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HAS behaviour got worse?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by jubilee, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. BigFrankEM

    BigFrankEM Occasional commenter

    Agreed.

    But it is when the SMT take their side, as is now almost routine in my experience, that the whole matter spirals out of control.
     
  2. I was at secondary school in the 60s and started teaching in 1980. The behaviour in my school, as a child, could be appalling. Things were thrown at teachers, it was not that unusual to pupils and teachers come to blows (but that what happens when you beat kids with sticks - but that's another story). We thought it a great victory when the tech drawing teacher went off with a nervous breakdown, great fun! BUT, we could and would sit down and shut up when we had to.
    When I started teaching, my general feeling was that behaviour had improved, I taught classes that could, and would, sit down and do as they are told. 30 years later, I find the biggest problem is that kids seem to be UNABLE to sit and listen or work quietly. As soon as I stop talking, they start; they don't (can't?) listen to instructions and everything, whatever it is, is always someone else's fault. In many ways I would say that behaviour is at least no worse than it was 40 years ago. What IS worse is the casual rudeness and constant draining, drip, drip, drip of low-level disruption which gets to very wearing by the end of a long term.
     
  3. I really believe a change in culture has come about (and, frankly, I blame Thatcher!).
    When I was at school, the teacher's word was final. If I was scolded, I was mortified. If I told my parents I had been scolded, they would always reply that I must have done something to deserve it.
    NOWADAYS, in schools of every kind and across the social-economic board, this isn't what happens anymore. Children shouldn't be afraid of their teachers, but they should respect them, but the kids are fully aware of their 'rights' (with no idea of their responsibilities). And when the kids go home and tell their parents that they've been scolded, the parents march down to the school to shout at the teacher. I've seen parents storming into classrooms and yelling at the teacher in front of all the other kids.
    I hate sounding so old guard and New Right but it's going to be hard to teach in this climate!!
     
  4. 'Children shouldn't be afraid of their teachers, but they should respect them'
    I seem to recall a thread on this forum from some years ago which asked if respect isn't linked in some ways to fear: that is, if a small child can learn respect from the purely rational concept of reciprocity, without having some reason (punishment?) for learning it. I think respect is a far more complex concept than we ever make allowances for; children and young people won't just absorb it automatically, by a process of osmosis. Moral concepts aren't like maths or a language, where you can actually learn the superficial skills without necessarily absorbing the culture that they represent.
     
  5. I think respect is a secondary result of other processes. When I was a kid - 50s and 60s it wasn't an issue. There were plenty of teachers we might not have respected - if we'd thought about things that way.
    Most importantly, we knew about manners, courtesy, politeness, whatever you want to call it. Even when we failed at this, we knew it was wrong.
    As far as it being a matter of schools in poor areas and the like, I'd have to disagree. Dealing with families with money enough to pay for private tuition above the private school fees they already pay (in Oz this isn't quite as expensive as it is in the UK) the private school kids can be arrogant and rude and dismissive in much the same way as my other students.
    My view about respect is that it dies aborning in an atmosphere corroded by lack of simple, basic courtesy. A civil society must actually be civil.
     
  6. I am an SMT in a school that, in the last academic year, could quite easily have been described as chaotic. The students came and went as they pleased, uniform seemed optional and I'd would be stunned if much "teaching" went on anywhere. Students would stop to have a cigarette between lessons and would not bother to even attempt to hide.
    Bizarrely, Ofsted said we were satisfactory with good features last term! (They have no idea but I am off topic!)
    Then, we decided to draw a line in the sand. We (SMT) scrapped morning briefings and every one of us does duty in the morning for 30 minutes before school. Any child with incorrect uniform is isolated until the correct uniform is brought in or it is the end of the school day. Additionally, we decided to commit to wandering the corridors between lessons and at lesson changeovers. The idea was to engage with kids who were actually behaving and give positive feedback as well as nip any problems in the bud.
    We required middle managers to do the same for 1 or 2 hours per week.
    We have had some challenges to this, some parents have gone to the press because their child can't wear trainers, but the majority of the students have risen to the new expectations.
    I am aware that we have only had 3 weeks but the transformation is gob smacking. The presence of staff supporting each other makes a difference I never thought it would.
    We now have teachers teaching lessons, good behaviour and it is an enjoyable place to work.
    We had about 50 in "uniform isolation" the first week and on Friday of the third week it was 6. (4 are being kept at home by parents in protest).
    We have had 2 internal exclusions in the first 3 weeks and 1 external exclusion (3 days). This time last year we have over 10 internal and 10 external exclusions by this point.
    My point? I work in a school that must have been about as bad as it can get. The staff drew a line in the sand and did not back down from the agreed rules.
    The children are now getting the education they need and deserve.
    No matter how bad your school is, if you can get SMT to "draw a line and start afresh" then a change can be made relatively quickly.
    Best of luck
     
  7. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Just wanted to say that I think the previous post is one of the most positive things I've heard in a long time, as far as education goes. Getting a school into shape isn't nuclear physics. What it is, is a lot of hard work, but the basic ideas behind school behaviour management, just like classroom behaviour management, aren't cryptic or abstruse. They just take a bit of dedication, team work and sweat. Well done, sir, for your efforts.

    http://behaviourguru.blogspot.com/
     
  8. I can't take any credit for the change in my school - I just happen to be in the right place at the right time!
    I was supportive of the Head in his decision to make a change but didn't actually expect it to work so spectacularly!
    I just thought we would end up with 100's in isolation. Good job I'm not in charge!
     
  9. 'There were plenty of teachers we might not have respected - if we'd thought about things that way. Most importantly, we knew about manners, courtesy, politeness, whatever you want to call it. Even when we failed at this, we knew it was wrong.'
    The trouble today is that casual dismissal of the humanity of others seems to be taken for granted, despite the horrible history of the 20th century. Is it the result of all the violence in the media? The misunderstanding of the concept of 'class' that assumes that good manners, civility, etc, are a kind of snobbery-- an imitation of a middle or upper-class affectation? The weakening of the social philosophies that brought people together rather than divided them? The outcome of the misguided 'youth culture' of the 60s? All of the above, and many other influences, no doubt. But it may not be too late: the post about the 'turning around' of one school culture is very heartening!
     
  10. "Then, we decided to draw a line in the sand. We (SMT) scrapped morning briefings and every one of us does duty in the morning for 30 minutes before school. Any child with incorrect uniform is isolated until the correct uniform is brought in or it is the end of the school day. Additionally, we decided to commit to wandering the corridors between lessons and at lesson changeovers. The idea was to engage with kids who were actually behaving and give positive feedback as well as nip any problems in the bud.
    We required middle managers to do the same for 1 or 2 hours per week.
    We have had some challenges to this, some parents have gone to the press because their child can't wear trainers, but the majority of the students have risen to the new expectations."
    Standard: please could you broadcast this throughout SMT land. Seriously, I think that the SMTs in many schools simply are unaware of the importance of doing the job well, as you and your colleagues are doing it; and 1000s of kids are suffering substandard education as a result. Thanks for telling us teachers about your experience, it was really heartening to read! However, I feel it is the SMTs in many schools that need to hear your story more.
     
  11. "My point? I work in a school that must have been about as bad as it can get. The staff drew a line in the sand and did not back down from the agreed rules."
    Ditto. My current school was a war zone before the current (and competent) SMT sorted it out, à la Standard. Now it's fine. It's also in a deprived area. Previously I worked in a posh area in the leafy suburbs but with a more typical (I believe) SMT, and behaviour was significantly worse than where I now am.

     
  12. Can it truly be getting bad as much and as quickly as people imply? I mean, if it's got ten times worse in the last decade, does that mean it's got a hundred times worse since 1900?
    Part of me thinks that this kind of talk has taken place identically at every point in history, each generation bemoaning the terror of the next. Even Socrates is reputed to have said "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."
    While I agree anecdote shouldn't be ignored, we should be very, very careful about drawing any conclusions from it. By its very nature, it's subject to massive selection bias and also availability bias and researcher bias. An anecdote, by it's nature, is a noteworthy event. No one goes home and says to their wife "You know, I told a kid to tuck her shirt in today and she turned round and said 'Sorry, Sir, I didn't realise'"
    Equally, I don't think "It wasn't like that in my day" is a particularly helpful assessment. No one can be a teacher and student in the same class, and you can't teach now and twenty years ago at the same time.
    I sometimes wonder how I would deal with teaching myself and my classmates if I were whisked back in time 'Life on Mars' style. Sometimes I think I'd enjoy it, but most of the time it gives me the screaming heeby-jeebies. I saw myself as fundamentally well-behaved, but liked a bit of a joke and muck-about. I wonder if my teachers saw it that way... the point, I think, is that we can't really trust our own perception on this matter.

     
  13. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I've just been watching a recording of the last episode of that gareth Malone programme, where he tried out a more physical approach of teaching YR6 boys, with the objective of raising their Reading levels (which he achieved quite spectacularly in some cases).
    Anyway, there was an incident outside when a boy said he needed a drink. Mr Malone told him that he couldn't go to get one as they were almost finished and he was sure that he could manage. As he was bringing the session to an end, he noticed that the boy was already heading back inside and he called him back. He told the boy to stand to one side and said that he would now be the last to be dismissed.
    When all the others had gone, he told the boy to come over as he wanted to speak to him. The boy refused and walked off. When told to come back, he was abusive and Mr Malone sent him to sit outside the Head's office for 20 minutes.
    Mr Malone then went to speak to the boy and made it clear that the boy's disrespect was not to be tolerated. The boy seemed to think that he had a right to challenge the decision to exclude him from part of the next teaching session and kept interrupting Mr Malone, who then told him that he was not ready to re-join the class and must spend another 20 minutes reflecting on his attitude.
    A short while later, Mr Malone was approached by a member of staff who intimated that other staff were concerned about the way he dealt with the boy and felt he had handled it wrongly. The boy should have had the opportunity to give his side of the incident and to have his opinion heard! He should have been allowed to 'get it off his chest'.
    That's why things are going wrong with behaviour and are getting progressively worse. The teacher is no longer allowed to make reasonable decisions that are respected by pupils nad colleagues. The pupil must always have a 'voice' even when they, and everyone else, know that the pupil was misbehaving. They have become adept at using this opportunity to 'have their say' to lessen or cancel any sanction that might have been imposed. It's even worth being economical with the truth or uttering fully-fledged lies, if there is a known culture of SMT saying that there are two conflicting versions and therefore the truth of the situation cannot be established.
    Teachers are being undermined and pupils are taking advantage of the situation. That's why things are so much worse today and why so many teachers f eel frustrated, stressed and emasculated. Teaching used to be a profession where you had a lot of autonomy. That aspect is fast diminishing.

     
  14. Never the twain shall meet. Culchailan has it about right, it's a perpetual cycle, and there is a "things were so much better in my day" brigade in every generation. I think the point that so many miss is that society and our culture, by no means just in schools, has moved on, and "the person in authority is always right" is no longer a valid assumption for the vast majority of people. Treat pupils with the respect you would like to be treated with yourself, and see the difference. Jubillee's contribution immediately above is a good example of this - essentially, the boy was treated with disrespect, and arguably was justifiably heading off for his drink at the earliest opportunity. If you went on a training day, got forced into some sort of outdoor activity, and got desperate for a drink, how would you expect to be treated? Why treat a child any differently? "Mr Malone" sounds like another power-crazed egotist who has to make a confrontation out of nothing, then keep escalating it. I had teachers like this in the 1950s and 1960s - surely we should have moved on?
     
  15. Arrrrgh!
    People who want to gloss over the Behaviour Crisis are always pulling out quotations like this. There was even one in the Steer Report. I collected some of them in the third part of this. It's nonsense, of course (and depressing that teachers aren't more sceptical, and more familiar with the ancient philosophers). Bad behaviour has existed in other eras. It has got worse in other eras. But the belief that people have always thought children's behaviour was getting worse, even in the classical era, is simply not credible.
    More generally, memory plays tricks and I wouldn't like to make fine comparisons between now and my school days, but it is not impossible for a teacher to remember what it was like when they were at school, and it wasn't like this. Teachers regularly get sworn at and deliberately ignored now, something many of us never saw even once when we were at school.
     
  16. I've just started my secondary school PGCE observation placement (having done my primary one last week) and I have to say, I was rather pleasantly surprised by how good the behaviour is in both schools. I have yet to witness any misbehaviour more serious than talking, fidgeting or not doing homework, and in the secondary school, the pupils stand up whenever another teacher enters the room! Both schools have a higher than average number of kids on free school meals and with learning difficulties/disabilities, attainment on entry to the primary school is well below average and the secondary school has a high number of looked-after children. The primary school I went to in the same town had kids regularly swearing, jumping out of windows, deliberately injuring other kids etc, and the secondary had kids skiving lessons in full view of the teachers, smoking, blatantly flouting the uniform rules and regularly swearing at or even hitting the teachers. The difference between these schools? Consistency from every teacher, and effective leadership. When every teacher challenges a pupil they see misbehaving, even if they don't teach them; when sanctions are always given and followed through; and when SLT take an active role in being on duty around the school at key times and dealing with misbehaviour, it's generally not a problem. But if kids know they can get away with misbehaving because nobody can be bothered to deal with it, or they'll be able to get out of punishment later, or SLT will take their side, they will. And I'm sure that was just as true of kids in decades gone by as it is today. Kids take advantage of things like that. I don't believe there ever really was a 'golden age' of behaviour, or anything else for that matter. Older people just like to put on their rose-tinted glasses and hark back to the 'good old days'. You can't believe everything you read in the Daily Mail.
     
  17. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I don't read the Daily Mail, The Daily telegraph or any of the tabloids that purport to be newspapers.
    I initially started teacher training soon after graduating in 1977 and did not find behaviour problematic in my teaching practice school (a bog standard comprehensive in a mining town in Yorkshire) . I remember having repeated issues with only one pupil. I did not complete the PGCE as my husband got a promotiion which meant moving away.
    Cut to 1998 and I was shocked at the behaviour I witnessed in schools. I had certainly not forgotten such behaviour in the mist of time: it simply wasn't like that years ago. The odd pupil who really pushed the boundaies years ago was given short shrift and was suspended and then excluded if they didn't sort themselves out. Many pupils would never have dared outrageously before as they knew that they would be answerable not just to their teacher and more senior staff, but also to their parents. If that fear of the consequences was the only reason that they behaved acceptably is irrelevant; they knew how to control their temptation to misbehave.
    I think that pupil facility with swearing nowadays is a major factor in their lack of respect for their peers and their teachers.They feel that they can say what they like, when they like, to whomsoever they like.
    I would advise against coming to any conclusions based on a limited experience of being 'on the other side' in a school. Had I done my first, more recent TP in a select few schools in Lancashire, I'd likely have applied for a permanent job for after I qualified. As it was, I had witnessed some quite awful behaviour and had heard plenty of anecdotes from my younger, female PGCErs about sexist remarks and propositions from children, that I decided to pursue supply work for a while in order to discover at which schools I would be free to teach, rather than to spend most of my working day tackling poor behaviour and reluctance to co-operate.
    I did find a few such schools but, guess what, the staff don't tend to move on!
    My own children went to the local comprehensive ( years before I qualified). Knowing what I know now, if they were now of school age I'd be moving into a different catchment area or paying for private education ... and I never thought I'd say that, being a left-leaning, Guardian reader!
     
  18. BigFrankEM

    BigFrankEM Occasional commenter

    Puerile posturing.

    Pupils and teachers are not equals.
    For every 1 teacher whom I currently note speaking disrespectfully to a pupil, I see roughly 10 000 acting in the opposite direction.

    When I started about 35 years ago, that ratio was 5:1.

    And you want me to believe that
    Poppycock.
     
  19. 'and in the secondary school, the pupils stand up whenever another teacher enters the room!'
    HAVE THEY GOT ANY VACANCIES?????
     
  20. 'depressing that teachers aren't more sceptical, and more familiar with the ancient philosophers'
    oldandrew: it's a long long time since teachers could be expected to show either of these qualities.
     

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