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Dear Tom - how do I know what to 'tactically ignore'?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by musiclover1, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I didn't want to hog the other thread about attention-seeking boys, so here is my own view of it:
    I've got those kind of boys in some of my classes,
    too. And I've got those quiet good ones whose parents tell me they love
    the subject but they hardly ever put their hands up and I've hardly ever
    spoken to them in my life (or so it feels).
    I find it hard to do
    this 'tactical ignoring' because I've recently been observed and told
    that some of my tactical ignoring is being interpreted by the boys as
    tolerance. I've been told that I let small problems build up to bigger
    ones by ignoring them, and I've been told to stamp down on small
    instances of misbehaviour right from the start. So I'd like to know what I can tactically ignore, and how to do it.
    I'm finding it
    hard to be so constantly watchful, and I'm finding it hard to find the
    right vocabulary to deal with the small stuff. I don't want to interrupt
    my lesson all the time. I know that I can deal with some things just by
    moving to the place where the trouble's taking place (e.g. swinging on
    chair - just pushing the chair back to the floor whilst carrying on
    talking). But I do find that if I ignore calling out then the calling
    out tends to continue. I feel like a broken record saying 'I'm not
    responding to anyone calling out' (I suppose I'm already responding by saying that[​IMG]) or 'x, turn round and face the
    front', 'y, I want to see you doing the work NOW, not looking round the
    classroom'.
    I find that a lot of the trouble starts because
    instead of concentrating on the work, some of the pupils are constantly
    looking round the classroom to see what else is going on - whether
    there's any trouble they can get involved with - somebody flicking a
    piece of rubber perhaps, someone laughing?
    I think for some of them the lesson isn't about the work at all: it's a game about behaviour. Who can get whom into trouble? Who can get away with what? Is she going to do x if we do y? I've taken to absolutely never turning my back on anyone with those classes, but of course it still happens that I bend over my computer for a moment or so, and then somebody throws something or whatever.

     
  2. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I didn't want to hog the other thread about attention-seeking boys, so here is my own view of it:
    I've got those kind of boys in some of my classes,
    too. And I've got those quiet good ones whose parents tell me they love
    the subject but they hardly ever put their hands up and I've hardly ever
    spoken to them in my life (or so it feels).
    I find it hard to do
    this 'tactical ignoring' because I've recently been observed and told
    that some of my tactical ignoring is being interpreted by the boys as
    tolerance. I've been told that I let small problems build up to bigger
    ones by ignoring them, and I've been told to stamp down on small
    instances of misbehaviour right from the start. So I'd like to know what I can tactically ignore, and how to do it.
    I'm finding it
    hard to be so constantly watchful, and I'm finding it hard to find the
    right vocabulary to deal with the small stuff. I don't want to interrupt
    my lesson all the time. I know that I can deal with some things just by
    moving to the place where the trouble's taking place (e.g. swinging on
    chair - just pushing the chair back to the floor whilst carrying on
    talking). But I do find that if I ignore calling out then the calling
    out tends to continue. I feel like a broken record saying 'I'm not
    responding to anyone calling out' (I suppose I'm already responding by saying that[​IMG]) or 'x, turn round and face the
    front', 'y, I want to see you doing the work NOW, not looking round the
    classroom'.
    I find that a lot of the trouble starts because
    instead of concentrating on the work, some of the pupils are constantly
    looking round the classroom to see what else is going on - whether
    there's any trouble they can get involved with - somebody flicking a
    piece of rubber perhaps, someone laughing?
    I think for some of them the lesson isn't about the work at all: it's a game about behaviour. Who can get whom into trouble? Who can get away with what? Is she going to do x if we do y? I've taken to absolutely never turning my back on anyone with those classes, but of course it still happens that I bend over my computer for a moment or so, and then somebody throws something or whatever.

     
  3. Well, tactical ignoring isn't ignoring the obvious, but rather not creating a fuss. So to give an example, if a child was tapping a pencil, instead of telling them to stop you would continue teaching and without any interaction simply take the pencil away from them and carry on as normal. It's not about completely ignoring the behaviour, poor behaviour should always be dealt with using your range of management techniques. Another example of tactical ignoring is positioning yourself. If a child is particularly chatty you could position yourself near the child and they should instinctively self-correct.
     
  4. Silence is also good. Say nothing, write a heading on the board "lunch detention" and put names of the kids disturbing . If they persist add a tick. Each tick = 3 mins. They can work off the ticks if they behave in class for the rest of the lesson. Find some way of rewarding the kids who always do the right thing (stickers in books or jelly beans or whatever works) I turned the behaviour of an intransigent yr 10 boy around with football stickers! Surprising but true! Yyou'll have one or two **** lunchtimes but they'll get the message especially if you follow up with ringing home.
     
  5. Seating plans are good too. Work out who are the ring leaders and seat them as far from each other as poss. See if you have a friend colleague who teaches an older or younger group at the same time. See if you could have two lessons of 'respite' by putting a real trouble maker with written work at the back of his/her lesson. It'll give you time to reestablish the tone of you lesson without the clever comments. I have some tough yr 8s and we teach 75 min lessons. I've found starting my (German) lesson with 5-10 mins silent reading helps the kids to calm down especially if they've had PE. So they sit and read over class notes or a section of vocabulary or a reading text in the book. Sometimes I'll put reflection questions on the board like: This topic I have learnt .... I found the work on ..... difficult/easy because .... My score on the test was .... My goal for next test is .... I'm going to achieve this goal by ....
    You'll get some smart Alec responses but ask 2-3 reliable kids to read their feedback and it sets a tone. Again give them the reward sweets or stickers.
    And don't accept nonsense because every time you do it chips away at YOU and the standard of the work in class. Find out who else teaches these kids and see how the kids are with them or what strategies they are using. In my school our seating plan for 808 is being used in German English Maths Geo Hist Sci so the kids know we all talk to each other and are on the same track. It's very powerful.
    One thing the kids try to use is your isolation. It's mob rule. Work with your colleagues and you'll gain strength.
    Good luck!
     
  6. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    So, to summarise: tactical ignoring doesn't actually exist - it's just dealing with misbehaviour non-verbally???
    Thanks for all the advice. I've got seating plans - what I don't like about them is that the same kids always end up working with the same kids. Colleagues of mine change their seating plans every 6 weeks or so, but I haven't had the heart. I just periodically change kids round who don't work well together, which kind of means that bad teamwork gets rewarded, i.e. you make a fuss about working with an unpopular child = you eventually get moved.
    Never mind, mostly the seating plans are ok in terms of separating dominant individuals. I've done loads of detentions and most of the classes have calmed down, there are just a few individuals who occasionally seem to feel that a lunchtime spent indoors is well worth the extra cudos of a cheeky comment or whatever.
    I also need to work on making my sanctions more consistent and would appreciate any advice on that. I'm trying to follow a 'three strikes and then you've got a detention' policy but some of the kids regard that as a 'free ticket' to misbehave twice. In any case I only use the strikes for calling out or talking - rudeness gets a detention straightaway. Then there's the question of how to give the three strikes - I used to write names on the board which meant I could warn the child without interrupting my lesson. But now I'm aiming to move around the room more to dominate the space (so I don't want to keep running back to the board), and in any case I want a record of what happens each lesson, so I write their names down in an exercise book, my 'monitoring book'. They hate that because they have no idea how often their name has gone down until I summon them at the end of the lesson. I'm trying to make my displeasure clear every time someone misbehaves (calls out, talks to their friend, swings on their chair, fiddles with their pen, is off task etc), without interrupting my lesson too much. Any 'how I do it' posts would be much appreciated.
    I think I'm trying to do: first instance: non-verbal cue.
    second instance: verbal warning.
    Third instance: name written in the book.
    fourth instance: detention.
    But I need to communicate this to my pupils as they're still stuck on the 'names on the board' thing that I used to follow previously.
     
  7. I work in a behaviour unit - if I did this I would have all hell break loose. Physically interventing to take something away from a pupil is extremely high risk, can lead to huge escalation and lead you to being vulnerable to being accused of common assault - believe me they would do it!
     
  8. Of course it is. What is happening socially in the room is so much more important to pretty much all kids - that's why focussing on curriculum to deal with behavioural matters is often only of short term or marginal help - it's all about relationships and group dynamics.
    In game shows no one ever asks for questions on science despite it being part of the national curriculum for 20 odd years - only a small minority people remember any of the science they did at school whereas most people remember who was bad and the shinanigans they got up to in class.
    It may be depressing but once you realise it you can use it to your advantage
     
  9. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I work in a boys' grammar and they would probably be ok with that, mostly, but no, I'm not brave enough to risk that. I'd just move in closer to them and make a 'flat hand' gesture that means 'be quiet'.
     
  10. Think bigger picture than the pencil or names on the board. You don't want this situation to persist surely so unless you consistently manage the group you'll be running about all year and the joke is on you.
    Also if any ploy isn't having an affect then bring in the big guns in the shape of HOY or whoever is the next level of sanction up. No teacher can have a situation where one or two or more kids are holding the whole group to ransom and thereby affecting everyone's learning. I cannot stress enough how far you oughtn't be doing this alone but work in tandem with other teachers of that group. Or the kids will see YOU as the focus of misbehaviour.
    IF it is just a problem in your class, get advice and support.
    The notion that it's" a game or that the kids get kudos from being in detention" (aka doing sthg wrong) is a reflection on how they see you and / or the school. We rightly no longer whip kids into submission as per 1940s BUT they are children and do need to learn that mob rules are not appropriate in society including a learning community like a classroom.
    Parents need to be involved too.
    If they insist on seeing this as a game make absolutely sure it's YOU who wins...
     
  11. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Well, I've had this group since September and it's April, so I do feel that I should have 'won' by now and since I haven't I'm either incapable or haven't been supported properly, or both. I got on well with this group at first, then they got a bit noisy and things were still friendly, then I was told to 'clamp down' on them (and on all my lower school classes) by my HoD in January, and gradually this confrontational 'who's going to win this' situation seems to have developed. Part of my problem is starting at a very strict boys' school with no induction, after teaching in a girls' school and then taking a long career break. I started off not being strict enough, I can see that now, but I do mean to persevere and to win this battle.
    All this stuff about getting kudos from being in detention is just in my lesson: it's a strict school and behaviour is very good on the whole, but I think that this means that when someone comes in new, like me, and acts a bit different, some pupils see this as a weakness to exploit. And some of the parents are like: 'well, my son only misbehaves in one subject, therefore it must be the teacher's fault'.
    I was just wondering what support I should ask for. I've had lots of pupils (about 5 in the particular class that I'm thinking of - all the ringleaders) on 'departmental monitoring' and this has helped because then they get a grade for behaviour at the end of every lesson and they have to show this to their parents and to the HoD. But more recently some of those pupils have failed to bring their monitoring cards - so they're not taking this too seriously. Also, one pupil is ADHD and he behaves worst and he's meant to be on monitoring with the Head of Year, so I can't put him on departmental monitoring. He behaves badly every lesson, and fails to bring homework, and I've had him in loads of detentions, it just doesn't seem to be helping. Sometimes, if he doesn't calm down at all, I exclude him from the lesson and he goes and works in my HoD's classroom. Other times I try to exclude him but the HoD is nowhere to be found, so I just put him out in the corridor with a desk and he does some work there. I just feel that there's too much for me to deal with and I'd really like someone to have a word with the class as a whole. I don't know if that'd help though. I feel like nobody (HoY, HoD) is actually interested - they just pay lip-service to being interested because they know it's their job, but actually they see this as my fault and can't really be bothered. I have very little contact with the HoY - he just about knows my name, I think.
    I've had lots of good lessons with that class - I'm hoping that the bad patch I had with them last week was due to the approaching holiday. But I still don't feel very good about the situation and I'm meeting one of the parents after the holiday - one of the ones who's decided that this problem has been caused by me.
    Sorry if I've wondered off the topic a bit.
     
  12. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I've observed colleagues, and spoken to colleagues, with the same pupils, and they all agree that this particular year 8 are exceptionally difficult and horrible to teach. These colleagues have been at the school for a few years and act very strictly with those boys. I'm trying to copy their style but don't yet manage to get the same level of discipline all the time. The ADHD child is more quiet and settled with them, but even with them he's invariably the one calling out and getting the detentions. I spoke to his mum twice and she said I was welcome to keep him for after school detention any time I wanted to, and she was going to take him to the hospital to get his medication looked at. I don't really want to have him for after school detention more than twice a week - if the detentions aren't helping I need something else. Something that actually makes him want to settle down and do some work. Because he'll get left behind if I keep excluding him (he's probably been left behind already).
     
  13. "Sometimes, if he doesn't calm down at all, I exclude him from the lesson and he goes and works in my HoD's classroom. Other times I try to exclude him but the HoD is nowhere to be found, so I just put him out in the corridor with a desk and he does some work there."

    OK - this situation is just not acceptable for you. I understand exactly how you feel. My present school has strict discipline. I came here from a difficult school where discipline was slack. The yr8 German group I had similar probs with had one ADHD kid, one severe Oppositional Defiant Disorder kid, one with severe literacy issues, one school refuser, one isolate, one persistent truant who'd come in after six lessons off and expect to understand... and about five smart Alec's who'd buy into misbehaviour at any opportunity to sabotage my lesson. German is a noisy lesson because of the need to talk, and they all hated it so the ones who wanted to work were marginalised.

    My discipline now with hindsight was nowhere near tight enough. I had them sitting in table blocks of six or in discussion circles which was NOT the ethos of the school. So they thought I was slack from week 1. I also gave three ticks for chatting before a detention of say five mins (as per my previous school) My current school sits kids in rows and will give three mins instantly for any misdemeanour and any attempt to backchat = instant exit from class. Within one term I was struggling. They. Saw me as a pushover. This year has been MUCH easier as I know the rules...

    I didn't realize last year how slack I was till I did some mutual observation with colleagues and it hit me like a sledgehammer. So first thing to do is use one of your rare frees to watch a colleague teach the boys. It'll be worth every minute.

    I'm wondering musiclover what subject you teach. There are tricks you can use for diff subjects.

    You said : Sometimes, if he doesn't calm down at all, I exclude him from the lesson and he goes and works in my HoD's classroom. Other times I try to exclude him but the HoD is nowhere to be found, so I just put him out in the corridor with a desk and he does some work there
    This is not good enough - they are paid more than you for their role in school... If they don't know your name then go to their office BEFORE the lesson and ask where they will be at that time as you'll need back up. Don't go into one more lesson without knowing 2 or 3 colleagues who can remove or take in these boys. You MUST set a new tone in these classes and at this time of year with one term to go, you may not be able to work wonders but you'll be the wiser next sept with new classes.

    You will need these ringleaders out of your hair for about 3-4 lessons to set a new tone and demonstrate to the rest you mean business. And tell them "we need calm from now on to re focus on learning in this group". I also say "team" a lot eg "ok team, let's wrap this task up for today" or "we are a team - we support each other with the next task" so logically anyone who stuffs the group around isn't playing fair. You make the ringleaders start to look like the bad guys.

    And yes be rigidly consistent: I have a mantra "dont speak out, don't call out" which covers the turning around to speak to kid AND the calling out answers without putting up hand. I say it at the start of each lesson and repeat it over like "broken record". Names go on board if they do the wrong thing. I explicitly praise kids for doing the right thing "thanks Ben for putting up your hand, what's your idea on this passage?"
    Pick no more than two things to really hammer home. You can't do everything at once, but if you calm the classroom other things will gradually change in the dynamic of the class.

    Last year I also took aside one or two good reliable kids and asked their advice on how I could change things. This establishes you as a teacher who's prepared to change. Maybe you do need to change some things: the way you develop topics, or the pitch of your voice, are you shouting to much? do you build in variety in the topic, etc
    My kids told me I needed to get rid of the ringleaders quicker because I gave them more chances than the other teachers. They also told me they hated it when I packed up the class on the bell rather than 3 mins beforehand. It was fair comment and making them late for the next teacher.

    Also please ring home... Kids hate it. Parents have the right to know what their kids are like. Be welcoming of their support. Explicitly thank them. Tell them you'll ring and give update in three weeks. Put it in your diary and do it. Never ever break a promise to parents. I emailed parents of the four difficult kids and we became close over the year and shared ideas. These boys were hard work at home too and we mutually supported each other.
    Let me know what you teach
    Must go.
     
  14. Well, I think you're being slightly dramatic. If you expect all hell to break loose, that is exactly what you will get. I'm not suggesting jumping onto the desk and wrestling the child to the floor screaming "release the pencil". If your class presence is good and your relationships are good, I would be surprised if holding out your hand didn't prompt the child to pass you the pencil freely. Challenging children included. If you want to have good behaviour, you need to expect it. It sounds like the strategy of your unit is to work around these challenging children, rather than to work with them for mainstream reintegration. I could be wrong, I'm only assuming from a couple of sentences.
     
  15. Yes sad you feel moving on may be best for your sanity because at yr 9 they'll be hard too. If you like the school, find some allies and start the new year as positively as you can.

    If you don't like the school then cut and run. Don't look back. My previous school was hell. I stayed the year for my CV. Then took my current job as main scale teacher (I had previously been HOY/ Snr Teacher i/c Junior Sch) and enjoyed going back into classroom more. I'm now HOD and have developed really positive professional relationships with staff parents and kids so musiclover there is lit at the end of the German tunnel.

    See the rest of this year as a learning challenge for YOU and trial some new approaches knowing that if things don't improve you're moving on. Some kids are just too hard. There are other students out there that need you and will appreciate you. Some people are just wasters and you energy, talent and time is better used elsewhere.

    The other thing I was going to say is that my students do all their learning reflections and goal setting on file paper which I keep. If parents give you the line that it's your fault their kid isn't working, the reflections give good evidence that the kid is being vile.
     
  16. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    To be honest all that you write sounds like any teacher in a new school in their first year, especially one where things are different to what they have known before. It isn't you and it isn't unusual. You aren't a worse teacher than anyone else in the school, just newer.
    If you can bear to stay (and you only have a couple of year 8 classes causing you serious grief, which implies the rest of the time you are enjoying your classes) life automatically becomes easier in your second year. If you leave, you have to start from the beginning all over again. If your school are happy to keep you, then staying is definitely the best option to deal with the problems you have.

    Send little lad to anyone who will have him, doesn't need to be HOD/HOY. For both these classes make a timetable for yourself of who is willing to take anyone who tries to disrupt your lesson, they don't even have to be in your dept. The moment the first child starts, send them to whoever is top of the list. When their friend tries it, send them to the next person. And keep going. So what if you send out half of the class the first couple of weeks, they'll get the message and your life will be great. Make sure your lessons are exciting and interesting for those remaining and reward them a lot. Also encourage them to tell their friends what a good time they have had.
     
  17. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Thank you minniemix. This just makes me cry because I love the school, the colleagues and most of my pupils and I started the year absolutely determined to stay until I'm a little old lady. But (as stated on other threads) one of the deputy heads has decided that my behaviour management is not up to scratch, so he's constantly on my back, plus they're phasing out my main subject, plus they won't consider letting me go part-time, and my family's really suffered this year. So it's not right for me to stay. They've advertised my job (which is a one year maternity cover, and the person isn't coming back), and told me I'm welcome to apply for it. But I haven't applied and the interviews are on Friday after the holiday. I just feel so sad. I wonder how long it'll be before my pupils find out and how they'll behave. And I wonder whether I'll be a housewife again next year, or a supply teacher - local part-time German jobs aren't that easy to come by with most of the schools around here teaching French and Spanish. And I wonder how all those candidates for 'my' job will feel once they find out that German's on its way out. It all preys on my mind when I should be on holiday, forgetting about it all. I'm thinking of taking a break from TES forum - but then it's nice to exchange views and to learn.
     
  18. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Tactically ignoring doesn't mean ignore: it means to use ignoring as a tactic- the main aim usually being to keep the flow of the lesson going (this works by analogy with football matches, when the ref might allow play to continue even if a foul has been committed, because to stop the game would penalise the victim's team more).
    It also means doing something about the foul (if I may) at some other point. So: if someone is rocking or tapping, or being a low-level pain, then you can let it slide for a bit if it means that you achieve a greater win elsewhere....but then you address it when YOU are ready to do so. That might be at a later quiet moment, or it may be after the class.
    You're right to say that some will misinterpret Tactical Ignorance IF it is simply ignoring. But if you show that nothing escapes you, then you gain a rep for being tough AND the kids know that you're in control.
    Finally, I would add that you need to make sue that there are consequences to their micro-misbehaviours. If someone keeps rocking, tapping, girning or moaning when you've asked them not to, then they've definitely earned some time in detention. Let them see that their cause has effects.
    Good luck
    Tom
    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.
     
  19. I'd count tactically ignoring as more "dealing with button pushing on your own terms" if that makes sense. An example of it was a supply booking where my agency had delightfully told me I was heading to Y3, for me to end up with a really arkward Y6 class (and no I'm not apologising for calling them arkward - they WERE!). Forewarned about the resident "characters" I started off with the register, got to the ringleader, who answered with a "f off" and looked at me for a reaction. I gave no response at all, didn't interrupt and carried on down the register... got to the end and our little friend, visibly deflated he'd made no impact at all in his attempt to metaphorically pee up the lampost of this particular supply - was soooooo concerned that I'd missed him out - and I simply replied utterly blankly that, "yes I made a note you were here, and I made a note of how you told me you were here, thank you." While no, I shouldn't have had to tolerate the language, and I did note it up for followup later - it deflated him completely and made him an utter puddycat for the rest of the afternoon because he'd been unable to draw out the battle lines on his own terms.
    That's the kind of thing I'd mark out as tactical ignoring personally.
     
  20. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Thank you for your time and clarification - I'll certainly remember the football analogy, Tom. [​IMG]
     

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