smile until winter break; other schools of thought suggest that you be yourself? There are so many experts out there on behaviour management that the new teacher or the teacher new to the region can be forgiven for becoming confused or even overwhelmed.

In speaking exams, students are often asked to identify their favourite teacher and why. Their answer often shocks me. I expect them to go with the fun teacher or the one who uses technology the most or the most dynamic teacher with the most interesting subject.  So why is she your favourite teacher?  Their response is almost always the same: because she cares! I must admit sometimes I am surprised by their response, as I may have judged this teacher to be too harsh or a little stern. Students are quite insightful though. They see beyond this and they categorise us in an entirely different way: those who care and those who do not. This is a much tougher appraisal than a lesson observation. As teachers we are happy to be judged by lesson observations and lesson plans. Two inspectors, one principal and a lead teacher – this we can do! They want to see objectives on the board, interactive lessons and 21st century skills in your classroom. We got this! Making a class of teenagers believe that you care about them is a little harder to gloss over! So start as you mean to go on. Show your pupils that you recognise their individuality and that you care about their progress.

One way you can do this is by creating a mental Filofax containing each of your student’s names. Alongside their name you categorise personality, add idiosyncrasies, identify learner type and most important of all, pinpoint ways to engage them. Getting this metaphorical Filofax in order is the key to a smooth academic year and the foundation to a positive classroom environment. This is not an easy task: there are days I feel more like Tom Cruise at the beginning of a Sci-fi movie where he swipes pieces of information from his mind around in front of him so he can locate just the piece he needs!

This Filofax will form the foundation of the learning environment you create in your classroom. Its cornerstone is to know your students. A mental Filofax helps you to care. It helps you to go beyond your subject and see the humanity in what we do. It looks deeper than Assessment for Learning, Assessment of Learning, curriculum development, staff meetings and professional development and it brings you to the core of what we do. We make a difference. We educate these students not just in our subject area but also in humanity and this is what makes teaching awesome!

Can kindness be the key to excellent behaviour management? I certainly think so. This year go beyond the books, get to know and care about the students.