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Dear Tom do you have to be scary to be a good teacher?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by lauraclare7, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. Dear Tom,

    I'm an unqualified English teacher at a secondary academy with challenging students. I have seen that they can work well and behave with other teachers.

    I have no experience and started work in January. I was given until February to observe/team teach a few lessons. I now have a class in each year 7-11 and am struggling! Although I appreciate this is probably normal I would be grateful for any advice on behaviour management.

    I am a young female of quite a timid nature. Other teachers have advised me to get louder however I feel when I do shout more they listen less. I am more inclined to try to get to know the students and give them the responsibility for their own behaviour however those in the class that want to learn are struggling because of the distraction. I follow the academy's sanctions but find it extremely hard when it is a lot of the class to pick people out. My board is constantly full of names! (I give out merits as much as punishments which I feel helps slightly).

    Any advice for a completely new teacher!
  2. For the more 'challenging' pupils I have found that often positive praise (i.e praising those who are doing what you've asked, rather that constantly focussing on the ones who are doing the wrong thing) CAN work wonders. Of course, when the usually 'challenging' pupil does what you ask make sure you shower them with praise too!
  3. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Hi there
    If the class is difficult, they don't need hugs- they need you to be a hardass. A loving hardass, but one nonetheless. You don't need to be scary either, because seriously, do you want to scare them? COULD you? It sounds like scary isn't an arrow in your quiver. But relax; if you want them to quiver, there are other ways.
    You need to get in their faces a bit more, figuratively speaking, They need to see that you mean business, that you have rules, and you won't tolerate them being broken. That way, they'll see you as an authority figure whether you are five foot short, or tall as a Titan. Here's how:
    1. Set out your stall. Tell them what your rules are. You may have done so already. Remind them. Get them to stick them in a book, staple them to their hearts, whatever works. Just tell them. Don't assume they know how to behave. They do- but they need to know that YOU know
    2. Simply, quietly, calmly, take down the names of anyone who breaks these rules. Tell them at the end of the lesson if they've incurred a sanction. Detentions are the simplest and best way for the new teacher, marinated in phone calls home and lost privileges.
    3. Make sure they attend the sanction. If it's a detention, DON'T let them work it off for being good. Give them both barrels. Sanctions should deter, not mollify. If they don't attend....
    4. Escalate. Use the line management structure to invoke more substantial penalties and consequences.
    5. Nudge line management to make sure this happens.
    Seriously, in 99% of cases, that's all there is to it. It just takes patience and time- sometimes months of the stuff. You'll have to repeat yourself endlessly, but you will wear them down.
    Also, maybe park the 'names on board' idea for a while. That works fine with a few naughty kids, but if there's loads then the strategy just strangles you, not them. Just take names in your notebook. Yes, it might be most of them. Invest the time to modify their behaviour, and you'll reap dividends. Get a little louder, but try not to shout, unless it's just to be heard. It often makes you look overwrought, so keep it in the tool-kit until you need it. It's what you do that dictates how they behave with you, not what you say, or how terrifying you are.
    Good luck
    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.

  4. This is very good advice for most pupils and I would emphasise that is only with consistently applying these sanctions over a period of time will behaviour improve. Normally NQTs get the behaviour they want by the second half of the second term. The longer you are in a school the easier it is to discipline, because students know that you are there for the long term and won't get away with behaviour.

    My only caveat is that it may not work in some very challenging schools and/or schools where SLT's actions do not encourage consistent adoption of such policies. I am afraid in these situations the best I can suggest is trying to observe teacher's who have a good reputation for managing the class and asking them what they do.
  5. Thanks everyone for your advice. Just seen these after another horrible lesson with year 7s (possibly worst yet) so it's made me feel a little better that there's people out there who can empathise!

    I think I'm slowly learning it's not going to be perfect in a few weeks and will take time! I spent two hours calling parents straight after school and am hoping this may help. I've also adopted a merit checklist whereby they start the lesson with 5 merits and have to tick each positive behaviour to keep these. Rewarding good behaviour for 2 star pupils each week with a prize! A lot of work to keep check of but hopefully worth it in the end!

    As my board was covered in names today I may try the notebook idea although our students like consistency and like to know what warning stage they are at. However this may have to be a privilege they loose for the time being!

    Tried having the whole class stand today (advice from another teacher) but only caused a chorus of complaints about bad legs and human rights!

    The other problem is that I teach in an open classroom and their hour lesson is split jn the middle by lunch which sounds crazy and is! Two lots of settling down with noise in the corridors is hard! Anyone in a similar position?

    Thanks again!

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