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Some general behaviour advice for running a classroom. It’s not bloody nuclear physics, incidentally.
- You’re not dealing with rational adults. Many of them will behave selfishly, motivated by whatever gets a laugh, or boredom, or hormones. Rationalising with classes, while laudable, is mostly pointless.
- They initially value their relations with their peers far more than with you. So they would rather look good to their pals than please you.
- They know you don’t know them. Literally; names and faces will be a blur at first. See how long it takes you to realise this: that if you can’t put a name to the misbehaviour, you literally can’t do anything about it, unless you pin them to the floor with tent pegs.
- They’d mostly rather not be sitting at a desk all day, writing about the Tudors or Trigonometry. I don’t blame them.
- What they would like to do is sit talking to their pals, planning cruelty upon their archenemies, and possibly, getting a rise out of the new teacher for kicks.
|Oh for God’s sake.|
- If the class isn’t behaving the way you want, then you’re going to have to bring the rule of law into the room; your law.
- There will probably be a whole school policy on behaviour, outlining punishments you can use, and when you can use them. There should also be a reward system. The students will be familiar with both, so if you use them, then you show that you are an extension of the whole school teaching team, and not some pathetic loner student teacher that they can kick about like a tin can.
- Familiarise yourself with the names of senior teachers in the school responsible for behaviour and general ass-kicking. This might include Heads of Year, Form Tutors, Senior Staff. Don’t invoke their names willy-nilly, or they’ll realise they should be scared of them and not you, but drop them in from time-to-time to show you know who carries the naughty stick at school.
- Tell them what you expect of them, both in behaviour and work; you can do this by a short speech, a hand out, anything that shows them you have rules and you expect them to obey. Even if they disrespect this process, you have made a point.
- If anyone breaks the rules, take their name, give them a warning or a punishment like a detention if it’s serious enough, and inform them of your decision. Do not engage them in conversation on this point. I repeat; do not. The lesson will be ruined by arguments, and it’s demeaning for you to argue with students. Let them huff and puff
- If you set a detention, then DO IT. Be there, for God’s sake.
- Don’t talk over me
- Put your hand up to talk
- Wait for me to allow you to talk
- Treat everyone with manners.
- Be on time
- Bring equipment
- Do all work
|Independent learners, having their needs met.|
|Dewey: ‘I’m so sorry.’|
- Be tough one day and tender the next. Consistency is massively important
- Be Nasty. If you EVER say to the class that they are ‘horrible’ or ‘evil’ or- God forgive me- you ‘hate them’, then you will deservedly be poked with a dozen pointy sticks forever, in Hell
- Blow your stack at them. Shouting will get their attention, maybe even cow them slightly for a minute, but actually, after five minutes they realise, ‘Is that all she’s got?’ and your fury will be revealed as empty, hollow and meaningless. Besides, some of them will find it entertaining. But most importantly, it’s undignified and makes you look like an emotional fool. What would Sean Connery do- apart from shoot them? Imagine someone you respect as an authority figure. How would they conduct themselves?
- ‘Forget’ to turn up for a detention/ meeting/ chat if you are meant to be there. They will realise a terrible thing; that sometimes they can get away with misbehaviour. That’s as bad as never punishing them. Inconsistency will bite you on the ass.
- Turn a blind eye to something you normally punish. Just because you’re having a great/ tiring/ hung over day doesn’t mean YOUR behaviour should be any different to normal. See above re: inconsistency.
- Let them off with misbehaviour because you can’t be bothered to follow up. Do your job.
- Completely forgive their crimes because ‘they were good afterwards’. That means they can misbehave, then get away with it if they act nicely afterwards. Which means they’ll never be good all lesson. Of course, you can still reduce their detention/ prison sentence if they act really well, but never entirely rescind the punishment. There has to be some justice. You are the Law.
As Johnny Vaughan might say, ‘London- why are YOU feeling flash?’ Well today I’m going to allow myself a sliver, a tittle of feeling flash for four reasons.
1. The NUT will be giving away a copy of my first book, The Behaviour Guru, free to all qualifying teachers in England and Wales as a joining incentive- for the next three years. I am indecently chuffed, and enormously grateful for the chance to get what I hope is plain speaking, common sense advice out to as many new teachers as possible.
2. Book number 2: ‘Not quite a Teacher’ slammed into the Top Million or something today, and it’s my first book out on Kindle. I fully intend that the third book (which I’m writing as we speak) will be available for instantaneous download directly into your central cortex, or something.
3. I’m doing a training session this Saturday for the TES in London, working with some people on behaviour management, which I always love. And the sandwiches are fabulous. One place left, I think, if you’re at a loose end at the weekend. Click here for details.
4. My A-level students have made a great start to the exam season- I hope. Couldn’t be more proud of them. There is an atmosphere slightly more tense than the launch of a Space Shuttle, but it’s a buzz. And it’s legal.
Two of my favourite things in the world: teaching, and writing. I get to do both. And the best bit is, I know exactly how fortunate I am for that.
|The night has ended!|
Fans of poorly phrased pedagogic advocacy and unsubstantiated educational research rejoice! After the excitement of the Royal Wedding and the death of Voldemort (check: Google), 2011 brings another pivotal paperback event for everyone’s calender.
My new book, ‘Not Quite a Teacher’ hits the book stands tomorrow (out in paperback and Kindle: can Kindles be hit? ‘streamed’, possibly) after a long incubation period in the laboratories of my mind. I wanted to write something that I would have found useful before and during my entry to the profession. Also, although I’ve enjoyed a lot of decent writing about education, I came across the following problems:
|‘Peggy; get me a line to the TDA.’|
1. Some teacher training books appeared to be aimed at prospective therapists, with their emphasis on ‘understanding how the kids (or ‘learning participants’ were feeling, and what they were trying to communicate with their behaviour. How odd, I thought.
2. Some are structurally quite useful, but suffered from being simultaneously drier than an oven and wetter than Osama’s pockets. I mean, I know they’re supposed to be informative, but do they have to be so….excuse me, I’m drifting off.
|‘Apparently the DfE no longer require us,’ said Holmes.|
3. None of them really conveyed to me the experience of training to be a teacher, at least not in terms of how I would feel, the emotional content of the experience; a process which, I have to say, I can only describe as harrowing (or, as conventional educational idiom would have it. ‘a unique learning experience involving a synergistic feedback of life-long learning and reflective practise’. The only reflecting I was doing was staring in the mirror and wondering who the bony-faced desperado was that was staring back.
4. They were about as entertaining as a kick in the charlies.
5. Almost all of them conveyed the impression that teaching was a piece of p*ss. And that in order to do it, one was only required to bone up on vile dogma about personalised learning, learning to learn, inclusion, learning styles, and other ghastly, laboratory-invented Frankenstein’s monsters of teaching ideas. I soon found out that these things were very, very far from your first, second or third concern.
|‘Great Krypton. I thought VAK was real.’|
So I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was training. I decided to use a technique that would be human as well as professional; I wrote the book partially as a memoir of my own experiences, interspersed with the advice that my older, wiser self would have given to the fresh-faced apprentice I was. Wise to the fact that I am of little interest except to the people who love me, I kept the memoir sections to the bare minimum, and included them only when it was a relevant experience that conveyed what it’s actually like to be in the boiling saucepan of your first few years. I also used these sections to describe in excruciating detail, as many of the pratfalls I made as possible, if only because the essence of comedy is observing the misfortune of others. Also, I avoided litigation.
|‘Sorry, no, I’m not him. Yes we are often mistaken.’|
I understand that there’s a bit of a debate about the authenticity of teacher memoirs these days (and I never thought I’d write those words), so I should say that while everything in the book happened to me, I have changed names, genders, and other details to protect the identity of the innocent as well as the guilty. Unlike other, anonymous educational writers (or ones who make a feeble attempt to be so), my name is out in the open; I have no secret identity to hide behind. In that respect, I’m a bit like Tony Stark. And in no other way, alas.
|‘Briliiant…is…is it too late to amend the Education Bill?’|
I wouldn’t want anyone to say, ‘Aha! It’s not really like that!’ Believe me; it really is like that. And I think, after running the behaviour forum for a few years, that I got off relatively lightly. At least I had a few years working in nightclubs in Soho before I went into teaching, and I was used to belligerence and indifference. I truly pity those who enter teaching straight from University, especially in rougher schools. Still, in a few years time when we’re all being trained in Tescos, it won’t matter, I suppose.
|‘Curses! He has learned how to master us!’|
I’ve tried to make it funny; I damn well made sure it was relevant. I went over and over it to include everything I needed to know that I didn’t get from the training process. There’s only so much that a teaching professional can learn from a book, any book, so I wanted to make sure that this one had everything I could put in, and still be useful. I even penned a few cartoons for it, because I know that certainly pause over such things when I flick through a book in the shop.
|That’s a direct order from the big guy.|
It’s not a book for educational philosophers (although it has a little of that) or armchair pundits (although to be fair, I never resist the urge to have a crack).
It’s a book for teachers, about teaching. I hope some people find it useful.
And I like the cover.
This is from my second book, Not Quite a Teacher, out in a few months; it’s a training guide for new teachers that uses my tragi-comic rookie experiences as a kind of a lighthouse, warning off new recruits from the reefs and rocks that scuttled me. It’s packed with the kind of earthy, homespun wisdom about the actual, dirty-handed practise of teaching that regular readers will recognise from the Forums. I hope it offers a more realistic take than the in-at-the-deep-end philosophy of contemporary teacher training.
I normally blog more on Saturday, but after the TES session running to two and a half hours, I actually seem to have sprained my typing muscles. Still, it was great fun, and thanks to everyone who contributed. And apologies to anyone who didn’t get their queries answered due to time; post it on the TES Behaviour forum (link to the right) and I’ll reply as soon as I can.