Join the TES Behaviour Group and get advice on how to deal with your behaviour and classroom management problems. We’ve got the TES Behaviour adviser Tom Bennett on hand to answer your questions.
Hello, I hope someone can offer
me some advice, I’m worried about being recognised but I could do with some
I am on my second placement at a
‘challenging’ school, I have really enjoyed the placement and I’m doing well, I
have had positive feedback and my mentor is great though very busy, naturally.
I have three classes and two of them are notorious through the school for their
disruptive/poor behaviour and one ‘nice’ class (a high-ability year 9 group.)
I have only taught the nice year
9s a handful of times and they had been ok but now they seem to have turned on
me. One of them has complained to other staff that I’m ‘picking on her’ and
that the rest of the class agree (apparently), and that I had screamed at her
in the lesson (complete lie) I have told her to be quiet a few times when she
has been disruptive/silly and when she was making personal remarks about another
Another boy in the class has
also become very rude. I greeted the class cheerfully today at the door and
‘welcomed’ them in today as I always do. A few of the girls swanned past
smirking (not my imagination, they were smirking) When one of them asked me if we were peer
marking again I said ‘Yes I’m afraid so, it’s the last time though’ this one
boy (I’ll call him Dominic for now) said
‘you’re afraid? What do you mean you’re afraid?’ I ignored him. He continued
throughout the lesson, shouting me down and trying to undermine me – telling me
I’m wrong about the mark scheme, saying he had written a perfect answer so
didn’t need to correct it. The rest of the class smirked and giggled through
this, I have the horrible feeling it has been pre-arranged between them. They
also ignored me whenever I told them to be quiet. I’m now nervous of
reprimanding them in case they go running to another member of staff and say
I’m bullying them all. Their class teacher told me they have said they wish she
was teaching them again. I kept ‘Dominic’ behind (with my mentor as a witness)
and told him I wouldn’t stand for it, he continued to argue and my mentor has
put him in detention with her as he was rude to her also.
I feel if I say this to my
mentor or the other staff they’ll think I’m pathetic (even though they are all
really supportive/great department and I feel supported by all of them) as I
struggled for the first time with another one of my groups last week and my Mentor
had to tell them off for me.
I’m very nervous about teaching
them tomorrow :( Can anyone offer me any advice please? Thank you.
Well from what you say it sounds very much like they've noticed youre a bit nervous / too nice and are trying to push it a bit. Children this age can certainly be *very* unpleasant to teachers - they often seem to get a real kick out of making you feel uncomfortable / hurt.
It's hard to know how to advise you really as I think you need to build a sense of detachment from their thoughts and behaviour (and this is what youre actually in the process of doing) - it's a stage some / many of them just go through at this age I think (maybe linked to the growing realisation that adults are not all-powerful / invincible / infailable etc.).
So for now I wd fake as much detachment as you can - show no emotion apart from professional good humour. Be very business-like. If they try to intimidate / upset you by picking up on little things you say and twisting them (e.g. "What do you mean afraid?") I wd defuse it by looking directly at them, right in the eyes, and pausing and waiting. They will almost always quail. If they don't, explain it in literal terms (e.g. "It's a figure of speech Dominic; it's a way of politely informing you that, yes, we will be doing peer assessment today.). Be slightly patronising. Smile slightly. If you think it's serious enough keep Dominic at the end and convince him you are not afraid of him (whether you are or not).
One boy I taught tried this "you're afraid of me!" thing so i sat on his desk for 10 mins while I taught the next bit of the lesson. It worked.
Tbh I wdn't worry about whether you're mentor will think less of you for voicing your concerns. i really don't think they actually will - you are only a student, and only human - and even if they did i don't really think it#s that big a deal. Just keep politely asking for help and you will likely get at least some effective support.
The only other thing I might do is maybe stop being so nice to them - at least not to the ones who are being evil. They don't deserve it do they? You can still teach them to the best of your ability but why offer them "friendship" etc. if they are going to see it as weakness and an opportunity to test you / hurt you. Keep it on a very professional level and push them to work hard. If they challenge you eg. your marking then I suppose I might say that if they're really concerned they sd see the Head of Dept and just leave it at that (and warn the HoD). After all teachers often disagree about grades - we all know these kind of comments are usally about the child's wish to get a dispute going b/c they feel disappointed or just like conflict.
If certain children persist in being badly behaved then I really wd punish them and keep at it, trying to keep as calm as possible of course and saving any discussion about it until the actual detention. If they are persistently disrupting /stopping you from teaching get them out of the lesson asap and then do a detention in which they have to do some very serious / extensive independent written work (in silence).
When I was on placement, a lifetime ago, I had a year 9 class who were absolute lambs for their maths teacher and loved him. I had them and they were devils incarnate, throwing things round the room, swearing at me and each other and all sorts. Why? Because I was a student and didn't have a clue how to stop them.
Get their teacher to be in the room with you for a few lessons. Partly to give you confidence and partly to send the message to them that they are being a pain and need to stop. Just having her there will stop those who are simply joining in and she can step in when things get tricky. Do this now, before things totally get out of hand and she has to. Then gradually get her just to pop out every now and then for 5 mins here and there in the lesson. Then just to pop in for a few mins here and there. You may never have this class totally where you want them when you teach them by yourself, it doesn't mean you can't teach.
The maths teacher for the class I mentioned above told me that every year of his career he had always had just one class who he couldn't get where he wanted them. No rhyme or reason for it. No particular age group. No particular ability group. Just every year there was always one class where things didn't work out. And all the time I was in secondary and middle schools, this was the case. Take heart, it really isn't just you.
Just seen this. Unfortunately this is a very common situation for new teachers; they start off with a class who a) resent change and b) resent the introduction of a new authority. Automatic deference to rank is dead, so they expect you to 'prove yourself' over a period. Alas this means that in many classes, many children will take a new teacher as an opportunity to do as they please. They know/ believe that you won't be there for long, that you're a little uncertain, that you might not know the ropes so well. And many will exploit that.
The weird/ sad thing is that many really nice kids will do this too, especially if they are triggered by strong personalities in the room. Because they don't see you as an authority, any attempt to modify their behaviour by issuing instructions or consequences can lead to confrontation. This takes many forms, but often ends up as a simple 'No' followed by 'they're picking on me.' This is a simple extension of the 'It wasn't me' excuse. It isn't meant to be the truth; it's simply a deflection to avoid trouble and work.
The key thing you need with these pupils is persistence; the relationship takes time, and it is built on trust- trust that you will be reliable, that you have boundaries, that you care enough about them to want to push them and reward them and sometimes punish them. They need to know that YOU know what you want. You need to be consistent; you need to have clear ground rules in the room. You need to have clear consequences that always happen, no matter what.
If someone mugs you off and repeatedly disrupts your lesson, then have them removed- don't put up with it and let the class see you're a punching bag. Get them out. And not into the corridor- have them taken to the exclusion room/ park room etc.
So, reboot your relationship. Tell them you want to remind them of what works in a class and what doesn't. Tell them what will happen if they want to cross the line. Then make sure it happens, that day if possible. If they fail to attend detentions etc, then escalate. GET OTHERS involved. You won't look rubbish, you'll look like a teacher who works in a team. We don;t do this by ourselves, we are legion, for we are many. Believe me, although some moronic teachers get a bit sniffy when the new girl asks for help, it's far better to do this than to suffer in silence. To Hell with them and their professional amnesia about how hard it is to begin. You have a class to teach.
Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.
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