A Personality Clash

August 10, 2008

Being an open-minded sort of person I can often see things from more than one perspective. For instance the following “personality clash” between myself and Lemuel can be seen quite differently depending on whether you are myself, Lemuel, or Miss Rush, Lemuel’s head of year, a Special Needs teacher who wasn’t actually in the room.

My Point Of View

In you come, Lemuel, I’m afraid you’re late. Please sit down. The work’s on the board.

“Yeah, yeah.”


We’re now 15 minutes into the lesson, can you please start the work, Lemuel?

“I’ve only just come in”

You’ve had five minutes now, some people have almost finished. Well done, girls. If you don’t start you are choosing to get a warning


Okay, Lemuel, I’m giving you your first warning. Can you stop drawing that picture of a car and get on with the work, please?

“How was I meant to know I was meant to do that?”

Please, just put that picture away, or I’ll have to give you your next warning


I’m afraid I’m going to have to give you your second warning, now, Lemuel. We’ve had twenty minutes and most people have finished. And I need to start the main part of the lesson. If I could just have quiet please everyone. Thank you very much. Today we are going to be doing …

“I never done nuffink. You gave me a second warning for nuffink.”

Please don’t talk while I’m talking to the class, Lemuel, I will have to give you your third warning and a detention.”

“This is gay”

I’m afraid you’ve chosen to get you third warning. Now please stop talking so I can start the lesson or you will be choosing to get sent out.

“I don’t care”.

Sshhh! If I can just have quiet again. Thank you very much everyone. Today we will be …

“I hate this fucking crap”.

I’m afraid you’ll have to leave the room now.

Lemuel’s Point Of View

In you come, Lemuel, just go over there and talk to you friends, we’ll do some work later.

“Yes, thank you.”


We’re now 15 minutes into the lesson, can you get on with your picture of a car please, Lemuel? I’ll tell you later if there’s going to be any work to do.

“Yes, sir”

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well done, girls. Blah, blah, blah


Blah, blah,blah, blah. Can you just finish off your picture of the car in the next five minutes or so and get on with the boring work, please?

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t realise there was any work.”

Please, just do your best drawing, and don’t worry about the work.


I’m afraid I’m going to have to give you your second warning, now, Lemuel. We’ve had twenty minutes and most people have finished. And I need to start the main part of the lesson. Don’t worry, Lemuel, I’ll just talk over your conversation. Today we are going to be doing …

“Sorry Sir I haven’t done anything, why did I get a second warning?”

Please don’t talk while I’m talking to the class, Lemuel, I will have to give you third warning and a detention.

“I’m not entirely sure this is fair, sir”

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now please stop talking or I will have to send you out for nothing.

“That seems fair, sir. I’ll be quiet now.”.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah,blah blah, blah, blah.

“Sir, can I ask a question”.

That’s it, I’m sending you out for absolutely no reason.

Miss Rush’s Point of View

In you come, you little bastard. Sit down, now. The work’s on the board and you’ll be in trouble if you don’t do it. I don’t care about all your special needs.

“Yes, sir, Mr Old. Please don’t hit me again, sir.”


We’re now 15 seconds into the lesson, hand over your work, boy!

“Here it is, Sir. And here’s my homework too. I spent three hours on it”

You call this homework? I could piss this in my sleep. Have three detentions.


Okay, you spaz, your picture of a car is crap. You draw like a girl. Have another detention.

“Please, sir, I can’t do another detention, my father’s seriously ill in hospital”

Good, I hope he dies soon. Now get on with copying out of a textbook or I’ll come to your house and molest your sister.


Here, have another ten detentions, Lemuel, you retard. We’ve had two minutes and most people have finished. Now I need you to listen to me just for the sake of it. Anybody who so much as breathes will get a detention. Terrible, you’re all thick. Now does anybody have any questions?

“Please, Mr Old, don’t hurt me but can I ask a question about the work?”

No. I don’t want questions from a spacker. Have another detention.

“Sorry, Mr Old, sir. I don’t know what I was thinking of. I think it’s because I haven’t eaten for a week.”

I’m afraid I’ve chosen to give you another detention. Now please stop snivelling, I don’t ever want to look at your weasel face again.”

“Sorry, Mr Old”.

Shut up, loser! God, I hate children. Anyway, today we will be discussing how Lemuel’s mother is a whore.

“I’m sorry, sir I’m a bit upset about this. She only died last month”

Piss off!”.

I suppose in a way, all these accounts of my personality clash with Lemuel are true to some extent. But in another, more literal way, only the first one is.



  1. I really liked this entry and it sounds horribly plausible. Of course it hasn’t worked here, but you’ve clearly gone for the language of ‘choice’ with the student. Does it sometimes make a difference to their response?

  2. I’ve been using the language of choice consistently for a few years now. Makes no difference at all. Kids always translate it back into English.

    It’s one of those things that might be a good idea if we were reinventing morality from scratch with each new generation, but we’re not. Every kid knows what a punishment is, and that the main choice involved in a detention is the choice of whether to turn up or not.

  3. Hilarious post!

    “In you come, you little bastard”: I’d love to begin a lesson like that.

  4. Oh dear! Wiping tear of mirth from my eye!

  5. I am enjoying this blog and really enjoyed this one. I am lucky enough to work in a tough school where just about everyone (including SEN teachers) know how tough the children are to teach. One point interested me we are told never to say please. Thanks but never please. I wonder what your SEN teacher would make of that!

  6. Don’t you find the language of choice works? Don’t they sometimes choose not to continue with the bad behaviour, or retrack in their steps and decide to turn around and come back to you for instance, when walking off?

    It doesn’t work everytime of course. But sometimes it does, I find.

  7. Susan
    Just reading your comment. ‘Thanks’ is meant to suggest that you already know that they will do as you have asked, and you are thanking them for it, making them more likely to follow through. ‘Please’ suggests that you are weak and having to beg for something, making them less likely to obey.

    That’s the psychological explanation for it anyway. I have no idea whether it is true…

  8. I know why we are told to say it Snuffy. I thought Miss Rush might find it rude to say thanks with no please! Yes, generally it works in our school. On the odd occasion I find myself saying please – children argue. I switch to command and thanks and after two – five seconds thought, compliance often ensues.

  9. Snuffy,

    I think choices do work in principle, but I don’t think trying to phrase everything as a choice has much effect on the kids. As I say I’ve been using it for quite a long time and have only recently started to doubt it. I think I personally feel better for having made it clear that punishments are given as a result of a deliberate choice to act in a way that deserves punishment, not inflicted at my whim. I just don’t think it actually helps the kids much. If a kid is determined to behave badly then what you carefully present as a “choice” beforehand is little more than a form of blackmail, and telling them they have chosen the punishment after the event is little more than rubbing salt in the wounds.


    I already say “thank you” when I mean “please” a lot. I think I must have developed that habit because it works rather than for any other reason. “Please” suggests that you are making a request, “thank you” suggests it is an order, but one where you appreciate the obedience.

  10. Plenty of kids are immune to the blackmail of “choice” because to alter their direction of behaviour would be to admit that they made a bad choice in the first place and worse, you are now both aware of it.

  11. They only respond well to it if they feel the consequences are worth avoiding. Hence the need for a supportive SLT and good systems for dealing with poor behaviour.

  12. “They only respond well to it if they feel the consequences are worth avoiding. Hence the need for a supportive SLT and good systems for dealing with poor behaviour.” – And we get to the source of the problem.

    Time and time again we are told all sorts of useless crap like saying tahnks etc. its all total bollocks if there is no punishment to avoid. The simple fact is that every place I have worked the consequences were so minimal that they were pointless. Old Andrew is quite right in the case of detention the kids make a choice to either turn up or not and if they don’t nothing will happen to them.

  13. in my school it was even worse than “if they don’t nothing will happen to them.”, they would be rewarded for not turning up by having the oppertunity to miss a lesson by spending a period in isolation with their mates.

    Assaulting a teacher resulted in a couple of days off for a playstation holiday

  14. […] Don’t say please.. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: