Donna-Marie Wardle is the author of the new series A Practical Guide to Classroom and Behaviour Management comprising two resources – A Practical Guide to Classroom Management: How to establish a realistically manageable classroom and A Practical Guide to Behaviour Management: Behaviour modification and management strategies. We put some questions to her about her teaching and what motivates her to focus on behaviour management – supporting both students and teachers.
Consistence, Persistence, Insistence
Can you tell us about your teaching and education background and how you arrived at where you are now, working in a rural single-teacher primary school and studying for your doctorate in education?
I didn’t do a lot of teaching immediately after graduating as I was busy raising my family, however when my children were old enough to go to school, I went back to teaching as a full time career. I taught in Darwin and Scotland before returning to Australia and began teaching in New South Wales. I have taught in a variety of school settings, including primary, secondary, and special needs which has provided me with a well rounded view of teaching and an abundance of experiences, both curriculum and behaviourally based.
What inspired you to start working in special education and learning support?
Whilst teaching in Scotland, I worked in a secondary behavioural school for boys, which I enjoyed and found I had an aptitude for and this is what initially peaked my interest in special education and learning support. Subsequently, I was employed in a mainstream primary school, again in Scotland, as a support for learning teacher (or Support Teacher Learning Assistance as it is often referred to in Australia). This encompassed remedial strategic instruction, behaviour management and also assessment for learning disabilities and planning for individual programming. I enjoyed this form of teaching immensely as it took each student from the assessment and identification stage, right through the instruction and post testing phases which was very satisfying to make the entire journey with the student rather than simply assist with interventions.
Why did you decide to write A Practical Guide to Classroom and Behaviour Management?
I initially toyed with the idea in response to so many teachers requesting assistance with behaviour management strategies when I was relieving head teacher of a secondary school special education unit in New South Wales. As I began to interact with a wider demographic of teachers, I started taking the idea seriously, particularly when so many of the new teachers were floundering in classrooms and asking for help from teachers, many of whom were actually in the same boat when it came to behaviour management. When doing practicum at university, they very rarely encounter difficult classes, however when they are looking for work it is precisely these types of classes that come up frequently with vacancies. Very little support seemed to be available that was easy to read and included different types and manifestations of disability groupings. With integration a key component of contemporary classrooms, I felt this was a pertinent part of behaviour management.
Can you briefly outline what teachers expect to get out of A Practical Guide to Classroom and Behaviour Management?
They should expect to get a realistic view of what types of behaviours are prevalent in classrooms, a cache of strategies to use, and the basic theoretical base behind the strategies so that they then have the tools to modify them to suit their own needs. It is an easy to read book, which contains a quick reference guide to behaviours often associated with disabilities and differing strategies to manage them accordingly.
What is the most important advice you can give to teachers?
Don’t give up! If they admit it or not, all teachers have been there at one point, ready to tear their hair out and often drinking far too much wine, although I guess it helps keep the counsellors in a job! The real key to behaviour, and basic classroom management for that matter, is consistence, persistence, and insistence.