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How to spend more time with the good pupils and less chasing the troublemakers?

Discussion in 'Independent' started by Rubey, May 21, 2018.

  1. Rubey

    Rubey New commenter

    Hi all,

    I've been a houseparent in a boarding school for a few years now. I've been reflecting on what I'm doing well and what I'm not doing so well. One thing that always comes up is that I spend the majority of my time trying to help boarders who are: struggling to get homework in, causing disruption in lessons, showing a negative attitude to boarding life, etc.

    I accept that this is normal and maybe necessary at times, but when by the end of the day I might have only managed a quick chat with a pupil who is self-motivated and organised, I worry that the pupil might see this as unfair.

    I'm sure there are similar issues for all of us to have to deal with. Could anyone give any ideas that they feel might help, or any pointers towards articles/books? Not sure this is the right group for this either...


    willcott likes this.
  2. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter

    This is probably more commonplace than you might think, across all types of schools.

    Spending time working with someone struggling to get homework in, or trying to turn around their negative attitude, is meant to bring about a positive outcome. That's an investment of your time, with an expectation of a return.

    On the other hand, it could be argued that spending time with someone who causes disruption in the lessons, you are in effect rewarding bad behaviour. That's not an investment of your time - it's a sacrifice, with little to show for it.

    You only have 24 hours in each day, and how you spend them is up to you. Personally I would try, as far as possible, to ensure the majority of my time was spent on those who deserve it.

    I think it's important for students to learn that life presents them with a set of choices, and each choice they make comes with a set of consequences.
  3. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    I am afraid that I am unable to offer you any practical hints and tips.

    My experience of working in boarding schools however tells me that the issues you are facing are indeed similar for all of those in a position such as yours. I have seen a few HMs up fairly close in my time as a tutor in boarding houses and, from what I have seen, the majority of their time is spent as you describe.

    Accordingly, I would not worry unduly. Indeed, I am impressed that you are actively seeking to redress the balance.

    As to seeking practical solutions, as I say, there is nothing I can offer. Indeed my lack of ideas as to how to combat this is a significant reason why I would not choose this career path. I do however admire the resilience of those who do...
  4. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    One solution to this problem, Rubey, might be to work in an environment where there are fewer troublemakers. Having taught in boarding schools in the UK, I am now teaching in China and the behaviour and the work ethic of most of my Chinese students is much better. As there are about 1.4 billion people in China, Chinese parents instill some strange ideas into their children: no, the world does not owe you a living and yes, you are expected to work hard.

    My Chinese students have all of their lessons (Maths, Science, History etc.) in the English language. Can you imagine what would happen if all of the English students at your school were told that they had to have their lessons in French or Spanish? They would all start crying and their parents would complain that the school was making things too hard. Maybe your school would be closed down by the Social Services. This is because most students in the UK are just spoiled and lazy. By "helping" the troublemakers in your school, you are actually encouraging their selfishness and laziness. I think that elder_cat is absolutely right to say that there are consequences for those who will not accept responsibility for their choices.
    binaryhex likes this.
  5. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Having been a housemaster for some years, I have to say I have sympathy with that point of view. Obviously, if a pupil is going through a bad patch they needs and deserve help. However, we would expel anyone who persistently disrupts lessons and who permanently displays a negative attitude. One simply has to tell the parents that the school - and/or that boarding - is not suitable for their offspring.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Yes, florian gassmann, students need to be supported if there is a bereavement or a divorce. That's not their fault and they need all of the help and the sympathy they can get. Unfortunately, badly-behaved students take up so much of your time and energy that often you neglect the ones who really need your help and encouragement.
  7. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    While I agree with the sentiment here, my experience tells me that it is, unfortunately, not (or perhaps no longer?) this straightforward. As all but the very top boarding schools are finding out, there is a finite number of families who can afford the £10-12k per term fees...

    Accordingly, while persistent abuse will, of course, result in a parting of ways, there is (I might suggest) perhaps a bit more tolerance of those unwilling or unable to toe the line than there used to be. It seems to me that HMs are at the front line of this development.
  8. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Absolutely this.
  9. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    With regard to the homework issue:
    • Is there a set time and place for supervised prep for boarders?
    • Can form tutors be more involved in sorting this issue - or the teachers for whom prep has not been completed? Are there detentions or any kind of punishment for not doing prep?
    • Are the parents informed about the issue through report cards or an email from the form tutor? The parents may be far away but as they are paying significant fees for their children's education you would hope they would be somewhat concerned if the children are not completing their work...
    With regard to the disruption in lessons, surely action is taken by the member of staff in whose lesson the disruption is happening? And then it follows through to the form tutor and/or up the hierarchy depending upon the seriousness of the incident? Are parents informed? And are there meaningful consequences for unacceptable behaviour?
    I can imagine that this kind of thing does take up your time as you are in loco parentis and are bound to feel that you need to reinforce the school's decisions or talk things through with these pupils, but it's important that the school's systems and pastoral network are pulling their weight as well.
    Regarding the negative attitude to boarding, either the school needs a better way of conveying and encouraging a positive spirit in the boarding community or parents need to be told that their child is clearly not happy as a boarder (because they are being disruptive/not joining in etc.) and that other arrangements need to be made.
    Naturally the Admissions Department won't like that very much if they've worked hard to get the boarders in or the boarders are from foreign countries, but the school has to set its standards and decide what behaviour is acceptable and at what point it will cease to tolerate poor attitudes to learning or being in a boarding community.
    willcott likes this.
  10. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I should perhaps have added that I can't remember us having to expel an average of more than about one pupil a year, but it is useful that kids are aware that this ultimate sanction exists. And, yes, it would be difficult for schools without waiting lists. I'm now retired, but I believe the college still has around 8 applications for every place (rather less for boarding, though, as is generally the case these days), so it is never a problem filling places.

    From a purely commercial point of view, it would be a major disaster to have a pupil who persistently disrupts classes. I can think of few better reasons for parents to withdraw their children if that was allowed to happen.
  11. andadam

    andadam New commenter

    It's a good point Rubey makes, and I'm glad that it's forced me to consider this issue because I think it's the same in most areas of schooling - more time IS given to such types.
    I would suggest, if possible, using house tutors/gappers or anyone else you have to work with to act as a mentor for individuals and you could oversee this role. Also, ensure that time such as eating with boarders is a well-used forum for catching up with those boarders who might ordinarily be "forgotten".
    willcott likes this.
  12. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    @Rubey Were any of our ideas helpful? We don’t seem to have heard back from you...
  13. pennyh.

    pennyh. Occasional commenter

    " I spend the majority of my time trying to help boarders who are: struggling to get homework in, causing disruption in lessons, showing a negative attitude to boarding life, etc.". I think is very much the norm and is also reflected in society where it is always someone else's fault. Sometimes their parents can be the most aggressive if it is suggested their 'darling' is less than perfect.
    "t have only managed a quick chat with a pupil who is self-motivated and organised, I worry that the pupil might see this as unfair. "Yes but in my opinion they have become stoically used to it and are thankful if your tactics as and interventions can just keep the disrupters out of their hair so they can get on. They same applies in many type of schools. Passing things down to tutors etc. is a fond of tactic even by Indy senior management forgetting that quite often they have the fuller timetables and greater time pressures. The fact that you care means you make an effort talk and encourage all perhaps more than you think.

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