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Dear Tom - help with classroom management badly needed.

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by Jennqt, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. I disagree with this. Classroom teachers are part of a system and only have as much control as their particular system allows them to have. I would agree that classroom teachers can certainly influence behaviour but saying that they have the power to control it completely isn't true.
  2. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    I disagree. Working within poor systems makes it significantly more difficult and time consuming to control your classroom. It does not however make it impossible.
    If the system is not a supportive one then it simply means the sanctions a teacher uses must be ones they can do on their own (or with the support of the willing). They can still control the expectations of behaviour, rewards and sanctions. They can still ensure that pupils are appropriately rewarded or sanctioned for low level issues.
    Of course major incidents or recurring ones that need referring may not be picked up and dealt with effectively if the systems are poor or the people incidents are referred to are unwilling or unable to deal with them. However this is far less likely to happen if minor incidents are dealt with quickly and effectively in my experience.

  3. Right, I'm by far not as "experienced" as some of the people who have already replied to you,...so feel free to ignore my post until I'm a bit older and wiser. :)
    I'm in my third year, and things are improving partly because I have worked quite hard over the last few years to get there...and partly because most of the kids at my school know me by now. It takes time, that's all. The last two years have had their ups and downs, and I've had a rather challenging maths group...balanced out by my lovely class.
    By all means, make lessons interesting and fun. However these two things shouldn't be your main concern to begin with. Plan lessons that focus on pupils' learning, and that are comparatively easy to control on your part. In some cases, pupils need to practise how to work in groups, how to control their excitement and how to respond to you appropriately. Again, it takes time. Start to slowly build those into your lessons, until they are ready to cope with sustained periods of groupwork or interactivity. One way of helping with that is to have routines. Get them in, get them settled, without too much fuss. My new maths group have been coming in and copying down their date, title and LO since September. They know what to do, they know what I expect of them. They also know that I will stand by the door and greet them all - and send those pupils back out who need to get their uniform sorted (most of them check automatically by now, before entering my room). The same is the case for their homework. It's always set on a Monday and due in on the Friday. I will hunt down anybody and drag them in from the playground or pull them out of training, if their work isn't handed in by Friday lunchtime.
    One thing I have made a very big deal about with both my new maths group and my new class, is the fact that I need to trust them. If I can trust them to behave, to do what's expected of them, then we'll do all the fun stuff...such as going out on a maths trail, see whether playing basketball will increase our heart rate (and then draw a graph...), do drama, etc. It's something I reinforce every time we leave the classroom or do practical activities, coupled with "You've been absolutely brilliant last time...let's see if we can do that again." They know, I'd much rather do the exciting things as well and it does make sense to them. However, at the same time, I will stop the lesson and we return to something much calmer, if they are letting themselves down. You have to be flexible with what you are doing, and if there's complete chaos going on in you room, the kids aren't learning what they should be anyway.
    I have stopped drama activities, and we did something else,...attempting the drama again in a different lesson. Again, it takes time and practice. They are getting better. However, they need to know where the boundaries are.
    Being consistent and having high expectations of your pupils doesn't mean that you need to turn into someone horrible. I do shout, but not very often and never for very long. I can also act very cross, without actually being terribly upset. Yes, get to know the kids, talk to them and be friendly...but without being a push-over. If you have threatened or promised something, follow through. I've had lots of help from other teachers and my HOY, and even now, I still have an "exit" class...where I can send children, if they are an absolute pain. It's not a bad thing to ask for help. You are working with others in a team.
    However, one thing I don't believe is that lessons always have to be fun and exciting. There should be a balance (too much of a good thing...), and my classes will have lessons where I expect them to work in silence, to work independently and to persevere with challenging tasks. It's also something that I believe needs to be practised. That's a personal view, though.
  4. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Fantastic post Dejana[​IMG]
  5. JamesTES: you write "I don't say "carry on as you are", I suggest you listen to the advice you're getting in your school, and act on it."
    Taking even the most cursory notice of what Jennqt has actually said would have made it obvious to you that this comment of yours is totally incoherent.

  6. Raymond: you write "you seem to keep on confusing the planning of good learning with the execution of poor behaviour management: come on now, separate the two."
    I get the impression from Jennqt's first two posts that she has been led to believe, by SLT and tutors, that lessons which are well-planned and interactive + praise = poor behaviour not being a problem.
    Do you agree with me that, from Jennqt's posts, it seems that she has been told that?
    If you don't, then that is our point of disagreement. People can go back and refer to the posts in question, and judge for themselves.
    If you do agree, please read on!
    You are now in a position to see that it's hardly surprising if she's being a bit slow to "separate the two": she has been taught that she shouldn't.
    Of course, you believe that the two should be separated. In which case, the advice Jennqt has received from her professional superiors is a little off-beam.
    Now, from Jennqt's first post, it seems that this unsound advice has led to Jennqt's suffering a whole load of grief (to the point of considering leaving the profession), and to lots of kids' education suffering.
    Presumably you would agree with me that teachers whose incompetence leads directly to kids' education suffering very significantly, should be disciplined.
    What is your attitude towards SLT and tutors who give advice such as Jennqt has received, in light of the effect that it has had?
  7. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    I have no idea what she's been told. I can sort of deduce what she thinks she's been told. It seems that she's in a bad place just now and cant see the wood for the trees. Whether she'sheard all of it, or understood it fully, or cottoned on to the right idea from it - your guess is as good as mine.
    For all I know, she may have been told that well planned interactive lessons + clear establishment of expectations + consistent praise when these expectations are met and consistent sanctions when they aren't met = the probability of poor behaviour being minimised. That would seem to me to be a sensible approach, and is the line I would take.
  8. Raymond: hello + good evening
    "I have no idea what she's been told. I can sort of deduce what she thinks she's been told. It seems that she's in a bad place just now and cant see the wood for the trees. Whether she'sheard all of it, or understood it fully, or cottoned on to the right idea from it - your guess is as good as mine."
    Yes, obviously it's possible she misheard or misunderstood what they said, or only heard part of it, or whatever. If so, fine. However, if not ...
    I agree with the formula in your last para. However, I do feel that a neutral observer would say from her posts that, on balance of probabilities, it seems more likely than not that she's been led to believe a formula closer to the one I mentioned.

  9. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Herein may lie your problem. First and foremost you are there to provide a safe learning environment and to help your children learn, achieve and progress. They cannot do any of those things in a chaotic classroom.
    Secondly think very carefully what you are suggesting the children should be subjected to all day. If they are being excited by every teacher in every lesson, for most of the lesson do you really think that children/teenagers would cope, let alone learn. They need to rest as well. Children need calm as well as excitment.
    I mentioned stirrers and settlers. Your stirrer activity is your exciting one. Put one in by all means - maybe two. But sandwich them with settlers. Your organisation is key. Look at activities which do NOT require many resources. If you faff the children may become unsettled and you look disorganised - they will see that as a green light to play up. I do not know what subject you teach, but I teach languages. Take a simple activity like Simon says in French/German whatever. It is a stirrer - the children have fun and they learn. I am very much in charge but they are very active. What resources do I need? None but my body and theirs. Easy to do - and afterwards the children are ready for a settler some writing etc. (You might even find you can write out detentions have quiet words with pupils during this time etc).

    You say that the pupils no longer respect you. They have sussed you out as a teacher who wants to please them. This is the wrong way around. They should be seeking your approval and you should make it worth seeking. You are the adult you are in charge. If you take on too much in a lesson you will not look like you are in charge and the children will either react as a lesson for some good sport or they will react anxiously and the result will be the same.
    Teenagers are still learning self discipline and you need to help them learn that. They won't learn it on an endless diet of exciting activities which wind them up to the ceiling. I'm sorry if I seem harsh, but not as harsh as your students will be in several weeks down the line if your problems continue.
  10. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Claiming that those who would agree with you are "neutral" implies that you think I am neither neutral nor objective: I resent that suggestion largely because I have no idea how the sincere advice I have given to jenn can be seen as "biased". I would ask that you retract that suggestion and apologise.
  11. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    You begin from the premise that that all "fun" and "exciting" lessons are "unsafe" and "chaotic". That is clearly not the case, but yet is an argument often used to justify boring lessons from which children quickly disengage.
  12. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    I think what random is saying (please correct me if I am wrong) is that the behaviour issues Jen faces make the classroom unsafe and chaotic. New teachers often have too much going on in their classrooms and leave themselves a lot to do in a lesson. This can detract from their ability to notice and deal with poor behaviour. This in turn can lead to an unsafe, chaotic environment.
    I also wonder whether Jen and her pupils have the same view of what is "fun" and "exciting".

  13. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    That may indeed be what random meant: however, the sentiment expressed in the sentence immediately following the quotation clearly links "chaos" to "fun and exciting lessons".
  14. garyconyers

    garyconyers New commenter

    What's this got to do with me? I'm not offering advice, this is my first posting on this thread.......[​IMG]
    I'm just interested in what advice posters give to nqts.
  15. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    I think what random is saying (please correct me if I am wrong) is that the behaviour issues Jen faces make the classroom unsafe and chaotic.
    That may indeed be what random meant: however, the sentiment expressed in the sentence immediately following the quotation clearly links "chaos" to "fun and exciting lessons".
  16. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    sorry got mixed up with the quotation instructions the last bit quoted from Bigkid is from me.
  17. Hello Jen,
    I'm here more to offer sympathy rather than adding to all the advice, because I am in a very similar situation to you. I'm an NQT, and I'm in a school whose SMT prefer a cuddly, making the students love you approach to behaviour management rather than using sanctions. I too have loads of issues with behaviour and I've pretty much made up my mind that I'm leaving the school at the end of the year.

    It does sound like your school are making it extremely difficult for you.

    Even though I'm still having problems and I 'failed' (OK, I know you can't fail in the first term, but whatever) my first NQT assessment because of behaviour management, I do think things are improving because I read and tried to follow advice on here from Tom about detentions. I do still need to do this better because I'm not always very consistent with following things up as it sometimes feels like there are far too many incidents to keep track of - but things are starting to get easier with some classes and now I'm really trying to work on making sure I'm consistently giving and following up detentions. I do really believe that if I had consistently set and followed up detentions from the beginning of the year, rather than going for the soft and cuddly approach, I'd have much fewer problems. They do work. Most kids hate detention.
    I think you can aim to set detentions without being too "confrontational". I used to write names for detentions on the board but it just gave them something to shout at me about so now I speak to students individually and write in their planners. Let them know about the detention, but don't make a big deal of it in the lesson. I always tell them that if they want to discuss it they can talk to me about it at lunch/break/whenever. I do often find myself threatening students rather than encouraging them to behave positively, but I am sure it is possible to use sanctions without being horrible all the time!
    Also, about getting students to show up - I've started putting a notice in the students' registers in the morning, with a clear warning on there that failure to attend on time and behave perfectly will result in a phone call home and a more serious sanction. Most usually turn up when I do this. If I just tell them verbally about the detention, hardly any bother.
    Good luck! I hope things get easier for you (and for me too!) Only 5 weeks 3 days til Easter...
  18. Hi Jen,
    Sorry to hear you are having such a hard time. Just to let you know - it does get better with time! You sound as if you are really questioning yourself as to whether you are a good teacher or not - don't. Everyone goes through bad patches, caring enough to want your lessons to go well is a big step towards being a great teacher, (sadly there are far too many in the profession who don't give a monkeys).
    Here are a few tips that I hope will help with your lessons:
    1. Keep planning interesting lessons, but think about what you consider 'interesting'. Activities where students are in their seats, working independently can still be interesting.
    2. Mix up the type of activities you have in your lessons, if you have had a teacher led discussion or demo, follow it up the something student focused. Keep activities short, and the lesson, well planned and don't drop the pace. If you are going to get students to copy of the board, have your notes on a projector if you can. That way you won't have your back to the class to write on the board and can wander round the room keeping tabs.
    3. Get a seating plan and stick to it.
    4. Ease up on the marking and try and cut down on the time spent planning. You won't teach well if exhausted.Set homeworks that can be peer marked in class, or make every other HW one that doesn't need marking at all e.g. find out three facts on.... watch and make a comment on a video you have posted on wallwisher etc. Use websites such as the TES and the school's own scheme of work to get resources. I remember feeling pressure as an NQT to make everything brand new - don't reinvent the wheel.
    5. Have systems in your class that are clear to the students regards sanctions. The last thing you want to be doing is handing out detention after detention. Perhaps you could have a three warnings system, where if a child interupts you write their name down, in a book for now might be good as it sound like you have too many to write on the board. That way you could say to them, look your name's down twice - once more and its a detention. Obviuosly if they do something really bad it overides this rule and really you will want to send that child out straight away - depending on the schools policy for sending pupils out of lessons.
    6. Have a clear indication of when you want students to be quiet. Stand at the same place in the classroom - preferably not half hidden behind a desk, this is when you need to have the illusive 'presence'. You can use a count down, have students put their hands up as they stop talking, whatever works best for you. Do not start explaining work etc until all students are silent, eyes on you, pens down.
    7. Try increasing your presence around the school - volunteer to take the odd assembly, (make it good though!), speak to students you see around the school, do breaktime duty. All these things will make the students start to recognise you as a figure of authority.
    8. Devide and conquer. Not all the students you teach will be monsters. Although admitedly it can seem that the whole class is against you, there will be some great students in your classes. Reward them, praise them, let them know you are dealing with the poor behavior of others, (they are bound to be sick of it) and thank them for being patient. The number of students on side will start to grow. Keep grinding away at those not towing the line. Call home, ask for them to be put on report.
    9. Keep chasing up in detentions. It is a really hard slog, but will pay off eventually. Students need to know you can't be walked over. Is there a dept or afterschool they can go in for missing your detentions?
    10 Use HOD, HOYs etc. If they are a bit useless tell them, (politely), what needs to happen, e.g. this student was rude, I've put them in 2 detentions, they failed to turn up to either, I require you to put them in a dept detn, thanks!
    11. There are some good books etc out there about this sort of thing. Bill Roger's videos are really good. You won't find everything works, but you can start picking up little tips here and there to use in your lessons.
    Good luck. Hope this helps. It is an exhausting effort and a slow grind, but if you don't back down the students will get the message eventually and the hard work will be worth it. Don't give them an inch!

  19. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Sorry, but when no-one else is in the room, and when she's not going to get support from management - it HAS to be up to her. What other choice does she have but to MAKE it up to her? Sink? Or swim?
    Therefore - she needs to be bolstered with the strategies that will help her survive - and we can criticise the management all we like, but that doesn't actually help swim, does it?

  20. Zadok1

    Zadok1 New commenter

    Decide to start afresh tomorrow!

    Cancel all planned lessons and take the lesson to go through your own classroom expectations explaining them to the kids as you go (They will hopefully be so gobsmacked that their lesson is not a 'lesson' they will actually listen).

    Your own classroom expectations should be clear and simple. I'm sure you're struggling to find your sense of humour but try and dig it out specially and explain your 'rules' with humour making sure they sound like common sense.

    I wrote mine out, with explanation, for a friend who is in similar circumstances and would be happy to email them to you if that would help.

    It seems that you're not going to get any support from colleagues so you have two choices... be miserable and look for another job... or put your foot down and tell them what you expect of them.

    By the way a nice way to call their bluff is if a kid is very rude to you send them out and ask how they would feel if someone spoke to their mother in the way they just spoke to you... they usually threaten all sorts of violence. (You sound quite youthful but kids have no real concept of age) Ask if they would like to repeat what they just said to you in front of your son and see how he feels about it! It doesn't hurt to point out to some kids that you are actually a human being and you might be someone's mother, sister, daughter etc.

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