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"Outstanding" teachers from girls grammar showing us how to teach!!

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mathsboddeen, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. DM

    DM New commenter

    I'd be careful about generalising Karvol. These seem very extreme horror-stories.

    In my school (typical comprehensive) audible swearing = one hour detention. Swearing at a teacher = at least one day in isolation plus reintegration meeting with compulsory attention by parents/carers. Assault on a teacher = never setting foot in the school again plus probable police involvement.

  2. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I'm pleased that works for you DM.

    The school my kids go to has similar policies, however, and this seems to me to be a common "feature" of such systems, who makes those detentions work?

    In their school and all the comps I've worked in, those "low level" detentions are "managed" by the teacher who noticed the problem.

    So, when a teacher hears a swear word, they immediately face a choice; "do I react to this? Do I really want to give up my lunchtime, or an hour after school, waiting for a kid who might or might not turn up (and if they don't I'll have to go looking for them)...???" OR "do I develop 'selective deafness' and only actually invoke the detention if the swearing is Really Bad?".

    Surprise, surprise, the second is the main option.

    Implementing sanctions must be taken away from the teacher (or have a shared system of rotas so that every teacher does no more than about 3 detentions a term), or else there's a very strong motivation to ignore "low level" behaviour.

    And it's that "low level" stuff that really destroys learning. Assaulting a teacher is rare even in the worst schools - but losing lesson after lesson after lesson through trivial disruption "selectively ignore" is the real difference between a Good and a Bad school.
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    Yes I agree - we have a centralised system of detentions run by SLT and teachers are asked to help with supervision once or twice every half term. Any attempt by students to avoid attending a detention results in an additional punishment.
  4. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I just don't understand how it so that so many schools don't "get this".

    I've been to a lot of schools (did a stint on supply) and "we think the relationship between teacher and student is the important factor so all our teachers do their own initial detentions" is the hallmark of those with endemic poor behaviour.
  5. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    The 'reasons' I've repeatedly (in different schools) been told why this isn't done are that:

    i) it removes responsibility from individual teachers to manage their classes effectively

    ii) by involving others, it somehow means that the students aren't forced to 'respect' the teacher (by attending 'their' detention)

    ii) the detentions (or part of the detentions) should be a time when teachers analyse and re-build the relationship with the student [this one is especially crazy: when students are being 'punished' is not the right time to be trying to have a constructive dialogue with them. But of course, unless SLT create a formal mechanism for the times when explicit re-building is necessary, there is no 'right time'].

    I'm not, at all, saying that these outweigh your point Paul - just that I have found these views to be widely held by many other stakeholders (SLT and even many teachers of humanity and art subjects).

    Plus there's some practical points:

    - Supervising detentions is (for most) a 'nasty', low-spec job and many SLT don't want to do it : so even if its the most appropriate solution, they won't. (they don't see it as a good use of their time - they see teacher's time as an unlimited resource. And they as sure as hell not going to pay anyone else to do it, because that would risk exposing some of the real cost of 'behaviour management' in schools).

    - There seems to be no explicit recognition whatsoever that some subjects are *bound* to attract more mis-behaviour (and hence sanctions) than others. Maths and MFL *are* generally much more 'constraining' for students than most Drama, Art, or Music lessons. Some students 'hate' P.E. too, and go to great lengths to avoid actively participating in that subject - but only in extreme cases are students actually sanctioned. In some subjects, like P.E., active participation is merely 'encouraged'. It seem to be thought that sanctioning would only backfire and make such students hate sport even more. In Maths, MFL, English,...participation is regarded as a requirement however, and you either use sanctions or risk going towards 'edutainment' - type lessons rather than effective teaching. [Even Trade Unions are reluctant to recognise this point, because it exposes some major differences between the subjects]

    - There are dangers in having 3rd parties supervise detentions. I was at one school where two members of SLT *did* routinely supervise the lunchtime detentions. But this consisted of them sitting, chatting and eating lunch with the students - very often the same students in detention every lunchtime. They actually 'got along' with one another as a group. There was very little deterrent effect in these sorts of detention, and - although they would never admit it - some of the students got more attention, respect, and 'good conversation' in these detentions than they'd have had in the playground with their mates. The SLTs said that 'taking their time away' was sufficient punishment but that obviously makes assumptions about the utility of 'time' to the students.

    It takes a good SLT team to actively and sensitively weigh up all these factors and develop an effective, workable policy. Many would rather take the easy route of just asking a (e.g.) humanities teacher to write a policy, rubber stamp it through (unquestioning) governors, and then believe that merely displaying it visibly all around the school means they have done their part of the job.

    The answer...?

    Explicitly use game-theoretic language when designing / writing the policy!?? Recognise that there are a somewhat conflicting set of interests, and that it'll probably take some compromise on everyone's part to attain an incentive compatible solution. It'll only happen if SLT create and environment of openness and trust.

  6. Regarding sanctions, I've taught in each type of school, one where it was all left to the individual teacher and the other where SLT run the detentions. In my experience, the latter works much better and discipline within the school is much stronger, in spite of having a 'tougher' intake.


    Regarding the behaviour you mention, in my current school the punishments would be the exact mirror image of the ones mentioned above by DM. I have friends working at tough inner-city schools and they have much the same system there. I'm not seeking to generalise and I'm very sad to hear that your colleague had such a terrible experience.

    David Getling

    I've never heard of a school where the teacher is allowed, in the long term, to choose the pupils in their class. If you threw out five students in my school and didn't have any sort of plan to reintegrate them into class you would end up on competency measures pretty quickly.
  7. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Well, this is one area where good independent schools really shine. Because, if a student is seriously detrimental to the learning of the rest of the class he will not only be out of the class but out of the school!

    A good teacher/school does not sacrifice the education of the majority of the students in order to mollycoddle students who's sole desire is to ruin things for those who want to learn.
  8. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    And what should then happen to that student? It's easy to have a "good" school if you never have to deal with any difficult kids.
  9. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Know what? In many, many ways, I couldn't possibly care less.

    No one has the right to destroy the education of 28 other kids just because they had the misfortune to be live in the same area he or she does and be born at roughly the same time.

    The First and most important point should be that the class is there to learn; the second point is that all instructions given by any adult should be followed willingly and without question.

    Anyone not prepared to do that? Get them out and away from destroying the chances of those who are.

    You write that as if having a good school is not a desirable thing.

    It also seems to be the case that since we began to tell "difficult" kids they had rights and making special provision for them while allowing them to disrupt others that the number of "difficult" kids has gone up, not down.

    As a statistician, I can't help but notice the correlation.
  10. David Getling

    Throwing out five students at (ball park) £20 000 a year would mean that you lost your independent school around £100 000. I've never taught in an independent school but I can't help thinking that the head teacher would be having a none too quiet word in your ear.


    "In many, many ways, I couldn't possibly care less".

    The point is, many of us don't have any choice other than to care about this. I'm not condoning for a moment poor behaviour in class, and I'm not condoning weak teachers/management who let this go unchecked. Those children though will always show up somewhere and as a society we have to find ways to deal with that.

    I didn't take BillyBobJoe's post as saying that having a good school is not desirable, I think it's an excellent point, and throwing out 'problem children' is a ploy that some schools employ to the detriment of others in an area.
  11. Perhaps we should encourage those outstandingly wonderful girls grammar school Maths teachers, once they have visited Scumsville Academies and solved the terrible Maths Department problems using the Princess Techniques Method, to cast their learned eyes over behaviour, school dinners, traffic congestion in London and the Israel Palestinian problem, oh and let's throw in Somalia as well.
  12. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    And that's why this approach is utterly useless. Mainstream schools have to educate everyone. Until and unless there is provision for the ones being kicked out (and I more than agree that this is often going to be the best option for both teachers and the rest of the pupils) you are simply kicking the can down the road. Those kids still have a right to an education, and will end up being passed from one school to another. You can't just deal with one side of the equation; looking at the benefits and ignoring the consequences. You scoff at special provision for difficult kids but that pretends that there are no causes of poor behaviour that can't be solved by a sound thrashing or whatever your favoured equivalent is. There are kids who are genuinely damaged and need help. Inclusion certainly isn't working, but exclusion won't either. Maybe an expanded and more well structured PRU system is needed, but that comes with costs. How much of a budget cut are schools prepared to take to put in a viable system? Because if we don't then we will pay the costs 10 times over in benefits and prisons over the subsequent 40-50 years of that child's life.

    A really good school can and does manage and overcome a lot of difficult behaviour (it's taken a year of patient persistence but one of our awkward customers has improved drastically). There is a balance to be struck between deciding that some pupils cannot cope in a mainstream setting and need specialist help and pushing out too many just because they take a bit of work to get onside. What makes it hard is that the balance will be at different points for different people. There are highly skilled teachers who can, by some magic I can't comprehend, make almost any class comply.
  13. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    What happens very much depends upon the financial wellbeing of the school concerned and its waiting lists.

    Those schools struggling to survive will think very carefully about expelling a student and, more often than not, will keep the students on with a proverbial slapped wrist. In terms of discipline, they can at times be as bad as, if not worse, than some of the so called "sink schools" ( a horrible term if there ever was one ). It is not that the expulsion of a student will lead to a loss of income (most schools have clauses that mean that a place has to be paid for in full for the year if a student is expelled or removed from school) but that it may affect future recruitment.

    Those on the borderlines will be prehaps a little more secure but will still look at what implications expulsion will have for its future recruitment. Do you expel a strong academic or sporting student for behavioural issues or do you keep them on? Sometimes there is a fine line and the decision made is not necessarily the right one for the student or the rest of the student body ( or even the school in the long term ).

    The schools at the top of the pecking order have a very different life than the rest. Their waiting lists are so long and their reputations so stellar that parents will remove their children from other schools midway through the year to send them there. For these schools, expulsion - once the decision has been made - will be almost immediate and it will affect neither income nor recruitment.
  14. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I almost wrote a "point by point" reply but I realised I actually agree with most of what you wrote.

    Where we perhaps differ is that I am really concerned about the damage done to "normal" kids by Inclusion.

    Take the disruptives out. Offer them special support and special provision by all means, but get them out of the way of the kids who will work given a chance.

    The money is easily there - it's being wasted right now on buying iPads no one knows what to do with and the like.
  15. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Ipads are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty low cost (a class set costs about a eighth what an experienced teachers costs for a year, for example). The real cost of dealing with serious disruption properly is going to be substantial. It will need high staff student ratios, specialist ed psychs; training in safe restraint techniques, serious coordination with schools to allow reintegration; probably intervention with families; potentially even boarding accommodation in some cases to get children away from chaotic home lives. In the worst cases I've encountered the kids just weren't really wanted at home. The hardest thing is that, in order to be effective, it has to be seen as a positive aid rather than a punishment, and that understandably doesn't go down well - it's politically unviable to cut funding for mainstream education to deal with troublemakers, even if it is beneficial in the long term.

    In short, yes, I think we're in agreement about what should be done about poor behaviour. I'm just not convinced it's possible.
  16. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    For me the issue is that the iPads are bought without much thought being given to their use.

    How many posts have we seen on here along the lines of "we have bought a class set of iPads. Does anyone know of any apps that are really good?".
  17. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Oh sure, I'm not sold on iPads, I'd prefer to stick with the netbooks we currently have for each student, they're much more useful to me. My point was just that, while we can point to some wasteful spending in that area, saving serious money ultimately means fewer staff. Most schools run budgets with 80-90% (or more) of the budget going on staffing. Even if you never buy another electronic device of any kind ever again it's not going to save enough money to seriously address the behaviour issue.
  18. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I have just returned from holiday, and find this a most depressing thread. Usually, teachers on this forum treat each other with some respect, but not, it seems here. A few points:

    Nobody claims that teaching in a grammar school is harder; the demands are just different. I suspect that many grammar schools teachers (who have had experience over a range of schools) could work successfully in a difficult comprehensive. There are also many teachers in the comprehensives who have the higher level Maths skills, needed in comprehensives but needed by more of the teachers in grammars. Those teachers who are best suited to one type of school are still doing a valuable job.

    Good teachers in both types of schools work hard. (I prefer not to say "incredible hard" - most teachers don't find the thought of hard work incredible.)

    Not all students in grammar schools are "princesses". Wealthier parents have the options of the private sector - poorer parents usually don't. I acknowledge that tuition does give middle class children a better chance of getting into a grammar.

    It is most unlikely that the teachers from the grammar really wanted to be put on show like this. And, probably, some of them did have something to offer. The fault lies with the people who put the scheme in place in the way that they did, not with the teachers who were sent in. I agree that it sounds like it was badly handled, but let's not blame the wrong people.

    We are all professionals, working in a difficult field, so let's try to treat each other as such.
  19. pipipi

    pipipi New commenter

    I think people are being reasonably polite.

    I think a lot of this would be easier face to face, and with a glass of wine each!

    It sounds to me as if we all want classes that behave. We probably all want to get rid of the disruptive kid and get them out of the room, in the short term. It's the longer term 'what do we do with them' that takes longer. Some class teachers aren't concerned with this, they just want them out of the room so that they can concentrate on teaching the ones who do want to learn. Some class teachers are moer concerned with this, because they know that this kid will be coming back into the room at some point.

    On the detention thing. It isn't very nice to always have to run the detention. Our department has made a decision to share it so we take our turn to take a detention on one day a week. That way I can choose if I want to deal with it if I give them a detention on the day I do it, or if I don't want to see them then I can give them a detention on a different day.

    Because it is run by the department we know that the detention has to be run properly, so it is worth giving up my time to lose a lunchtime. Better than passing the problem onto SLT and it not being dealt with properly.
  20. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    You're forgetting running scrupulously honest elections in Zimbabwe and sorting out that tiresome little scrote in North Korea.

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