The Naughty Boy

January 5, 2007

Malcolm began the lesson by announcing that he couldn’t enter the room because of the school’s one way system. He then tried to bring a friend (who wasn’t in my class) into the lesson. Then, aware that I will not allow students in with caps on said that he couldn’t enter the lesson because he wouldn’t take his off. Eventually he got bored of this, came in wearing the correct uniform and sat down, and behaved appropriately for approximately ten minutes before beginning to announce to the room at large that today’s topic, science in general, and myself, were “bare shit”. Receiving no response from this, he then asked me how he was supposed to do the work seeing as he couldn’t read. I asked him if he meant he couldn’t read at all, he said “yes”. I told him there was nothing I could do about that and it was not my job to do so and could he please stop interrupting me. At this point Malcolm lost his temper and began seriously trying to provoke me into a confrontation by saying (without response from me or anyone else) that:

1) He would not attend my detention tonight
2) When I came to get him he would run away
3) He would not attend any detention with me, ever
4) He was leaving because “this was shit anyway”.
5) He said something offensive about my mum and a hose which I didn’t understand
6) He threw some detention slips directly at me,
7) He told me to go and suck on my Nan’s left hairy testicle, which I did find quite upsetting as I was very close to my grandmother who passed away quite recently.
8) Malcolm then left the room without permission.

From the Behaviour Management database at Stafford Green School

People who have never taught and still see education from a child’s perspective often imagine that it is the hulking, brutal, older child that is the biggest problem for teachers. This is because it is that sort of child that creates the greatest problem for students through bullying and intimidation. In older people it might also be because a child who was big enough to fight back might have bee the least likely to be on the receiving end of (informal) corporal punishment.

However, for teachers, the worst, most disruptive children do not fit this profile at all. “Jordan” is more of a problem.

Jordan is a younger student. He will be less of a problem when he’s older as he will stop attending school from about the middle of year 9. He is shorter than average for his age, and although he likes sport he is not great at it. There may be psychological reasons as to why it’s the short kids that are the most crazy, perhaps it is to compensate for lack of stature that they are desperate to gain power over others through their behaviour.

Jordan’s writing skills are behind where they should be at his age, although to talk to him he seems no less articulate or intelligent, or possibly brighter than other students his age. At times this has led to suggestions that he has a special need, possibly dyslexia. However given that nobody has ever seen him attempt to learn anything it seems plausible that his poor writing skills stem from the fact that he refused to cooperate with his primary school teachers in much the same way as his secondary school teachers. Occasionally some enterprising SEN teacher or assistant will suggest he needs special help with writing and a TA will come into his lessons to help or he will be withdrawn from lessons for work in a small group or on a one-to-one basis. For about a week Jordan will enjoy the extra attention, then he will become bored with it and verbally abuse the TA, refuse to go to his special lesson, or behave appallingly in the special lesson. A few weeks later the SEN department will discover a more urgent need for their resources, although the SEN teacher involved may continue to tell other staff that they “have a good relationship” with Jordan.

Every child in his year knows who Jordan is and he has celebrity status as a result. Typically Jordan will turn up late to lessons heralded by the sounds of running and yelling and the sight of lights in the corridor being turned off. When he does arrive he might still be running and will definitely still be yelling. He might be yelling abuse at another student. He might be yelling “I neeeed a pen” at the teacher. He might even be yelling random words such as “baked beans” or “spotty and green”. He will expect the class and the teacher to stop work and pay attention to him. Failure to do that on the part of a student may be met by bullying later on. Failure to do that on the part of a teacher will lead to him deciding the teacher isn’t “safe” which will make that teacher a target for future abuse and disruption. The first ten minutes of the lesson which he attends are vital. It is from these the teacher will be able to decide whether Jordan will be able to stay in the lesson today. The test is to see whether you can talk to the class without Jordan interrupting. It is best not to use the main teaching part of the lesson to conduct this experiment, so normally the taking of the register, or recapping previous work is done at this point in the lesson to test the waters. The teacher’s chief worry is that the main part of the lesson will have just started when Jordan arrives and his arrival and subsequent behaviour will prevent anyone else from paying attention. On a bad day he will interrupt first with pointless interruptions, then if warned he will try and make his interruptions seem more purposeful – asking for equipment, complaining about other children, asking questions about the work – this will ensure that when the teacher attempts to stop the interruptions he can begin arguing. Arguing will start with an explanation of why his behaviour should have been tolerated, and ends with an appraisal of the teacher’s pedagogical skills, personal hygiene and/or sexual preference.

Jordan’s father does not live with him or his twelve siblings. His mother is a frequent visitor to the school (often unannounced to complain about her son being bullied by members of staff or his best friend) and will happily explain to him why he should behave, although never with a suggestion of any punishment if he doesn’t. She will also explain to the teacher that Jordan has an undiagnosed behaviour problem and he behaves really badly at home too. She will talk for hours about Jordan and his brothers and their various difficulties at school and with social services. Occasionally she will talk of moving Jordan to another school.

This won’t ever happen.

Every school will have a Jordan in it. Tough schools may have twenty or more Jordans. There was a time when such students may have ended up in a special school. In these enlightened days of Inclusion, this won’t happen and Jordan will last until he finds some hobby (stealing cars, dealing drugs) to divert him from his studies.


  1. Obviously such a student as Malcolm should not be in a standard classroom. But his summarisation of the lesson as ‘bare shit’ is quite believable.

    I recall a documentary on TV involving secret filming of various schools by a science supply teacher. One uncooperative boy, clearly not engaged by GCSE chemistry, (and very few human beings are) was told to leave the room, which he did, carefully inserting his chemistry textbook into the bin on the way out. The latter gesture was magnificently understated, though appropriate behaviour I thought!

    He was presumably a dab hand at media studies.

  2. ‘There was a time when such students may have ended up in a special school.’

    This is still a time when such students join our special school. They are given a fresh start. They are given new peers – and fewer of them. They come to a school where their reading difficulty is the responsibility of ALL the teachers who teach them. They come to a schoo where their needs are met, not by government targets, by by what THEY need. Very, very few of them continue to behave in the way they did in mainstream.

    My heart goes out to any teacher who has to put up with behaviour such as those mentioned above.

  3. “There was a time when such students may have ended up in a special school.”

    There was a time when different social circumstances and attitudes meant that there were very many fewer Jordans about.

    And as for you, Eureka, and your much-repeated delight at seeing the boy bin his book, you remind me of nothing more edifying than the crew of hooting schoolboys who usually applaud such daringness.

  4. “Very many fewer?” Did I just make that phrase up? It’s rubbish!

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