This is a rewritten version of an entry that has appeared previously but is no longer available. Apologies if you have read it before.
I’ve noticed that I read a lot of the same questions being asked, often by NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers), on teacher forums on the internet. So I have decided to answer those questions here.
Are there any good books about dealing with behaviour?
Yes. For ordinary schools read “The Craft of the Classroom” by Michael Marland. It’s an excellent description of basic classroom management, and recommends unfashionable but effective methods such as sitting at the front of the class and asking students to come to you. For “challenging schools”, i.e. schools where the discipline system has broken down, read “Surviving and Succeeding in Difficult Classrooms” by Paul Blum. It tells you how to cope in the battlefield that many of our schools have become and is worthwhile just for the effort it takes to remind you it is not your fault. Bill (William) Rogers has also written many useful books.
A well known but unhelpful book is “Getting the Buggers to Behave” by Sue Cowley. Avoid it, as it would be better named “Letting the Buggers Misbehave”. It makes suggestions such as letting older children swear, chew gum and keep their coats on. It even suggests pretending to eat dog food as a way to win the students over, which is, quite frankly, as demeaning a suggestion as you are ever likely to hear.
Update (August 2012): Since I wrote this a couple of other excellent books have come out. I would also recommend “The Behaviour Guru” by Tom Bennett and “Teach Like A Champion” by Doug Lemov. Both offer excellent advice.
What can I do about low level disruption?
Firstly, make sure you have the students in a seating plan. This means you will have everyone’s name to hand, half the battle with low level disruption with a new class is just knowing the names of students that are talking. Then use a system of warnings (either noted down on a paper register or written on the board) for each interruption with escalating sanctions such as detentions and removal from the room for any student who gets too many warnings. Do not tolerate shouted answers (or questions), insist on hands up and waiting for quiet.
If the problem is not deliberate disruption, merely an excess of noise, then getting the students to stand up and wait for quiet often works and can be a good way to start the lesson. This is more effective with younger classes that actually want to learn than with hardcore troublesome classes where individuals may be looking for a confrontation.
One of my classes hates me, what can I do?
Stop caring. It’s probably their fault not yours. In particular, if it’s year 10 it’s to be expected and you should worry more if they don’t hate you.
I have been verbally abused/assaulted and nothing’s happened, what can I do?
Something should have happened. You have to chase this up immediately. Make sure you have a written account of the incident. There is a hierarchy of steps you can take to follow up. You take each step in order until something is done. The more steps you take the more you will be seen as a troublemaker, however, it is better to be seen as a troublemaker by SMT than a walkover by the kids.
- Talk to the Head (or Deputy Head, according to availability) and give him/her your written report.
- Talk to your union rep and get them to talk to the head.
- Ask to fill in an “accident/assault form”. (This is a report for the LEA that schools must provide but rarely tell staff about). Keep a copy.
- Contact the police (for assaults or the very worst forms of verbal abuse)
- Go to your doctor and see how long you can get off with stress.
- Contact the press.
Alternatively, if you actually do want to be seen as a troublemaker start at the bottom of the list and work your way up.
I’m not enjoying my job because of behaviour, does it get any better?
Yes. But it takes time. In my experience it takes a couple of years at a school to have real authority around the site. With classes I find year 8 improve after Christmas, Year 9 take slightly longer, Year 10 take a couple of terms minimum and Year 11 classes only improve if you’re lucky and the worst kids start truanting (which happens quite often for bottom sets or in tough schools).