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returning to teaching after a break... terrible behaviour!

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by Amy_Harkwright25, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. Amy_Harkwright25

    Amy_Harkwright25 New commenter


    I have recently returned to teaching after a break and I am appalled by the behaviour in my current school. Kids just seem to rule the roost and the behaviour system isn’t working. The amount of defiance faced by staff from these students is ridiculous - the student simply have a ‘I won’t do that’ attitude. The worst thing is, when you call home to discuss the child’s behaviour it is never their fault. It’s like parents are constantly backing their children up which then leads to even more defiance as the children know they can get away with stuff at school as parents will back them up!!! I am at my wits end and I feel like it is impossible to control the students at this school. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!
  2. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    HI Amy

    Welcome to the forum and sorry about the shock to the system. The general public really have no idea about the very challenging behaviour in some schools. The noise, the disruption, disrespect, lack of discipline and lazy students are rife in some schools. Are you in a primary or secondary school?

    The very real problem you have where you are is that the management systems are not in place to effectively manage the behaviour, so it will be extremely difficult for you. Are you in a position to start looking for another school?

    Remember this: you cannot control anyone. You can only manage yourself and the students are responsible for their own behaviour.

    For now to manage better until either the school changes its system or you can find another job, try the following:

    Up your firmness/tone of voice just a fraction. Don't scream at your classes, but speak firmly and with authority and say NO when they are not following your instructions. You will have to be very strict - do it with kindness but ensure they know you mean what you say. They can do whatever their parents allow at home, BUT in your room YOU are the boss. You have to get that into your head and heart. Do not waver.

    Have three classroom rules:

    Follow instructions fast
    Stay on task
    Work without disturbing others

    Ensure you have routines in place: a routine for entering the room, a routine for the starter in silence or quiet reading so you can take the register and settle everyone, routines for leaving the room.

    You will have to teach the routine. If you think you can get away with it, ask the students to enter the room and stand behind their desks until you ask them to sit down.

    When you take the register, Say good morning Ella, Good morning George, Good morning, Hannah etc. The students respond with good morning Miss/Sir etc. This creates a positive atmosphere.

    Use the behaviour policy for removing the worst offenders. Three warnings and removal or whatever. Target the ring leaders and the rest may settle. If you follow the school's system for removal, they cannot complain. Write down exactly what the students were doing or the rules they were breaking.

    Use Fridays to pick three students that have worked well and ring their parents to say how well they have worked.

    All you have to worry about are your own classes.

    After time, if you don't think you can make any effective changes, then you might have to consider looking for a different school.

    Behaviour in a lot of schools is getting more difficult to manage. I am in one of the best schools in the area I live in and the behaviour is starting to deteriorate badly. Part of it is the management, but part of it is the shifts in society and attitudes towards a lot of different things.
  3. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Hi @Amy_Harkwright25 welcome back!

    I'm saddened to hear about your experiences when returning to teaching. Behaviour is such a huge part of our jobs and your story is all too familiar on this forum.

    @pepper5 has given such excellent advice!

    Here are a few other threads that I think you might find helpful.




    Certainly giving the situation some time will be useful because students very often challenge new faces and can take time to trust a new teacher, particularly in secondary school. However, you do describe seeing problems across the school which perhaps suggests a bigger issue.

    Without the support of SLT and a robust behaviour policy, you will struggle as an individual teacher to control certain students. It is possible however, to have positive classes and build an environment where the students do behave in your class. It is difficult but possible. Try to be consistent, calm and reward positive behaviour (making time for phone calls positive and negative is always useful even when it feels like some parents don't support the school, they do get fed up enough of taking the calls that they have a word with their child). Give very clear instructions and then follow up when they are not heeded. Follow up relentlessly. Give fair warnings but be tough.

    It might be worthwhile going through your expectations with the classes, explaining what sanctions will follow and what rewards can be expected first. Try to get the majority to see that you're on the same side, that you have the knowledge they need (to pass the exam, or learn the new skill) and that you want to work together but that your responsibility is to the whole class so you can't tolerate poor behaviour. Many kids will understand this even if they can't be seen to do so. Keep kids back at break and lunch and go through it again and again. Eventually you can bore some of them into behaving and once you've broken the majority, things can improve!

    Managing behaviour in this way can be exhausting so for your own sanity, you could perhaps set yourself some time based targets and be open with your line manager about your take on the school. If possible, ask for some support from senior teachers. Explain what you are doing to combat the behaviour and ask for some back up. If they can't/won't provide and/or after the time you set yourself, you don't see changes, you could consider looking elsewhere. If behaviour is really poor across the school, there must be other teachers who feel the same. If you're feeling really up for the challenge, you could try to get a group together to discuss an action plan and take that to SLT to suggest more whole school changes. Realistically, for attitudes in general to change, more widespread consistency is needed and more positive actions to get students behaving in more responsible and respectful ways.

    Good luck and I hope things improve.
    agathamorse, JohnJCazorla and pepper5 like this.
  4. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

    In a previous life, I was a doctor. In that set up, serious conditions were not treated until one had a clear diagnosis. We need to work out what this 'shift in society' is to find appropriate long-term solutions. What will happen to these children when they are confronted with the reality of work?
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  5. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi cathr

    It is indeed a complex problem. When I was growing up, I was taught to "treat others as you would be treated" but that was a long time ago.

    Another problem is the number of students with learning and behavioural difficulties. The needs are great for some of these children and they may have a lot of behavioural issues.

    Recently, within the last year ( I work as a supply teacher in secondary schools), I have noticed an increasing trend that has suddenly appeared : students having panic attacks in class or students so anxious they can't enter a classroom. More work for the class teacher to do - if there aren't enough TAs then putting a table out in the corridor and checking on them is all they can do. It causes more stress for the teacher who is already working under pressure.
    agathamorse likes this.
  6. Theoldscientist

    Theoldscientist New commenter

    Hi, This resonates with me. I have been working supply for 11 years in secondary and have worked in over 50 schools in the region. Sadly, I have only seen a slow and steady decline in classroom behaviour over this time, never any improvement. At best, I see no major change. Even the few schools I look forward to working in are seeing declining behaviour. I have been struck particularly by a couple of my favoured schools, that I have not worked in for over 12 months, show marked decline in classroom behaviour.
    I know that this tends to reflect the general decline in society and, to some extent, changing school catchments, but mostly I put it down to poor senior management. Many schools tend not to support the supply teacher either.
    I wonder if others have similar experiences?
    agathamorse, JohnJCazorla and pepper5 like this.
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi @Theoldscientist

    I agree that poor management in some cases contributes to the dilemma of the decline in student behaviour. Sometimes, the SLT never walk around the school and they are never seen. They leave their teachers to fend for themselves.

    I go to one very, very good school that always supports their supply teachers. A couple of years ago, they were having problems with the behaviour, but turned it around and now it is my favourite school to go to. Where I live there are only three or four schools I will go to because I know the behaviour is fairly good and the schools have good support systems in place.

    There are a lot of students in foster care now, students with emotional problems, and other issues which lead to more workload for the teacher when these students start to disrupt the lesson.
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    This is such an enormous issue and I'm really interested in your experiences as supply teachers @pepper5 and @Theoldscientist. When working in one school, it's hard to be clear about the nature and causes of declining behaviour as it is mixed up with all the other professional and personal considerations you might have. Your objective views on schools are useful and concerning that you both report downward turns almost across the board. If only management spoke to supply teachers about what they see working in other schools in their areas!

    What are the key reasons for declining behaviour do you think? I think of:
    - lack of respect across society currently for education and the teaching profession
    - changing curricula forcing teaching to the exam
    - well publicised errors in exam papers and marking scandals
    - irrelevant content and methods of assessment
    - social change increasing poverty and challenging circumstances at home for many pupils
    - lack of funding (no TAs, no equipment, non-specialist teachers etc)
    - increased fees for higher education meaning fewer students viewing further studies as the right path

    What would you add?
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi Sarah_dann1

    Your list is comprehensive and all those things contribute to the challenging behaviour in schools.

    The use of mobile phones has been a major concern for some time. I am always on edge since I can never be sure that a student isn't filming a disruptive class. SLT have the power to ban phones from the clsssroom , but some refuse to do so.
    agathamorse likes this.
  10. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Of course, phone use is a complete issue in itself!
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Also, another reason for the rise in challenging behaviour is the me.me.me culture. The rise in selfishness. In one class I was covering in ( in a computer room) a student had resorted to brining in ear protectors! The ones builders use to drown out the sound of drills! Noisy classes are partly the result of students not caring about whether or not they are disturbing others. It is selfishness. I have seen so many classes where the teachers have given up and given in to the noise since it is a losing battle. When I cover classes, I try to ensure that the noise levels stay at a reasonable level otherwise the lessons go to silence. That seems to work well.

    I would also sadly add that an increasing involvement in gangs and drug use has started to affect even areas previously where these factors were not an issue. The decline in the behaviour of some students can be linked to drug use.
    agathamorse likes this.
  12. Theoldscientist

    Theoldscientist New commenter

    One major factor, which is adding to the general decline across society, is the behaviour of the rich and powerful. The obvious example is the behaviour of politicians inside and outside of parliament. I can understand why the general population start ignoring the rules of a civilised society when they are set such poor examples and see that such behaviour is deemed acceptable.
    The growing inequality in society is also probably a big influence on declining attitudes towards those in positions of 'authority'.
    As far as education is concerned, the poor behaviour is being observed from primary school to university students. I base this statement on a family member who is a primary TA and a good friend who teaches undergraduates, plus my years in secondary supply in a core subject.
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  13. Theoldscientist

    Theoldscientist New commenter

    I could not agree more. The one phrase a dread when arriving for supply is being told "they are a lovely class but can be a bit lively". This is code for "they are a very noisy class". As you have observed, many teachers just accept noisy classes.
    I see this almost everywhere - noisy classes are accepted as the norm. I most certainly not agree and often find I can spend a good part of the lesson asking the class to work quietly. No matter what ability level the class, the noisy environment seems universal.
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  14. TheGeezer

    TheGeezer New commenter

    [QUOTE="When I cover classes, I try to ensure that the noise levels stay at a reasonable level otherwise the lessons go to silence. That seems to work well".[/QUOTE]

    Sorry if this sounds naive, but how, as a supply teacher, do you enforce silence? You can recommend sanctions to the class teacher for non-compliance, but there's no guarantee they'll carry them out.
    tonymars likes this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    The thing which saddens me most is that even in form time, I'm having to deal with this kind of attitude and behaviour. As a classroom teacher - yes, I understand it. But rudeness from your form? That really makes me want to quit.
    geordiepetal, pepper5 and agathamorse like this.
  16. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    @SEBREGIS I completely agree. It's so disheartening when some students ruin tutor time. I really find it difficult to understand why a tutor should waste time on behaviour management when they put so much effort in to helping their tutees!
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  17. CraigCarterSmith

    CraigCarterSmith Established commenter

    they'll blame minorities or immigrants for their own inability to do anything or achieve
    pepper5 likes this.
  18. shelleylong27

    shelleylong27 New commenter

    ''Use the behaviour policy for removing the worst offenders. Three warnings and removal or whatever. Target the ring leaders and the rest may settle. If you follow the school's system for removal, they cannot complain.''

    With this though can lead to more intense problems- SLT turning on you for using it if you are in bad school as they think the kids should be kept in the class ie. they won't support.... sometimes the removal people take forever to come/don't arrive at all.... and sometimes the ring leaders refuse to leave the classroom or if it's a bad enough class you could be trying to get 6 or 7 out at 1 time and that can be tricky when you have that many in the hall outside your room....
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  19. shelleylong27

    shelleylong27 New commenter

    ''There are a lot of students in foster care now, students with emotional problems, and other issues which lead to more workload for the teacher when these students start to disrupt the lesson.[/QUOTE]''

    this is nonsense, behaviour is little to do with home life-only in extreme cases or ''issues'', kids know how to behave and they know right from wrong. The homelife excuse us usually made up by managers who won't support, the same managers wouldn't accept any rubbish behaviour themselves.
    pepper5 likes this.
  20. shelleylong27

    shelleylong27 New commenter

    ''As you have observed, many teachers just accept noisy classes.
    I see this almost everywhere - noisy classes are accepted as the norm. I most certainly not agree and often find I can spend a good part of the lesson asking the class to work quietly. No matter what ability level the class, the noisy environment seems universal.''

    depends really, some teachers just give up on classes and permit noise as they know there's nothing they can do and there's no support. With the most elite teachers they can have silence in every class if they want. I can usually control most of my classes but there's always that 1 I will have no/little control over. If they are all working I see no harm in some chatting during the task provided the noise is kept at an appropriate level, it's when they are not doing the work and having open loud conversations you can hear down the hall and you can't get them quiet at all then you know there's a big problem as you've lost control.
    agathamorse likes this.

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