Getting “Terrored”

March 18, 2007

At the Metropolitan School “terror” is a verb, not a noun. “To terror a teacher” means to subject a teacher to a continual stream of intimidation and abuse with the intention of causing the maximum amount of stress. The main purpose of this is to intimidate the teacher into giving up on any attempt to enforce the rules. Also it can be used to attempt to drive the teacher out of the school, or as a way for students to assert their status or authority with their peers. Consequently it is aimed largely at teachers who are new to the school, or at least new to the class, although if a class is arrogant enough it will be aimed at any teacher who expects them to behave.

Terroring begins with low level disruption. Admittedly everything at the Metropolitan school begins with low level disruption. However, if you are getting terrored then any effort to prevent the disruption or enforce the school rules will lead to escalation through the following stages:

Stage 1: Argument

This begins with “We are allowed to…” or “But you….”

For example:

  • “We are allowed to drink water in class.”
  • “We are allowed to sit where we like.”
  • “We are allowed to keep our coats on.”
  • “We are allowed to listen to music in the lesson.”
  • “We are allowed to talk if we want to.”


  • “But you haven’t given me a pen”
  • “But you haven’t told us what to do”
  • “But you can’t make me sit on my own.”
  • “But you can’t make us do work if we don’t want to”.

All of which will be said in the most aggressive tone imaginable and in defiance of all the facts. The intention is to start an argument. Whether you give them the argument or not makes no difference as to what happens next.

Stage 2: Accusation

  • “You give us detentions for nothing.”
  • “You don’t help us.”
  • “You don’t explain nothing.”
  • “You gave me a warning for asking for help.”
  • “You never told us what to do.”
  • “You pick on boys.”
  • “You pick on girls.”
  • “You pick on me.”
  • “You make everything complicated.”
  • “You don’t explain things properly.”
  • “You don’t know how the rules work.”

The accusations will be repeated by several students and any effort to point out the facts will lead to a different accusation being made.

Stage 3: The Strop

One of the ringleaders in the class will soon lose their temper. It will happen regardless of how you have responded to Stage 1 or Stage 2. Triggers can include:

  • Arguing with them.
  • Enforcing the rules.
  • Reminding them of the rules.
  • Asking them not to interrupt you when you are talking to another child.
  • Setting work.
  • Correcting their mistakes.
  • Asking to see their work.
  • Looking at their work.
  • Talking to them.

Once triggered the strop, delivered at high volume, often while standing, will contain the following three elements: accusation, threat and abuse in any order.

For example:

  • “You didn’t help me (accusation). I’m complaining to my parents (threat). You’re a knob (abuse).”
  • “I’m going to get you fired (threat). You’re a fucking wanker (abuse). You gave me a detention for nothing (accusation).”
  • “My Dad’s going to batter you (threat). You’re picking on me (accusation). You smell (abuse).”

The verbal abuse and threats will not shock the class. Many will be very entertained and be waiting for the next stage.

Stage 4: The Appeal to their Peers

In this stage the aggrieved child will seek and receive support from the rest of the class, particularly their friends. The support is automatic, they wouldn’t seek it if there was ever any doubt that it would be forthcoming. The child will ask others to support their accusation, to agree with their opinion, to express their disapproval of the teacher.

  • “He’s lying. Put your hand up if you think he’s lying”
  • “Everybody hates you”
  • “You will all back up my story won’t you?”

Alternatively they might ask others to join in with their behaviour:

  • “We should all get sent out”
  • “We should all walk out”
  • “What are you going to do if we all refuse to work?”

Stage 5: The Copycats and the Stressmongers

When you have done your best to deal with the ringleader (usually by getting them to leave the room, which they will do as slowly as possible, with extra abuse along the way, and comments about how they will not be punished for what they are doing as it’s all your fault) then you will be faced with two twin threats.

Stressmongers will say things to you to make the situation seem even worse:

  • “You can’t control us can you, Sir?”
  • “Are you having a bad day?”
  • “Why are you looking unhappy?”
  • “Did you know nobody’s doing any work?”
  • “What are you going to do when Kelly’s Dad comes in to batter you?”
  • “You got terrored.”

Copycats will wait their turn to also lose their temper in the style of the now departed ringleader. If you ask them to work they will strop. If you let them sit doing no work they will start breaking rules (eg. leaving their seat, getting their phones out, getting their lunch out). The moment you remind them of the rules they will become irate and you will be back at Stage 3. If you just ignore their rule-breaking they will start throwing things or hitting one of their friends. You now have a no win situation. If you tell Chelsea to stop throwing things at Damien then Chelsea will lose her temper. If you don’t, then Damien will lose his. Alternatively somebody else might start doing something dangerous (swinging on chair, sticking their pen in a plug socket) so you have to intervene and give somebody an excuse to lose their temper with you. There is no way to stop the copycats any more than you could have prevented any other of the steps.

So what can you do about being terrored?

I’ll tell you: you can get used to it. It’s not going away. Until schools are allowed to adopt a policy of permanent exclusion for verbal abuse of staff the feeling of power terroring a teacher gives a child will outweigh any deterrent value of any punishment. The best you can hope for is that SMT have their act together enough to act after the first time it happens. Otherwise it will probably happen every lesson and you will be told it is your fault.

Of course if it does start happening every lesson and you are on supply this is the point where you quit, and if you are a permanent member of staff this is when you start to call in sick with stress. However be aware that if any of the class ever see you again, even in the street, their first words to you will be:
“You got terrored”.



  1. Obviously the pupils hone their skills to a fine art on the usual teachers and then display it with a fine skill on supply teachers.

    I wonder if some enterprising kid has produced a handbook as this is typical of many schools.

  2. Unfortunately, that’s very accurate. Seen it happen too many times, particularly to supply staff, and supply staff never get the support they need from SMT. No wonder most supply teachers simply won’t come to our school any more.

  3. I was about to add, until I saw the last paragraph, that it sounds like a typical day’s supply in the lower echelons of school society. There is seldom anything to be gained from applying to SMT on supply and the only way I’ve found of defusing the situation is to make them laugh with my script of (stolen) heckler-abuse one-liners and the stand-up comedy routine that I can only use once with each class. You see, I’ve relieved them of the requirement to do any work and I’ve entertained them. I’m not sure that represents value for money from the school’s £180 a day pov but there you are.

  4. I laughed in despair, not mirth, at your description of what is an all to common situation in schools. Some kids are masters of the art you describe. A sad state of affairs.

  5. Yes, this has happened to me mainly on supply & like Lily I’ve only avoided it in some schools by providing them with entertainment rather than by getting them to do the work they’re supposed to be doing. First time I’ve ever heard this word “terrored” before. It’s an accurate description of the process.

  6. Oh how this rings true.
    The tosser parents phone up and echo their little angels as well “Well you see Miss X, that science teacher, he picks on the girls, he can’t control the class and he never explains the work” etc etc…

    At our school it is called Terrorizing. Pronounced ‘terrer-aazin” with a mock-inna city accent.

  7. Yip, I’ve seen it too. Most teachers will have at some point in their career.

    My favourite response to:

    ““What are you going to do if we all refuse to work?””

    Is to remind them that I get paid no matter what they do. Many’s the morning in sebd I spent reading the novel I took from my drawer, kept there for just such occasions. Once I’d reminded them I got paid anyway and started to read my book they’d sometimes demand that I taught them just to annoy me. Pupils aren’t always the brightest stars in the firmament.

  8. If I did not know better oldandrew
    (and I am not sure I do know any way) I would swear you worked at p*ssy bog comp with me.

    The behaviour you describe is exactly what I go through every day of every week with my year 10.

    At least now I know I am not alone and those who try to tell me I am and its just my classes and I am a poor teacher can go and boil their heads.

  9. This is just sooo true of what happens in schools with the stroppy girls at our place (and we’re supposed to be a decent school)!

    Excellent blog by the way.

  10. If it’s like that for the “real” teacher, I can’t imagine what it’s like for a substitute (I think you call them supply teachers over there)

    I hope they pay well…

  11. ‘What are you going to do if we all refuse to work?’


    As Seren_dipity said, get paid.

    Kids can be so stupid sometimes.

  12. Lovely.

    Lovely post and lovely reactions in the comments by people who have chosen to take a job to teach children and obviously cannot hack it.

    Its not that you are poor teachers, its more that – if you choose to undertake a proffession and react like this – you are poor people.

    I suggest a few career changes? You see, sometimes the “tosser parents” might be reading stuff like this and that doesn’t exactly help your cause, does it?

    • It would have been a more cutting reply if you’d spelt profession correctly. Lol.

  13. It seems from comments that this is certainly not uncommon in classrooms nowadays – thank goodness we’re home educating our children. It seems more pointless than ever to put them in schools where any learning that could take place will be totally disrupted by the other pupils.

  14. And what of the children who want to get their heads down and learn? Do they manage to get any learning in these situations? Its these children that have my sympathy…what do teachers who are being ‘terrored’ do to help them? They are there because they have to be and are not being paid.

  15. I get this from some kids but acting calm and ignoring it, carry on teaching, focus on those who want to learn can sometimes diffuse the situation. Getting angry and arguing back makes it worse. I find it happens mainly with year 11 girls. Quiely employing the school discipline procedure also helps. the thing is I’m not usually calm and collect but I can be and it helps. Our lot call it torturing.

  16. “I get this from some kids but acting calm and ignoring it, carry on teaching, focus on those who want to learn can sometimes diffuse the situation. …. Quiely employing the school discipline procedure also helps.”

    If it remains possible to both teach and enforce the school rules then you aren’t really being terrored.

  17. So true. So horribly, horribly true.
    The worst thing is that the only solution seems to be to get used to it.

    Love your blog by the way. Have you ever thought of getting it published?


  18. I just happened upon this blog. I’m a middle school teacher from Berkeley CA. Some things are universal. It just makes my heart warm thinking about all those students, world-wide, using their newly found social skills to operate as a pack to terror their teacher. I love your comments.

  19. […] tendency for students to ignore all instructions and verbally abuse anyone who gives them), and “Terroring” (the intimidation of any teacher who attempts to bring about order in the classroom) provides a […]

  20. […] what it can lead on to described very well here on a teachers blog (thank you Gill). I saw these behaviours starting in the higher classes of […]

  21. Compared to other schools that I have worked in my current school is very good. Yet some of the behaviour Old Andrew describes is the modus operandi of some children in the school. I am lucky as such children remain in the minority in most year groups and they can be temporarily dealt with by SMT. I still worry that were it not for the large number of good kids in our school that the scales good be easily tipped and behaviour would plummet.
    One can only imagine what it must be like in battleground schools. I have also noticed that OFSTED grades are not an accurate gauge of behaviour in schools. I did my teacher training at an outstanding beacon school and the behaviour in at least half the classes I saw was terrible.

    • exactly I started in an ”outstanding” school and the behaviour was the complete opposite of outstanding as was the class of people-many were chav types who’d never go far. I naively believed when I took the job that because it was outstanding the behaviour was immaculate when the complete opposite was true. Months later into the job and completely worn down I was sitting in the staffroom 1 day and got chatting to a woman 1 day in for a job interview who also in her naivety was lead to believe by her agency and the Ofsted report that the behaviour was brilliant and she was really optimistic about the school and here was me thinking ‘oh it’s like looking at myself only months earlier pure oblivious to what lay ahead’…NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.

  22. There was supply teacher in the school I’m in on Friday who got well and truly terrored and they were only year 8s. I was close to being terrored in my first ever school and it is a horrible feeling. That sinking you get in the pit of your stomach; the faster breathing as they all look at you and know that they’re about to win; the chants of “Kill the pig, kill the pig.”

    Well okay I might have made that last one up, but the feeling of utter hopelessness is probabaly akin to what Ralph felt in Lord of the Flies. Except nine times out ten there will be no help from a higher authority for the terrored teacher.

  23. if anyone ever thinks there is not a crisis of behaviour in schools or that terroring is rare I hope the recent court case of a teacher being cleared of murder enlightens them.

    the poor guy snapped after continuous abuse and threw a bumbell at a kid who told him to fuck off

    there but the grace of god goes every teacher in the uk.

  24. Today was a bad day and most lessons (especially year 11) are terror lessons.
    The children exhibit all the behaviours listed above. There are half a dozen children in my year 11 class who appear to deliberately trip me up and it’s grinding me down. They barely listen to me and subsequently say they “don’t get it”. A few of them are always asking stupid irrelevant questions and even the good ones bar one or two think it’s funny. I can keep order only by being really tough, but therein lies another problem, they or their parents complain to my head of department. It seems most complaints are from the good ones about the level of disruption in my classes. It’s no wonder they say they “don’t get it” frequently I am unable to teach because of the harassment. I just tell them to get on with the textbook questions and then help those who actually want to learn. Then the bullies complain I don’t help them. I wonder why?
    Now it’s not just the ones I teach others around the school try and often succeed in provoking a reaction. Today I really lost my temper, one lout was with his friends and decided to goad me (not the first time) and unfortunately I ended up losing my cool telling him not to be so “f…ing stupid”. it was me who ended up in tears. I was taken off teaching for the afternoon and had to apologise to the lout for swearing.
    It’s teachers who need protecting not just children.

  25. Howard-

    1. 1st of all consider if teaching is for you- there are other jobs out there and its not for everyone. I am not blaming you but if you are hating every day then why not change profession?

    2. if you are not sure of the answer above then maybe change schools?

    3. if number 2 is not viable then time to get tough. The next time somebody is really abusive immediately write a report on them and use exact quotes. This is CRITICAL. Photocopy your report, hand it in to your Head of Dept and go home then and there, saying you are in a great deal of distress. Whilst at home contact your LEA and report the incident. Also contact your Union Rep and get further advice as to how long you can stay off work with stress.

    4. When you return to work make sure you have IN WRITING measures the school will take against any student that abuses you.

    5. Good luck and remember there are 1000s of teachers going through what you are. It is NOT, NOT, NOT your fault.

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