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Dear Tom: Can I Refuse to Teach a Child?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by dylan83, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. Hi Tom
    I'm an NQT and have been given a number of low-sets to teach, one of which is beyond difficult. A year 8 group, they are all level 3 / low level 4 and the social mix is terrible. The boy/girl ratio is 3:1 and since day one they've proven to be very hard work - talking over me, shouting out, etc. I've mentioned them in another post and have had some constructive suggestions from others, but sadly I'm not getting the opportunity to implement anything new because of the presence of one child.
    He has a diagnosis of ADHD but has some severe social and behavioural problems. He comes into the classroom late, takes a long time to sit down, and often refuses to do the work. He makes rude comments (usually related to visiting the toilet : / ), pokes fun at more vulnerable children, shouts out, forgets his book, turns around constantly, etc. I sometimes have TA support who try and keep him on task, but often this doesn't get very far. He takes absolutely no responsibility for his actions, refuses to accept authority, ignores instructions and carries on talking. I can move to stand in his line of sight to break up a conversation and he'll merely twist his neck past me, despite me calling his name.
    He has his own 'three-strike' system which is supposed to result in him being removed from the lesson by SLT once he gets the third one, and I have used this a few times. However I suppose I'm reluctant to do that too often, and even when he is removed, the flow of the lesson is usually permanently disrupted by that point. The class are hard work and I need to give them a lot of support, but it's impossible to do that with this one child in the room. I just don't feel equipped to deal with him, or properly trained to challenge his behaviour, and as an NQT I'm finding it hard enough to establish a presence in the school.
    Can I refuse to teach him? It's reached the point where every lesson is down the pan whenever he's there. He gets excluded frequently, so I do have lessons without him which are hard enough to teach due to general poor behaviour. I'd really like to try different strategies to get the others to behave, but I know I'll only be able to try them when I don't have this child there. I've spoken to my NQT mentor, HOD, HOY about how hard I'm finding it, and although everyone's sympathetic, nobody's really doing anything about it. Experienced teachers are finding him impossible, which is comforting to an extent, but it doesn't help me tackle the problem head-on.
    Thanks very much.
  2. For a start, my response would be to implement this system instantly, relentlessly, unfailingly.
    You know he won't respond positively to any laxity or leniency, so don't bother with it. If he's off the wall, use the approach calmly at the very first sign of a problem. When he's like this, the sooner he's out of the classroom the better. You know, he knows, the other students know, that he will disrupt their learning - and even when he's not hurling insults or shouting nonsense, their attention is lessened because they're anxious about being a target. He won't or can't learn the easy way to improve his behaviour himself , so you and the other responsible adults will have to implement learning the hard way.
    I find it a bit strange that you're reluctant to do this a lesson at a time, but you are willing to consider excluding him entirely.
    You say he has a "diagnosis" of ADHD. Has this been confirmed with a pediatrician or other specialist? He certainly sounds as though medication could help, if the diagnosis is correct.
  3. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Great advice from Adelady, as ever.
    There is no specific right to refuse any child. While this is unfortunate on some levels, it's also understandable- while I can imagine that some perfectly legitimate refusals would result, I can also imagine a lot of tired, stressed teachers making some very erratic and contestable decisions about who they will and won't teach, often based on how they're feeling.
    But this is one of those cases that, were such a right to exist, would surely be an acceptable example. Barmy policies of inclusion have resulted in children being educated (and I use that term loosely) in a mainstream environment that isn't suitable for them, or for their peers. The resulting classroom carnage is familiar to anyone with difficult classes and that one, bulletproof mentalist.
    But if wishes were pennies we'd open an arcade. What to do in the meantime? Teachers may not have a right to refuse, but schools have a duty of care. Frankly I'm amazed in this litigious age that someone hasn't tested the law by suing a school for failing to provide a safe, stable educational environment for their children. Not that I'm in favour of such an approach, but I'd be interested to know if anything like that has happened. The duty of care that they have extends to your well being, so if your physical well being were endangered, for example, the school could be forced to act or face action. Mental well-being can also be considered.
    But it doesn't sound like you're at that stage yet. I would absolutely encourage you to use the removal system as often as possible. If you don't then he learns that he can get away with being an ass sometimes. And while it may disrupt the flow of the lesson, I suspect that your lesson flow is pretty much up the creek in any case. Far better to be consistent and fair with him, than to let him off sometimes.
    And the more pressing issue is the fact that the rest of the class will take their cues from him; behaviour is modelled by such unlovely charlies, and his extreme behaviour will slowly (or already has) normalise monkeying about in the classroom. In other words, they think, 'Well, he;s getting away with it- why don't we try?'
    The more you remove him, the less you have to teach him. If he consistently gets removed, then he'll fall into the exclusion category- temporary, and possibly permanent eventually. Or the school will be forced to find him alternative provision. But this boy isn't coping with mainstream provision. The class is suffering. And so are you.
    Good luck.
  4. Experienced teachers are finding him impossible, which is comforting to an extent

    It's sad that some NQTs feel that they can't implement agreed behaviour systems for fear of appearing weak. But by tackling the problem you are being strong. They shouldn't put a system in place if they don't expect people to use it. Start a dialogue with some experienced colleagues who also teach him and are struggling - there is strength in numbers. And if you find some who can manage him, ask what strategies they use. You are being let down by people who can't manage him but bear it in silence. As for the lad, he's not a demon but it sounds as though he isn't able to manage in mainstream and needs alternative support.

    It's reached the point where every lesson is down the pan whenever he's there.

    Imagine your child was one of the others in the class. They have a right to an education.
  5. If the diagnosis is correct I can assure you that there's no but about it. It's part and parcel of the condition for some children. At different times we had children like this come to us for tuition. Frequently their parents would have 'forgotten' to give the medication soon enough for it to have kicked in by the time they arrived. (Anyone who says there's no genetic component to the condition has not dealt with many of these families.)
    Despite our environment being very supportive, individually tailored personal tuition, no unattainable educational targets - the whole wonderful works, we had to keep these children alone, separated from the others. Even then, because they stayed in the reception area, they took every passing chance to insult, offend and denigrate other children who had to walk past them.
    20 minutes later, the magic of medication took over. Complete transformation. They sat down quietly, completed the tasks they were set, were polite to the tutors, conversed sociably with other students, and earned nearly as many stickers as everybody else.
    If this child's diagnosis is correct, lack of medication (or the correct dose of medication) is depriving him of the chance to acquire good habits.
  6. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Stop being so reluctant to use it then!

    It really is that simple. There is a system in place, but if you don't use it you can't really object when he ruins your lesson.
    Kick him out every single time. Then SMT and the other children will see you as a non nonsense sort of teacher who will not put up with bad behaviour. This will help no end with the rest of the class and your standing in the school.

    If I think of the weak teachers in my school, they are the ones who tolerate all kinds of poor behaviour and do not use the systems in place to manage it. The strongest teachers have children removed if necessary...every single time!

    Best of luck!
  7. Thanks for all the advice. I agree that I ought to be using the removal system and will be more diligent about it from next week. Yes, I might feel like it shows a weakness, but ultimately, if SLT feel that I'm being weak then they can tell me and I'll explain just how awful the lessons are with him present. There's no point trying to second-guess what other people think, after all. If they don't want me to use the system then they shouldn't give NQTs difficult children that even experienced and respected teachers struggle to control. I guess it's sometimes easier to just battle through the lesson and at least feel that I'm keeping it contained in my classroom...but I know that'll come back to bite me in the long run when it's clear the rest haven't made virtually any progress.
    Constant removals might even strenghten a case for alternative provision, since mainstream eduction really isn't the place for him - in my opinion.
    Thanks again; I really appreciate the advice.
  8. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I'd say if they don't want you to use the system then they shouldn't have put it in place! The fact that is IS the system suggests it is there to be used. Make sure you use it to the letter though, so there is no room for criticism. If SMT question you then just point out exactly how you followed the system to the letter.

    Forget the benefit to the child and provision for him. He isn't learning anything at the moment so whatever you do won't harm that. Think of the benefit to the others in the class and your management of them. don't keep it contained, you are part of a whole school, not an island. People, especially SMT, are there to support you, but they can't if you keep it all in your room and don't enlist their help.

    I can honestly say that if a child behaved in my class the way you post he has in yours then I'd be calling SMT every single lesson. No question about it! And I've been a teacher for nearly 15 years!
  9. I have had just this situation in school as an NQT - and I wasn't seen as being strong for trying to find a solution and ask for help and support in implementing it. I was told to my face that I was weak, and too costly in terms of time and support. All because of the behaviour of one child. When I suggested that I felt I was being bullied by him (which I believe I am... surely actually feeling afraid in the classroom because of the persisent appalling behaviour and lack of respect shown to me by one pupil constitutes bullying?), I was cautioned to be "very careful about my choice of words".
    Headteachers have a lot of power over NQTs. Whether I pass or fail my year boils down to the opinion of one person, who now believes I am weak and costly, because I have dared to ask him for help and support. Who's for keeping their heads down and taking all that is thrown at them (literally and metaphorically), in the hope of passing the year and hopefully moving on in the future? Unfortunately, that seems to be the best option at the moment.

  10. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    This is the typical behaviour of weak, ineffectual or lazy management.
    It is normally, in my experience, an attitude that comes from the very top downwards.
    The not wanting to deal with behaviour issues cascades downwards.
    <ol>[*]The headteacher cannot/will not deal with behaviour issues.[*]To avoid having to deal with behaviour issues they make their leadership team feel that they should deal with all behaviour issues that come to them and that if they need to refer anything on to the head then they are somehow failing. People who refer behaviour issues to the head get shouted at, publicly criticised, marginalised (pushed into ******** jobs like SLT in charge of paper clips or display) and get all the distasteful jobs that no one else wants or they get pushed out of the school entirely.[*]As a result of this SLT members only want to deal with behaviour issues that are easily solved. They in turn treat people who need to refer problems to them as failures who have problems with behaviour management and in so doing reduce the number of issues with behaviour they have to deal with. Any issues with seriously challenging pupils get pushed on to heads of year or department.[*]As a result of this heads of year and department don't really want problems referred to them unless they are ones that are easy to deal with. If they try to deal with a difficult issue and fail then they have to ignore it or refer it. They don't want to do either so they often bounce the problem straight back to the referring teacher (have you tried an interactive starter? What did you do to provoke....? If your lesson was more engaging....Ask his other teacher how they deal with.... etc etc) or make the teacher feel like they ought to be able to deal with things themselves. [*] As a result of this teachers are afraid to refer behaviour issues to their line managers. As a result they either suffer in silence, tolerate poor behaviour, only challenge the behaviour of those pupils who won't respond aggressively to being told off or give up entirely</ol>In schools where the above is happening any teacher who does not refer any pupils or ask for any help is considered a good manager of behaviour (what the behaviour in their lessons is actually like is fairly irrelevant) where as those teachers/managers who actually try to challenge and deal with poor behaviour get treated like **** because they end up having to refer pupils up the line more regularly than those who tolerate poor behaviour.
    Some of the best managers of behaviour I have ever seen have been considered poor at behaviour management because weak management do not like referrals. Some of the worst managers of behaviour I have ever seen have been promoted far beyond their level of competence simply because they are low maintenance and do not create problems for the people above them to deal with.
  11. One nail, hit squarely on the head in the above post: this is exactly what happens in my school!

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