1.1 Setting the standard of behaviour

On this page

  1. Importance of setting the standard of behaviour
    1.1 Setting the standard of behaviour
    1.2 Not setting the standard of behaviour
    1.3 Start setting the standard of behaviour
  2. How to set the standard of behaviour
    2.1 Setting the standard of behaviour when reinforcing positive behaviour
    2.2 Setting the standard of behaviour both during frontal teaching and independent work
  3. Interface between Leary’s Rose and FFT
    3.1 Do not mirror negative behaviour
    3.2 Adopting the opposite role
    3.3 Use of voice
  4. Leaving the cellar or attic
  5. Liemer List
  6. Summary

Teachers agree on a framework with their students. Teachers adhere to that framework, and if they fail to do so, their students may call them on it. In both body language and spoken language, teachers set the standard of behaviour. Most students adopt their behaviour as a matter of course. Students who also demonstrate desired behaviour in turn set an example for their peers.

The framework (Friendly and Fair) calls on everyone to exhibit desired behavior. I adhere to the framework and my students usually adopt my behavior. This way, more attention goes to the lesson and the learning objective comes across clearly.

Bapuji [Mathatma Ghandi, grandfather of Arun] had different ideas about parenting than most other people. He believed that children learned more from the character and example of their teachers than from books. He did not like the time-honored advice ‘do as I say, not as I do’; he was convinced that teachers should lead by example if they demand anything of their students.” Ghandi (2017)

Bismarck never responded positively to a raised finger.” Prideaux (2018)

We are convinced that peace is not a word that belongs in the past, is not an endearing ideal from the post-war years or from the peace movement during the Cold War, nor is it an unworldly, unattainable virtue; but that it is a skill, or better: a lifestyle to which we must commit ourselves daily.” Reybrouck (2017)

  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton

Current approach

How did I set the standard of behaviour until now?

Future approach:

How do I set the standard of behaviour in the future?

Introduction video


Example primary education

Students mirror not only the teacher’s behaviour but also each other. Since we have been playing Task Play, I have discovered the power of compliments. If I clearly state my expectations, all I have to do afterwards is compliment the forerunners on their concrete behaviour. Most students are also eager for compliments and therefore start mirroring the behaviour of the forerunners. The last student(s) who are not sensitive to this I can then direct with a gesture or a personal remark in a whisper. This whole process takes little energy; indeed, giving compliments generates energy.” Wietske Tijssen

In this video, a student sets the standard of behaviour: calm and clear. He conducts his peers in a calm and clear manner.


‘Setting the standard of behaviour’ is one of the four modules of the perspective ‘Establishing a friendly tone’ of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT).

Figure 7: Establishing a friendly tone (overview)

If you teach friendly and fair, your students will adopt your example. This way you create a positive learning environment. In doing so, you use body language and speak in a friendly manner.
Setting the standard of behaviour is something you can learn and where you can make mistakes. Therefore, discuss your own behaviour with your students. In doing so, you make yourself vulnerable. Conversely, you also pay attention to the behaviour of your students. This mutual attention ensures equality.

The world is like a mirror: look into it angrily and she looks back angrily, smile and she smiles too.” (Herbert Louis 1st Viscount Samuel)

1. Importance of setting the standard of behaviour

1.1 Setting the standard of behaviour

Setting the standard involves being both friendly and fair. If in addition you teach with good intentions and have the necessary tact, it is expected that most students will adopt your standard of behaviour and eventually internalize it. By setting the standard of behaviour, you invite your students to behave in a ‘desired’ manner. With that invitation, you influence and direct your students’ behaviour. Your influence then extends beyond your classroom. Your good example is one of the ways to create a positive learning environment. By setting a framework and demonstrating the corresponding behaviour, you have 95 percent of students facing the right way. With the remaining 5 percent, your reinforce positive behaviour.

Figure 10: Most students copy your standard of behaviour

1.2 Not setting the standard of behaviour

The framework askes everyone to be friendly and fair. What If you leave out one element?

  1. You are friendly but not fair. You are then indulgent and fail to adjust student behaviour.
  2. You are fair but not friendly. You are strict and use power at will. When you do this, students do not accept your leadership. By being strict, you (unconsciously) provoke undesired behaviour and you lose the right to adjust behaviour. By being strict, you damage the trust between you and the class. You lose your integrity and your effectiveness.

Figure 4: Afraid and angry


If a student disrupts the lesson and you react angrily, it may be out of powerlessness or because you want to underscore your authority. With your anger, you compromise calm and attention. When you are angry, you do not enjoy your work. It does something not only to yourself, but also to your students. When you are angry, you damage mutual trust and damage the bond with your students. Besides, being angry is exhausting.

If the whole world assumes the eye-for-an-eye philosophy, all people will go blind.” Arun Ghandi (2017)

If a student disrupts a lesson, and you retaliate with penalty work, there are disadvantages. You settle a conflict with your power. By handing out penalty work, you put pressure on the relationship between you and the student and diminish the trust students have in you. A classic role-play then develops in which you are the tormentor in the eyes of students and they are the victim. A student considers your penalty work as a retribution.

In this regard, check out the blog on Les Choristes with two interpretations of “action response” (‘Setting the standard of behaviour’ or ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’). In this context, check out the module ‘Managing emotions‘.

1.3 Start setting the standard of behaviour

The most ideal time to start setting the standard of behaviour is when you are teaching for the first time at a new school where the students have never seen you before and where other teachers are already working in the Friendly and Fair Teaching.

If you are the first teacher of a school to start with VOH you can start any time. Every person has the right to change at any time. By consistently demonstrating desired behaviour from a certain point, your students will notice your changed attitude. You can organize a game where everyone is asked to be friendly and where, if they fail to be friendly, the students may address you and you may address your students. This helps you detect unfriendly behaviour that you yourself are not aware of.
If the management of a school sets the standard of behaviour, it is to be expected that colleagues-and by extension, students-will adopt the example (Implementing).

2. How to set the standard of behaviour

You can show the standard of behaviour through body language as well as through spoken words. Besides the proper posture, movements, pace, pronunciations, ‘Setting the standard of behaviour’ also include these aspects:

  • The way you treat your physical environment such as providing a tidy classroom.
  • Being present on time and completing tasks on time.
  • Friendly and courteous language in dealing with students and in your emails.
  • Good intentions as articulated in the Liemer list.

If you manage to show and continue to show the standard of behaviour in all situations, you make your behaviour predictable, reliable for everyone. You demonstrate congruent behaviour.

2.1 Setting the standard of behaviour when reinforcing positive behaviour

It is a challenge to remain friendly and fair when a student disrupts the lesson (Ladder of Action). If you take all steps in a friendly and fair manner without becoming emotionally unbalanced, your own anxiety and that of the students disappears. Then you teach with confidence. Your students take over your calmness and all attention goes to the content of the lesson.

2.2 Setting the standard of behaviour during frontal teaching and independent work

You show the standard of behaviour both during frontal teaching and independent work. In both cases:

  • you create mutual trust.
  • you are friendly and fair.
  • keep observing.
  • act visibly.

Depending on what you see, you give compliments or reinforce positive behaviour.

The differences in approach between the two methods you see in the two columns below:

Setting the standard of behaviour during frontal teaching

  • Speak clearly
  • Present your lesson in a way that is attractive to the students.
  • Connect to students’ perceptions and focus your education on expanding their perceptions.
  • Make time for telling personal stories. That creates familiarity. If you know each other well you can work together better.
  • When teaching the entire class, your role resembles that of a tour guide.

Setting the standard of behaviour during independent work

  • When addressing one student or a small group, speak softly (do articulate well) then the other students who are sitting down to work can concentrate.
  • Your role is similar to that of a roadside assistance officer. If a student gets stuck, you give them tailor-made help.
  • You coach students on their personal journey.
  • You give your students freedom (within a structure) and you let them go. Without freedom, your students will not take their own initiative.
  • Give your students the opportunity to choose something at their own level.
  • Give your students the opportunity to decide for themselves with whom they cooperate.

With each other, your students make contact with the learning objective and with “the world.

3. Intersections of Leary’s Rose and FFT

Leary’s interpersonal circle encompasses a range of behaviour where each behaviour evokes a response behaviour in the other and where you can contrast each behaviour with a contrasting behaviour to be effective.

According to Leary, the combination of Love and Dominance is ideal. Translated to FFT, that is friendly + Fair. By being friendly and fair you gain authority. Your students and they accept that you are in charge.

Side note 1
Side note: With FFT, you avoid the negative connotation of ‘dominance’: pedantic, arrogant and dogmatic, and side note that with ‘friendly’ you avoid the negative connotation of ‘soft-hearted’.

Figure 20: Friendly and fair (fair includes being clear) in Leary’s axis system

Above figure 10 shows that only a small percentage of students (five percent) do not adopt your behaviour. With those five percent of students, you can experiment with contrasting in behaviour in the hope that they will adopt your contrasting example (e.g., a student is very busy, you are then very calm, student adopts your calmness).

Side note 2
At FFT, we assume that your students only rarely take an opposite attitude toward your behaviour. If you show a friendly attitude, most students (95 percent) will actually adopt that attitude from you, especially if you reinforce positive behaviour in a friendly and fair manner.
For you, the leading role is probably the most obvious one. Leading by example is then a form of setting the standard of behaviour.

3.1 Not mirroring behaviour

It may make sense to adopt a different attitude from your students in certain circumstances. This is something you do in a conscious way. By doing so, you avoid impulsively giving in to the tendency to mirror students’ undesirable behaviour. It is precisely this tendency that you do not follow when a class is busy. If you do, it means that you take over the busyness of the class and your mirroring of your students’ behaviour will backfire. If you address your students in a rude manner or call them to order with a show of force, you also call upon your students’ display of power, resulting in a power struggle between you and the class.

3.2 Adopting opposite roles

Now follow two examples where you as a teacher adopt a stance that is deliberately different from that of the student.

Example 1: A student shows challenging body language. You then ask politely, “I see something is going on, do you want to tell me something?” If you are annoyed by this challenging behaviour and mirror the behaviour, a power struggle ensues. The bottom line is that you demonstrate the behaviour you wish to see in the student. A student observes the intention with which you say something and adopts that intention.

Example 2: If you give a student the lead in a work form and you are coaching this group, it can be helpful to show a cooperative attitude yourself at that time (Example Video teacher with accordion).

Learn more about Leary’s Rose on Wikipedia (“Interpersonal circumplex“).

Summary: Both Leary and FFT recommend adopting an opposite attitude in certain cases.

Advice FFT
If the class is restless, as a contrast, consciously adopt a quiet demeanour and instead speak more softly or give inaudible cues with body language. With gestures and a relaxed body posture you create calm. The self-confidence to do so comes from knowing that you reinforce positive behaviour. To a student who approaches you in a provocative manner, you respond calmly and politely.

3.3 Voice use

You can use your voice in several ways. What is whispering to some is talking out loud to others. With your voice you can, consciously or unconsciously, student or teacher, cause unrest in the classroom.
To properly guide the use of voice in the classroom, it is important to make clear agreements about this with each other. For this you can use the voice volume chart. With this card you make clear what kind of voices you can use in the classroom and what volume goes with it. With a peg or a magnet, you make it clear at each moment what voice you expect from your students.
This list of directions how to use your voice also makes you pay attention to your own voice volume. When you demand a spy voice from your students, the same applies to you.

Regarding your own use of voice:

Talking loudly is often related to tension; you start talking faster. It can also be a means of taking charge. If you manage to avoid this by e.g. first using the silence gesture, students find it more pleasant to listen to you. There is an exception where FFT also recommends using a loud voice.

4. Leaving basement or attic

What happens to you when you are out of your comfort zone shows this image: Window of tolerance. The image at that link has similarities to the image from Friendly and Fair Teaching which is about a classroom with basement and attic.

When you get out of your comfort zone, it’s hard to lead by example, to set the standard of behaviour. You don’t always notice yourself going out of your comfort zone. An example of that in this video:

Ted talk by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. She tells about tension building up in her life and work and her not being aware of this process. A reaction can be that you numb yourself. If you are numb, you cannot do your work properly and you can not go on with your work much longer. She states that it is possible to transform any trauma that arises. It is possible to be truly transformative.

Statements related to this video and edited by FFT:

  1. No one responds positively to a raised finger (see quote at the very top of this module). As a teacher, the key is to leave out the raised finger (warnings) and use other forms of communication that set the standard of good behaviour.
  2. We share the idea that you should not hurt anyone.
  3. When your boundaries are crossed, when you are angry or totally exhausted, you are no longer empathetic. You are no longer aware of whether you are harming others.
  4. If you numb sadness, you also numb happiness. Therefore, do exercises with different energy levels so you can let your energy flow.
  5. Don’t ask what the world needs, ask yourself what you need to come alive and do that.
    It’s about having the courage to be in the now, to always be able to adjust your energy level so that you can show a ‘example energy level’ to the class. This is how you stay in touch with your students.
  6. Depending on the dynamics of the group, relax, or radiate energy, listen attentively and perhaps occasionally ask a question or offer advice. Above all, show how much fun it is to be alive!
  7. It is possible to transform any trauma that arises. A prerequisite for this is that you can consciously adjust your energy level.
  8. It is possible to dismantle systematic repression, the cause of much suffering. It is possible to transform everything that occurs in life in a good way.
  9. The goal is to be truly transformative (Compare Nelson Mandela and others).

Also have a look at the theory of a house with basement and attic described at ‘Managing emotions‘.

5. Liemer List

‘Introduction: becoming a Friendly and Fair Teacher’ includes information about the Liemer List. This list is a nice addition to what FFT understands by setting the standard of behaviour.

6. Summary

Demonstrate yourself the behaviour you would like to see in your students. If you show desired behaviour, your students will adopt your behaviour. If students do not show the desired behaviour, you remain friendly and fair, even if you reinforce positive behaviour

  • First, think about how you are going to say something. Before you say something, take one breath. Put what you plan to say through a filter. That way you avoid thinking, “Stupid, I shouldn’t have said that.” In doing so, you make sure everyone stays on point.
  • Speak about students in a dignified way. Don’t talk about “them” (don’t talk about your students as about “the enemy”).
  • Don’t play with people. One explanation for this behaviour is low self-esteem (diabolic). It occurs in all hierarchical situations. The higher the position, the more you are to control and the greater the temptation to use our influence in a negative way. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of people in responsible positions who do not play with people.
  • If you want to change your own behaviour and attitude, hold up a mirror to yourself from time to time. Ask yourself some questions about the way you teach. Both in primary and secondary education, you can ask students to support you. Every so often, ask a student to pay attention to behaviour you name and ask them to give feedback about it after the lesson. If you work with a reward system, such as ClassDojo, you can also put yourself on the list of students. When you reflect on the students’ behaviour, you can also ask them to reflect on your behaviour. In addition to the valuable feedback you get with this, you also give the signal that you take your students seriously and that together you are responsible for the classroom atmosphere.