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The Attitudes Which Cause the Behaviour Crisis

January 23, 2012

Every so often I end up arguing with somebody who claims that I am addressing “straw men” positions. They claim that I am arguing against positions that would never be held by anyone who could be taken seriously. I suspect most of my readers, particularly the teachers, know that the positions I argue against are all too common. However, just in case, here are 3 examples of the attitudes a teacher can face in school.

1) A prominent headteacher who disapproves of using detentions as punishment rather than relationship building.

In front of the Education Select Committee (minutes here; video here) Mike Griffiths, Head of Northampton School for Boys and witness for the Association of School and College Leaders said:

Detentions are not terribly useful. People tend to try and find a more creative way of dealing with issues, because to get good discipline you need to work with youngsters and get their co-operation. Simply penalising and depriving them of time and so on isn’t always helpful. The only time when I think it can be useful is when that time is used by the teacher to constructively work with that individual child, in a way that they don’t normally have time to, to actually rebuild the relationship. Personally, I am completely against the notion of what I think in some schools is called faculty detention, where somebody else runs it. As far as I can see, the only reason for keeping a youngster behind is to enable me, as the teacher, to improve relationships with that youngster, but that’s unlikely to occur if the youngster perceives the detention as being a period of almost imprisonment.

2) A head of department who believes children shouldn’t have to do what they are told.

I quite like a lot of David Didau writes about on his blog, but I have no confidence in his attitude to discipline. From a blogpost that I particularly disagreed with:

…students are in school to learn, not to behave. It’s no good bleating about ‘behaviour crises’ if all you’ve got to offer is some rules to follow. Frankly, I wouldn’t follow ‘em. I’m a bugger for asking ‘Why?’ which accounts for my personal struggle with recipe books: I always want to be given a reason why the onions have to be cooked for 5 minutes or why the water has to be ice cold or why you have to keep on stirring. I’m interested in knowing the thinking behind these instructions and really struggle to follow them unless they’re explained. Possibly the reason I’m bad at following recipes is also the reason why I enjoy teaching? Robert Sylwester, Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Oregon said, “Misguided teachers who constantly tell their pupils to sit down and be quiet imply a preference for working with a group of trees, not a classroom full of young people.

3) A child who cannot admit to doing wrong, even after assaulting a teacher.

Please take a look at this.  (If anyone can help me embed this for viewing on my blog then I’d be very grateful).

Of particular note is this section of the interview with Chloe, a girl who is treated as a victim throughout the report:

Voiceover:  So Chloe was statemented [a bureaucratic procedure under which a child is treated as if they have no responsibility for their own actions], registered as having special educational needs, but after an incident in which a teacher tried to confiscate her phone, the school had had enough.

Chloe: Because I was playing with it and she told me to hand it in and I said “no”. And she tried taking it off me. And so I put it down my bra so she couldn’t get it and then she took it. Then ran down the stairs with it because she asked me to leave and I said “no”. Then, so she took my phone and she started shouting in my face when I took it out of her hand so I pushed her out of my face.

Interviewer: So you pushed her? Hard?

Chloe: I didn’t exactly knock her over, so it can’t have been that hard.

You really have to have seen the whole Newsnight report to see just how seriously this girl was taken. (Tom Bennett demolished the programme here.)

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53 comments

  1. Andrew that really is a straw man position. I most certainly do think students should do what they’re told. My point was that there is a world of difference between good behaviour and good behaviour for learning. The two are not, of course, mutually exclusive.

    For you to lack confidence in my attitude to discipline is not, I think, a position which can be supported with any empirical evidence, merely a vague suspicion based, perhaps, on the fact that I advocate group work.

    Thanks for the name check though.


    • I refer you back to what you actually said. There isn’t a lot of ambiguity in “I wouldn’t follow them”.


      • Do you blindly follow rules that don’t seem to make any sense? There’s a hell of a lot of evidence if your blog that you’re not a fan of following stupid rules. Does this make both our positions ambiguous?

        For the sake of clarity let me add, I’m a firm believer in rules which make sense.


        • There’s much said for not following rules that don’t make sense, but only – and it’s a big only – if you understand the entire field they’re operating in. If they don’t make sense because they don’t fit with the knowledge you have, that’s fine, but if they don’t make sense because you don’t have the knowledge, that isn’t.

          The problem is that any rule can be framed as “not making sense” under limited or biased knowledge. It doesn’t make sense that we have to work if we don’t enjoy the lesson because the teacher is supposed to make the lesson enjoyable and if he doesn’t it should impact on him. It doesn’t make sense that we can’t paint our nails in class even if we want to work in a nail bar.

          So yes, you do have to follow rules that don’t make sense, unless you’re clearly ready to stand up and say that you know better – and why.


        • I follow the rules I’m required to follow. The problem with your argument is that leads to not being required to follow the rules.


  2. I just think there’s too much slovenliness: not taking bag and coat off straight away when getting to classroom (which we did automatically); not having pens ready or at all. These things used to be automatic and the teacher didn’t need to nag and nag us about it. They are simply delaying tactics and accepted as normal behaviour – except that really, they are tiny but significant symbols of rebellion and challenges to the teacher’s authority which have spread into the overall attitudes of the pupils,

    Regarding group work, quite often this takes so much time that the students would have learned three or four times as much if they had simply been taught by the teacher. Group work in the computer suite is often a chance to browse the web while one member of the group does all the work. A whole lesson can go by like this. Whatever the virtuous and well-meant aims of group work a lot of lessons are wasted in this way.


  3. May I observe that, on the strength of the quoted passage, whatever Mr. Didau’s skills as a teacher may or may not be, I wouldn’t want to eat anything he’d cooked.


  4. David Didau

    “…students are in school to learn, not to behave. It’s no good bleating about ‘behaviour crises’ if all you’ve got to offer is some rules to follow. Frankly, I wouldn’t follow ‘em. I’m a bugger for asking ‘Why?”

    Oh yeah?…sorry mate, you’re no radical, no anarchist, you’re a deluded liberal attention seeker.

    “I’m interested in knowing the thinking behind these instructions and really struggle to follow them unless they’re explained.”

    how about…because it makes it far easier to both teach and learn if students are prepared to listen to what’s being taught and how it’s to be taught, and to behave in a cooperative manner? …sounds reasonable enough to me….so reasonable that I’m happy to enforce rules and sanctions to ensure that this takes place? Obviously this makes me an unimaginative fascist in your book…but then, you’re “a deluded liberal attention seeker”, so why would I care..

    “Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Oregon said…”

    and in true “deluded liberal attention seeking” style, you back up your point with a quote from an obscure US academic. Have you ever read the Guardian society page? Every other bloody sentence begins “A new report from the Department of Cultural -or Social-Blah at the University of -insert midwesterm state- suggests…”

    Why do highly paid upper middle-class humanities graduates spend their time perusing the farcical ideas of other highly paid upper middle-class humanities graduates and trying to impose them on working-class kids and families with all too predictably disastrous results? I’m sure it must be something to do with cultural ‘herd-think’. I reckon you’re just desperate to join the herd. Probably, you hate teaching, so started a blog to get a bit of that attention you so clearly crave hoping in the long run you can get a spot in some self-described “left-liberal” media organisation, where you can posture and show the world how right-on you are and how all other teachers lack your vision, talent and humanity…no?


    • Can we be careful with the ad hominems, please? It would be a pain if the discussion was to drift beyond the point where I am willing to publish.


    • Thank you for your reasoned and considered comments Mr Monkeyfish (if that’s your real name!)

      Are you actually my dad? It’d explain a lot.


      • Whoops, can’t believe I missed this little diamond…

        “Are you actually my dad? It’d explain a lot.”

        Is that what all this about…some kind of crisis of an extended adolescence? Are you still resentful because you weren’t allowed on holiday with your mates…or because you couldn’t have that bike you’d always dreamed about?
        “I hate my dad, he never let’s me do what I want…he’s always making all these bloody rules…I just don’t see the point…it’s not fair!”

        “It’d explain a lot.”…in fact it explains everything and confirms my every suspicion about certain teachers. Look David, if it helps you achieve ‘closure’…I tend to find teachers with your views actually believe in things like ‘closure’…it wasn’t that there was no point behind the rules; it was just that you didn’t like the rules; those two are very different things.

        And no, my name isn’t monkeyfish. I like to post pseudonymously for the all too sensible reason that my posts aren’t little paragons of orthodox management-speak or paeans to the latest liberal-idiocy to impinge upon education….and believe it or not, although that lot claim ‘liberalism’ and ‘tolerance’ as their watchwords, they’re actually a vindictive and censorious bunch.


        • Thank you for your extraordinarily kind words Mr Fish. I feel so much better for that. I hope you do too.


          • David,
            I had been meaning to ask, what silly rules in school would you dispense with?

            And do you think it’s ethically correct for a students to lose their education whilst a teacher has to spend time in class explaining to a truculent youth, the finer points of loco parentis, legal justification for school sanctions and adult authority?

            I must say, if i was a student, i would resent such time-wasting immensely.


          • Nada…any time Mr Learningspy


  5. If you believe no pupil should have to do what they’re told unless they are being told ‘why’, you are assuming that they have no common sense as well as spoon feeding them to the extent that that they don’t even think they could be capable of knowing why they are doing something. Anyway, often the ‘why’ is blatantly obvious, and the students know exactly why certain rules and instructions are applied. They are just putting off getting on with it to avoid doing anything constructive.


    • Absolutely right. If indeed the why is blatantly obvious then clearly there is no need to explain it further. I’m not suggesting explanations have to tediously lengthy, just that there ought to be some kind of reason which everyone understands. Why is this contentious?


      • It’s not ; but in your recipe scenario you wanted to know ‘why’ for every single instruction – thus implying that your pupils need to know the reasons for even the most simplistic rules/instructions. Where do you draw the line? Teachers understand the need for students to have underlying explanations for new concepts – but not for behaving in class and getting on with their work..


        • I stand by my recipe examples: they are apposite. I want to know why and am frustrated that recipe books don’t explain. Is it unreasonable to want to have my questions answered? Should I be satisfied with the tautology of ‘because I said so’? Are you?


          • “I stand by my recipe examples: they are apposite. I want to know why and am frustrated that recipe books don’t explain.”

            So perhaps if the writer prefaced each book with “the quantities and timings I’ve suggested have, after much experiment over many years, produced results which I and others judge to provide the most culinarily propitious results….however, feel free to alter timings, ingredients and quantities as you see fit” you’d be happy?

            But then you’d really have to ask yourself why you’re even bothering to consult, let alone, buy the book in the first place. Why did you? Why do you use a recipe book if you intend to ignore its advice? Is it simply to make you feel unbound by convention and traditional orthodoxies…does it make you feel like a rebel, a creative maverick? If so, why not actually be completely creative and start from scratch…wouldn’t that, by your logic be the more natural thing to do?

            In fact, why do you teach…why don’t you live in a yurt and spend your time writing anarchist freeform-verse dressed in a paper kaftan made from the torn-out pages of Emma Goldman’s collected letters that you ‘liberated’ from the library?


          • Don’t try to pigeonhole me just to justify your own argument. Recipes are instructions; it surprises me that you are so irritated with them for not explaining every single thing, as you are (I gather) an English teacher and at primary level children specifically learn to write instructions – and writing the ‘because’ for every instruction is definitely NOT expected of them. It just isn’t practical to expect to know why every step of the way.

            If you want to cook something, the recipe writer knows that all you need are basic instructions not a justification for everything as well. It’s the same with anything you buy that has instructions. They assume you have at least a bit of a brain to work with and that the REASON for all the instructions put together is to end up with a wardrobe. Same as the REASON you have rules at school is so that you have a decent enough environment in which to be able to learn something, get qualifications and ultimately get a job. The pupils know this, believe it or not.
            The recipe analogy just doesn’t stand up and instead of being rebellious, is just an excuse to conform to OFSTED rubbish.


      • I think somehow you’re being disingenuous with your “question the rules” mantra. As a teacher you probably know that the rules of [insert subject here] are understandable for the most part only when you progress to a higher level class and material. Particularly with your cooking example. No one is going to explain the technical detail of why when the purpose of the book is to get you cooking and I guess somewhat proficient in carrying out the recipe.

        I know I do not expect students to understand where mesh analysis of circuits came from, but I do expect them to be able to do it. Explanations can come later (and are better understood) when they can do a task.

        A reasonable person would generally accept the standard response to “Why?” that is, you’ll find out later on when you take a more advanced course.


    • I’d have to say that just because we don’t know the “why” of a rule doesn’t make it wrong. Sometimes procedures are in place because they work even if we don’t know off the top of our heads why they work. I couldn’t have told you any convincing reasons for having school uniforms until I had seen a few non-uniform days. Having to justify everything from scratch is an interesting, but lengthy, philosophical exercise but rarely a practical consideration. “If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it” makes more sense to me than “This should be abandoned unless you have justified it to me”.


  6. “Can we be careful with the ad hominems, please?”

    Yeah, sorry. I was just according the guy the sort of response such a deliberately provocative and contentious statement demanded…begged for, it seemed. I rather thought that was the kind of reaction he was seeking. If you feel I’ve misjudged him and his motives then please remove it.

    I read that and thought: ‘This guy is after an argument’. He’s an English teacher; I’m sure he considers his audience when composing his pieces. If his audience consists largely in the teaching profession then I’m sure he knew full well that others would consider such a statement inflammatory and nonsensical; to teachers in some schools it will sound dismissive of their all too necessary efforts and act as a real slap in the face.

    None the less, I apologise for perhaps overstepping the mark and will instead grant him the benefit of the doubt by filing it under “silly and ill-considered”.


    • You weren’t over the mark, I just didn’t want it to escalate and my comment was aimed equally at anyone wanting to reply to you.


  7. Fair enough, although it came from a place which I should probably keep locked up and out of sight. The place where I store the emotions aroused by yet another consultant type arriving to demonstrate how our kids can be turned onto Shakespeare or will engage with Maths if only they’re introduced to the wonders of rotational symmetry inherent to Islamic Art. After an, admittedly hilarious, half hour involving plastic polygons being put through all manner of aerobatic manoeuvres or the scaling of vertiginous heights of apathy, culminating at the summit with an emphatic: “I’m not saying that…do i look like a faggot?” aimed at a, by now, incredulous wreck of a human being, it’s business as usual as one steps in and tries to restore some semblance of order, generally involving raising ones voice and issuing threats of sanctions…later to be smugly informed that this very insistence upon ‘behavioural orthodoxy’…(I kid you not)…was in fact the problem.

    Later investigation reveals said consultant type to have spent years dining out on their courageous struggle to enthuse ‘disaffected’ middle-class adolescents to the point where they accept the merits of poetry or simultaneous equations…generally, their personal myth consists in an heroic lifelong battle against conventionality which obviously ideally suits them to educating rebellious teenagers.

    Where they entirely miss the point is that my daily battle is to get teenagers to accept the merits of some degree of conformity and sociability; most of these kids aren’t rebellious; rebellion requires a departure from some notion of a norm. This is what they lack; they lack it because at least half of them arrive each morning from a home devoid of an adequately socialised adult human being.

    Conformity, compliance and courtesy are ‘radical’ to them, and to be fair, some of them appreciate it and revel in it. The last thing they need is some soi-disant maverick, overburdened with unfounded liberal notions of personal freedom and expression turning up to try and ‘empower’ them through liberation…unfortunately Ofsted seems to have swallowed their rhetoric hook line and sinker…and I can even see that it might have a place in a leafy suburb for a ‘cruising’ school where teaching has become routine; even perhaps sclerotic…but their one size fits all approach is destined to keep screwing it up for us and the pressure to meet these disastrous expectations adversely affects our kids in a stupid stupid stupid vicious circle.


    • how superbly put sir.
      There is nothing wrong with a series of calm, well taught lessons with good teaching, behaviour and engagement.

      OFSTED now considers this as ‘run of the mill, uninspiring, coasting’ or even the dreaded ‘satisfactory’.

      I don’t approve of constant over stimulation or swinging from the light fittings every single lesson- I dont know if I could cope with an ‘outstanding lesson’ every day- though I think OFSTED and I would differ on what outstanding really means.

      It always makes me cringe when they keep talking about the minutae about what qualifies as outstanding when there is a behaviour crisis in probably half of british schools.

      “The house is on fire!!”
      “Yeah maybe- but look at them lovely curtains…”


  8. Oh …one last thought

    addressed to anybody self-righteous enough to nip on and challenge my use of ‘kids’ as derogatory, demeaning or disrespectful-it’s happened before…my response is:

    Jesus wept…get a grip

    …and if possible a handle on reality


  9. “…just that there ought to be some kind of reason which everyone understands. Why is this contentious?”

    because it implies anyone over the age of 9 needs an explanation of the blatantly obvious…maybe you’re not taking sufficient account of your charges “previous experience and understanding” in which case your “expectations aren’t sufficiently elevated and challenging”…so can you really call yourself anything higher than ‘satisfactory’?…which, as I understand it, you can henceforth regard as notice to improve…

    or, in layman’s terms, regarding:”It’s no good bleating about ‘behaviour crises’ if all you’ve got to offer is some rules to follow.”

    Are you for real?..do you stand by this…in any conceivable context encountered in a school in this universe?


  10. Of course there are, using the word rather loosely, rules and rules. German soldiers accused of war crimes during the second war used a defence of “we were obeying orders” it failed them and they were convicted.
    In France, especially around the channel ports there is concern of the UK’s and Ireland’s driving on the left rule, completely out of line with the rest of Europe who drive on the right. I wonder if there is anybody who would question this rule by unilaterally driving on the right whilst in the UK?


  11. I am not sure if I feel saddened it enlightened. At times this debate extends into bickering of a type that many teachers despair of. There is obviously great experience here and not one wishes poor educational experiences. My point is that there are many and varied techniques within teaching and behaviour management. As a principal I believe that all children can succeed BUT if a teenager does not wish to or by actions steal the learning of others then the rights of those who do wish to learn become paramount. I am fed up with the rights of quiet children being trampled by abusive pupils who assault staff other children and steal others opportunities and learning. Yes good teaching means behaviour is better in many cases and a rigorous focus on teaching and learning is essential and something teachers want – its what they want to do not fill in surveys! Just my thoughts….


  12. “in any conceivable context encountered in a school in this universe?” Enough … enough.


  13. The newsnight story is, of course, entirely missing the point. Firstly, the story makes no mention (as Tom Bennett points out) of the other 29 children in each class whose education is being undermined. Secondly, in each case there appears to be a gobby mother with issues, and no father to be seen. This is as much about mothers working out their own hangups through their children as anything else.

    In the specific case, anyone who buys their 15 year old daughter a pole for their bedroom is deranged, and the “statement” for her “special needs” is simply bollocks, and part of why “statements” have fallen into disrepute. The school’s better off without her, the other 29 children in her class are better off without her, and she and her mother are simply late in learning that actions have consequences. The reason she couldn’t retake her GCSE wasn’t because she wasn’t allowed to by the nasty man, it was because she’d deliberately made herself persona non grata amongst people who wanted to work. I’m sure her mother and she will be happy with her career as a stripper.


  14. Having worked with children with serious behaviour emotional and behaviour difficulties there is evidence that the more ‘rules’ you impose on students the more ‘rules’ there are for them to rebel against, leading to more confrontation. You obviously need rules but you need to choose your rules very carefully. The have to be relevant and meaningful but at the same time the rules are non negotiable and I don’t enter discussions or negotiations. ‘You’re the student, I’m the adult. I’m not prepared to discuss my rules ,you just have to do as I ask’ Seriously disturbed kids have all the strategies to manipulate, twist and get their own way. I also advocate the use of ‘detention’ to persuade students to conform. I normally get students to catch up on the work they have missed, talk through issues that led up to their detention or simply sit and chat to get to know them better. How you play a ‘detention’ is up to the judgement of the teacher concerned, and I would not for one moment start pontificating about which way is better, the ‘punishment’ treatment or the ‘getting to know you better’ treatment. I use both methods in my classroom depending on the circumstances.


    • You haven’t said why you think confrontation is bad. Confronting bad behaviour is actually a good thing in a mainstream school. The worst schools are the ones with least confrontation.

      Having an opinion is not pontificating, it is actually necessary to choose to do anything. The objection to the “getting to know you” idea of a detention is that detentions are punishments and punishments are meant to punish not reward.


      • My ‘pontificating’ comment was aimed the comments Mike Griffiths made to the Education Committee, not your own personal opinions.Mike Griffiths appears to run a quasi grammar school so it is obvious he does not understand the difficulties teachers face when dealing with more challenging behaviour.
        In a special school context confrontation is bad if the result is that you end up with a student trashing your room or assaulting someone. However I am a firm advocate of confrontation in the right context.
        Students with BESD often view a ‘getting to know’ you detention as punishment in itself since they are invariably spending time inside with an adult when their friends are outside kicking a ball round.
        Will Mike Griffiths still have the same opinions if he becomes head of a challenging inner city comprehensive? (he probably wouldn’t want to go there!)


        • Okay, I’ll take it in that context.

          However:

          a) I am blogging about mainstream schools

          and

          b) It is far from clear to me that, even in a special school context, it should be acceptable for staff to fear directly confronting rule-breakers because of the threat of violence or destruction.


  15. Cornelius,
    “Having worked with children with serious behaviour emotional and behaviour difficulties”

    Why not ‘having worked with badly behaved children’? My old teachers always told me that brevity was the key to good communication


    • I take your point but if I use the phrase ‘BESD’ you gain an appreciation of the type of institution I work in. perhaps I have become institutionalised!


  16. “Having worked with children with serious behaviour emotional and behaviour difficulties there is evidence that the more ‘rules’ you impose on students the more ‘rules’ there are for them to rebel against”

    Yes I believe common sense and the most basic arithmetic and logic provide powerful evidence that suggests the relationship is one of direct proportionality with a coefficient which seems to converge on unity. Why on earth would anybody research this? Did anybody ever research my own theory that the more coal you shovel into a sack, the more coal the sack contains?

    “You obviously need rules but you need to choose your rules very carefully.”

    So basically, you’re a libertarian? Only as many rules as necessary to the orderly running of a community, yes? Odd; I’ve come across no true social libertarians in the teaching profession before now. Do you believe in income tax…restrictions on class A drugs…insuring your car? Or does you principle apply only when we’re talking about “children with serious behaviour emotional and behaviour difficulties”?

    I suspect you’re not remotely consistent. Would your approach to a convicted criminal be to absolve him of some of the legal restrictions incumbent on law-abiding citizens…maybe let him burgle the odd house but only on Tuesdays…nick a car, but only before 7am at the weekend. That way, there’d be less laws for him to break QED…problem solved.


  17. Yes, I have to concur here.
    I struggle to think of any school rule that could easily be dispensed with.
    Cornelius, which rules would you ‘ignore’?

    1. No racism?
    2. No running in the corridor?
    3. Arriving on time?
    4. Calling the teacher a ****?
    5. Bringing in a knife?
    6. Putting your hand up to ask a question?
    7. Breaking the uniform rules?
    8. Meeting coursework deadlines?

    Which one exactly?

    You see, I have a sneaking suspicion that teachers only create rules for pragmatic reasons.

    ie experience and evidence suggests a rule needs to exist.

    i.e. you ALREADY HAVE THE MINIMUM RULES that you so desire.


    • I feel nervous having all these ‘rules’ thrown at me and I will show my nervousness by trashing your classroom and punching you in the face. I am really too screwed up to be at school but i’m here so I might as well make the teacher’s life as hellish as possible. Having all these rules imposed on me means I’m suffering from sensory overload. I* can’t cope. Help! F**k off I’m going down the field for a fag.


      • “hey this crap hole has no rules so i may as well do as i like. they can’t do anything to me anyhow.

        and other people are behaving so badly around me anyway so no-one’s gonna notice any crap I pull.

        i doubt they will even notice if i pop down the field for a ciggie”

        — is your offering an attempt at a rebuttal? put some effort in please!

        ps and nervousness!!! yeah when Im nervous I start punching! oh hang on, no thats when I’m aggressive, arrogant and indulged- my mistake….


        • Rules are there to be broken! Believe it or not I have excellent classroom control, get brilliant results and I don’t have classroom rules. Who needs rules if you have a good rapport with students with whom you have built up a relationship over time? I don’t! My students work for me because they want to, not because I have a list of rules! It does help, of course that I only have a maximum of 5 kids in a class.


          • eh?

            i was about to ask you what one does when the kids DONT want to work with you when I noticed your final sentence.

            you do realise this blog is about normal secondary schools dont you?


  18. When it was a ‘one size fits all’ approach to discipline it was fairer, clearer, and far more effective. Teaching and learning at school could take place with the minimum of fuss and let’s face it, that is what schools are for.


  19. “Teaching and learning at school could take place with the minimum of fuss and let’s face it, that is what schools are for.”

    Ensuring teaching and learning is brilliant. The problem is if all you’re doing is ensuring compliance (i.e. no fuss). I’ve been compliant in many of my lessons and still not learned anything.

    That is why some of us keep using ideas like ‘engagement’ and think it is worthwhile to allow learners the space to learn. Ensuring a calm environment does not mean the same thing as ensuring receptive minds.

    I think the straw man emerging here is this:
    “You don’t like nice, teacher-controlled classrooms where nothing is out of place. You don’t want students to learn – you want ‘empowered’ students to shout with their pitiful ‘student voice’ and run riot.”

    No, the problem is “nice (for the teacher) teacher-dominated classrooms where students don’t have to learn – just be quiet”. And if you don’t think that exists, then you are just as wrong as the people oldandrew points out as wrong in his blog post.


    • You appear to have redefined “compliance” out of all recognition.

      While a teacher may always fail to educate, it is hard to see how, if a teacher is competent, the students could comply (usual definition) and not learn. Certainly, I would happily promise all my students that if they do what I say (i.e. comply), then they will learn, and learn a lot.

      Your comment on “engaging” was (if I have understood the timing correctly) rather aptly timed as between you writing it and me reading it I had published this blog entry: http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/weasel-words-1-engage/


  20. ‘The problem is if all you’re doing is ensuring compliance(ie no fuss)’

    That is not all you’re doing. An orderly classroom is more conducive to teaching and learning than a disorderly one. It is a means to an end.

    ‘I’ve been compliant in many of my lessons and still not learned anything.’

    Then you must have either a) chosen not to ,b) needed to pay more attention, or c) simply not understood and needed further help. None of these can be blamed on the teacher, and furthermore in an orderly classroom a teacher is in more of a position to help when someone is struggling. Believe it or not, someone will always be better than you at a subject just as there will always be another person who isn’t as quick to pick it up.

    ‘No, the problem is ‘nice'(for the teacher) teacher-dominated classrooms where students don’t have to learn-just be quiet':

    …your straw man – where you have argued with what you would like me to have meant but not what I actually said.
    Please compare the decline of general classroom behaviour and and expectations now with twenty or thirty years ago and think about how that must have spoiled many, many lessons on a daily basis.


    • you took the words out of my mouth serious teacher. It is almost impossible to learn well in an aggressive, noisy, disrespectful environment.

      In fact, teachers who dont impart any knowledge or pitch their lessons too high or too low or too fast or too slow can suffer from student misconduct.

      Good discipline = good learning = good discipline = good learning.

      its a reinforcing circle.

      The idea that anyone wants ‘docile, silent statues’ learning nothing is blatant straw.

      A well behaved class can do far more demanding work, far more interesting debate work, and better Q&A than any ill disciplined mob.

      TLK sounds like he’s either the whinging student or the inadequate teacher who can’t keep their class quiet.


  21. Why do people resort to using “left” and “liberal” as insults?

    For what it’s worth, I consider myself both on the left and a liberal. Yet I disagree entirely with many the notions put forward in the quoted extract above from David Didau.

    Children must learn that respect for others – in all forms that this implies – is important. They must understand that poor behaviour, which inhibits the learning of others, is out of order.

    Now, I’m no disciplinarian and I don’t think immediate harsh punishments are the answer. Equally, I’m no fan of detentions, chiefly because they waste my time. However, actions must have consequences – they do in the “real” world.


    • “Why do people resort to using “left” and “liberal” as insults?

      For what it’s worth, I consider myself both on the left and a liberal.”

      I don’t consider “left” to be an insult.

      “Liberal”, on the other hand, in common usage, has come to take on connotations of relativism. That being the case, I use ‘liberal’ as a pejorative meaning, variously: censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, ideologically nebulous-hence the ready adoption of any and every new quasi-progressive fad and above all inconsistent.

      Obviously this is just a personal view. But for me…and I am an oldish, old-style socialist…it’s come to replace my favoured “bourgeois”. It’s a bit iffy using “bourgeois” these days since a) very few people know what it means-outside of some vague association with the middle-class b) you sound a bit of a dick-it immediately summons images of Rick from the Young Ones etc.

      Hope this helps.


  22. good point stephen,

    and its for this reason that the best schools have centralised detention systems where the teachers take turns to oversee.

    and whilst there the kids copy lines in silence.

    Gove should make it compulsory.



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