A Good Class

January 17, 2007

“I can’t have this book, it’s retarded”
“Please take the book, Wayne, it’s not damaged or anything”
“I didn’t say it was damaged I said it was retarded”
“Can you take the book please, Wayne?”
“It’s retarded”
“There’s nothing wrong with it, please take it.”
“Are you saying there’s something wrong with being retarded?”

“I thought you were complaining about the book when you said it was retarded”
“You’ve upset me now, Sir. My sister’s retarded.”

Conversation with Wayne, Year 11

It gets easier in the second year at a school. It stops feeling like a struggle for survival. It is less of a fight to teach with most classes. You are more likely to be given some good classes.

However in a tough school a good class can still mean behaviour beyond what should be tolerable.

Here are some of the delightful happenings of just a term and a bit in my second year at Stafford Green with one of my nicest classes, a Year 11 set of above average ability, that I’d just taken over from Mr Peterson, a very able and experienced colleague, who had inevitably left to go to a different school. His comment to me was “they’ll be fine you just have to make sure Kerrie-Ann and Wayne are moved to the class below”. This was advice that Mertha my head of department refused to take. (The possibility exists that she may have been influenced by the fact she was the teacher of the class below.)

Behaviour Management Database Entries for Kerrie-Ann:

  • Failure to do any work, sitting in the wrong place, talking while I’m talking. Told me she won’t attend her detention. Have talked to her mother.
  • Kerrie-Ann left the lesson. (I haven’t set a detention as she still owes the maths department detentions)
  • Kerrie-Anne refused to sit where requested. Eventually removed by Deputy Head She has still done no coursework.I have been told she doesn’t do detentions. Please advise.

Behaviour Management Database Entries for Abbi:

  • Abbi arrived 11 minutes late then sat in the wrong place. She ignored repeated requests to move and wouldn’t even pick up her book from the correct seat. Finally I asked to speak to her outside and when I explained politely that she should sit where I’d requested she said she didn’t see the point and if I was bothered by where she sat I must be “a weirdo, a schizophrenic weirdo”.
  • Abbi came into the lesson arguing that she had never received the detention slip I gave her before half term (despite the fact that she’d previously discussed it with me), that it was unfair that I sent someone to collect her for the detention, and unfair that I’d informed her parents that she’d missed the detention and that she wouldn’t do the detention or any work. She then didn’t do any work. The original incident was for verbal abuse that I referred to Head of Department and Head Of Year, I’d welcome details of how this has been followed up.
  • Abbi began repeating the words I said and then asking repeatedly where I was from. I Said “Abbi stop ……” and she interrupted me with her impression of me saying “Abbi”. I asked her to leave the classroom. She didn’t go after 3 requests. She only left after I had gone to get help to remove her.
  • Abbi arrived 7 minutes late, ignored instructions to take her coat off, wouldn’t open her book and work. I encouraged her to work. She began complaining about being isolated from the lesson yesterday “for no reason”. I said that it was important she understand what that was about and offered to explain it outside. She declined to move. Then she began complaining that she never got into any trouble before I sat her on her own, I reminded that where she was sat was a result of her behaviour and the rules of the classroom. She said “you must have a crap memory”. I sent her to Mertha, she said it was pathetic to send her out, that I was pathetic and she refused to go to Mertha and went to find her Head of Year.
  • Abbi started taking photos in the lesson. When I spoke to her outside she insisted that there was nothing wrong with this. I suggested she talk to her year head. She took this as an invitation to walk off while I was dealing with some year 8s who were invading the corridor. Gemma left at about the same time.
  • Abbi repeatedly interrupted me (at least 6 times) to argue about Wayne being sent out of the lesson.When I refused to discuss it with her she called me pathetic. When I went for help to get her and Wayne removed she left (with Kerry-Ann and Gemma) but came back at the end of lesson stood in the corridor and (one of them) kept pushing open the door. This is the fourth time Abbi has verbally abused me this academic year.

Behaviour Management Database Entries for Gemma:

  • Interrupting. I moved her and she refused to go until Mertha had come to the room and repeated the instruction. Left the classroom part way through the lesson and didn’t return. Left the lesson. This is the second time she’s done this, am still chasing up the first time due to absence
  • Arrived in the classroom said, “Can I move classes I don’t like you?”. Gemma is friends with Abbi, her latest spate of appalling behaviour seems to be a response to Abbi’s ability to repeatedly verbally abuse me with minimal consequences.
  • Interrupted me. Laughed when I asked for quiet. I then warned her outside, The Deputy Head also warned her. When I told the class that if coursework deadline wasn’t met they’d being catching up after school next week she said that shee wouldn’t be attending. Then she began shouting out “they should bring Mr Peterson back”. Was asked to leave the classroom and refused. Finally removed by the Deputy Head

Behaviour Management Database Entries for Wayne:

  • Repeated interruptions while I was talking and when asked (after several warnings) to stand outside for a minute said “You’re an idiot”.
  • Wayne kept throwing things across the room, including one thing that hit me. When I sent him out he walked back in saying that he would get his trainers so he could clean them, he then flicked dirt from them over a number of other students,
  • Interrupting, throwing things, arguing. Called me an idiot.
  • Arrived late and instead of sitting down in the right place stood at the front and started a conversation. Eventually went to his seat but interrupted me repeatedly even after 5 warnings. I asked him to stand outside and he wouldn’t go. Removed by Mertha.
  • Repeated interruptions, arguing, refused to leave when sent outside. Had to be removed by Mertha

The above is not an example of a particularly bad class. Most of the students were able and keen to do well. This was however a target GCSE class for the school’s results. In terms of how the school would be judged this class would affect the schools results. Yet somehow in that class the same students could disrupt and disrupt again, up to and including verbal abuse, and I’d be waiting weeks for action and it would not include exclusion (temporary or permanent). Now I worked in a large department, and others were having a far worse time with year 11 than I was. So we can assume that there were many other classes with about the same level of behaviour or worse in the school. OFSTED had said the school was Very Good with only a small amount of poor behaviour, so we can probably assume that such incidents are repeated up and down the country to a greater or lesser extent in most schools.

We can be confident that vast numbers of GCSE students are being taught in classes where it’s a relatively frequent happening for students to refuse to work and to verbally abuse the teacher. Politicians, both locally and nationally, make a big deal about GCSE passes and are quick to claim credit when they rise. Well here’s a suggestion for making the results rise – how about doing something about behaviour? Does anyone really believe that an environment where verbal abuse and disruption are common place can really be the best place to learn?

Discussion of this entry can be found on INFET (Blog Update)



  1. Our local Co-op has a sign saying that abuse of staff won’t be tolerated. I believe many hospitals have similar notices and that in all these places the warnigs are backed up with action when necessary. No-one seems to suggest that when a drunk customer abuses a checkout operator that it’s the way the checkout person did their job that was the root cause of the abuse. Presumably, OA, in at least a few of the examples you quote someone has suggested that you were at least in part to blame. This I think is what really gets a lot of us down.

  2. Oo-er you aren’t a Science teacher at an inner-city comp are you? That whole farrago sounds uncannily like the one I was listening to next door as I sat in my tightly locked office, except with expletives deleted. If you’re not, then you’ll probably still have some sympathy for the poor sod, who spent two hours at the weekend making moving examples of pivots for the class to experiment with. They barged in and basically just broke them.

  3. I’m not a teacher – but planning on training as one in September. I’m wondering anyone can say that he was partly to blame – how would/should the above situations be handled differently?

  4. I’ve had similar things happen to me in a variety of schools, enough to know that it’s a common occurrence and not limited to a particular school or teacher. And yes Ciara it’s also usual to be told it’s your responsibility as a teacher to not have these things happen. If I were you I’d look for a different career.

  5. Ciara, I’d love to be able to offer you some constructive advice on how the situation could have been handled differently/better, but the fact is that in schools like oldandrew’s (and mine, though I no longer teach there – hurray just typing that has cheered me up), there are just too many kids like that for you to do anything with, unless you have been there ages and earned yourself a reputation as a vicious f***ing bitch. I can certainly throw a few pointers that way but I fear that bright young things who want to be the pupils’ friend and mentor won’t like them; plus they require the cast-iron backing of SMT and the rest of your department.

  6. You’re describing a bad parenting problem, not a school problem. Parenting should be a regulated profession, not the result of a drunken slut trying to please the neighborhood asshole.

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