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Sick of being undermined!

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by LoopyFluff, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. I teach a difficult year 9 class in a challenging city secondary. This is no problem, sometimes they do my head in but I always aim to deal with them fairly and consistently. There were 4 problem students today, 2 of them on report to me. I gave the two on report 1 cross out of 3 on their reports because they had been rude and chatty. I asked these four to stay behind so that I could talk to them. One of them ran off. It is policy to ask my head of department to get someone to pick them up for me if this happens. But she just said 'but he did really well on his report today' as if to say I should let him off! Then my mentor chipped in with 'don't you think you'll make him angry and make an enemy of him if you get someone to fetch him after school?'. This student has done this 3 times before, is on report, often refuses to work etc. I wanted to let him know that it's not acceptable. This conversation was in a busy English office at lunch time. I feel humiliated that I had to stand up for myself in front of the faculty and got asked lots of questions by my mentor about why I was keeping this child behind. My mentor got the HoD to agree with her, so I've had to back down because I might make the child angry!! I feel like they're giving the kids a stick to beat me with.

    I can't believe this has happened on my first day back! I feel constantly undermined every time I make a decision. I hate not being consistent with the kids as now this one will have got away with it. I didn't even ask for advice - I was just letting my HoD know that I would need someone to pick him up. It dents my confidence every time my HoD or mentor do this. Am I overreacting?

    I keep thinking I'd like to stay here if my year contract gets extended. I don't want to end up without a job AND no confidence because my mentor and HoD are in each other's pockets.
    Sorry for the rant!
  2. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    I sympathise with how you feel. However, are you sure that is exactly how it went? Are you sure the intention was to undermine you?
    When we refer something to a manager, we have to accept that it is not their job to simply do whatever we want them to do: we are asking them to deal with a matter with reference to their responsibilities and remits. Therefore, their view of a situation from that perspective may be different from our own.
    When I was a senior manager, an HoD sent a pupil to me who had been sent to him. He hadn't isolated the pupil, or interviewed him, or issued detention, or any of the other strategies at his disposal in the school discipline policy. He just sent the pupil to me. I telephoned the mother in the pupil's presence, informed her of what had gone on and arranged for her to come in to discuss the pupil's behaviour. The HoD was furious with me because I hadn't excluded the pupil: in other words, even though I had done what I thought was best, I hadn't done exactly what he wanted me to do, despite the fact he hadn't done everything he could have done.
    I'm saying this because the temptation is to feel unsupported whenever a senior manager doesn't do exactly what you want, even though by passing it to them you have to accept that they will bring something different to the situation.
    I'd handle this by going back to them and saying that you understand they have a different standpoint on the situation, but that you feel that there is a potential here for you to appear inconsistent with your class. Then, ask them how they would suggest you handle this, and ensure that you ask them how they will support you in this. Hopefully, that will get a response that makes you feel better.
  3. I would ask if the policy has been changed and how such things should be handled in future. If the response is that each instance is handled "case by case" or some such weasel words, ask for details on how best to distinguish "case" from "case".
    Sorry you've had such a rotten start to the term.
  4. Thanks for your reply Raymond, I know that a HoD should deal with these things as they see fit. If an alternative had been offered then I would obviously have put it into practice - but she wanted me to let it go and 'have a word' at the beginning of next lesson. I'm just confused because her attitude today went against what she had told me to do with this student before - she actually went and fetched him for me from the last lesson of the day. Maybe she thought I'd be able to deal with this student by now. She seemed a bit impatient with the whole thing and my mentor didn't help.

    I spoke to my mentor after school who said that I should have stopped him leaving the room and talked to him about his faculty report before letting him take it to the HoD (and before the class had left) instead of calling him back when he returned his report to me. He'd have cheeked me in front of the class, which is why I didn't do this. I explained that I still didn't think it was ok for him to abscond but she said that I'm picking on everything that he does and that I'm supposed to be building bridges with him. I explained that I had been taking her advice and trying to 'build a positive relationship' with this student but she said that he probably doesn't know where he is with me because I'm building bridges and then burning them again when I tell him off for every little thing!!

    I thought it was my job to be fair, be approachable, build strong relationships and let a student know when they've crossed the line. I'm probably still upset and can't see this rationally, apologies. Adelady, thanks for understanding! I don't know which way is up at the moment.

  5. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Sadly this is frequently par for the course in schools. Another poster on here (OldAndrew) has written at length about it:

    You are right, the HOD and mentor are wrong. I'm afraid you'll have to get the kid yourself and sort it out. Ensure you give him <u>further</u> punishment for abscondidng as this was a <u>further</u> offence.
    Do not worry about 'making enemies' of pupils who are rude to you and disrupt other pupils' learning by refusing to be quiet.The appeasement merchants can moan all they want but your method is not only more effective it's also fair.
  6. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Mmm... sounds a bit fraught for you, loopy, and I sympathise.
    However, despite some other advice you might hear, try not to see the mentor and the HoD as your enemies: that way is just going to make things worse. It's all very well saying they are wrong, but at the end of the day they don't see it that way, and they have reasons for doing so. You have to work with them, and that might mean some creative person management on your part!
    I'd go back to the HoD, who in the past behaved one way and now is behaving another. Point out that you're a little confused, and ask them how they would prefer you to handle the pupil now that situation has arisen. If you've to have a word with the pupil before the next lesson, then clarify what it is they think you should say - and then ask if they can be there to support you while you are dong this. I think that's more than reasonable.
    As for the mentor's approach, of course there are two sides to the way any teacher handles a pupil: what you do when they do exactly what you want, and what you do when they don't do what you want. That means that this boy should be clear about how you want him to behave, what will happen if he behaves and what will happen if he doesn't. Clarify that for him - and for the mentor. Of course building bridges is important and it sounds as if you're well aware of that, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use sanctions absolutely consistently when he transgresses.
    Try to clarify for yourself the two or three main behaviours you would like to change from this boy: shouting out, not paying attention to you, etc. Draw up an individualised plan for him that includes rewards when he does what you want (e.g. positive comments on his faculty report, informal positive notes in his jotter to home or to the HoD) and sanctions when he doesn't (time out in HoD's room, etc). Let the pupil, HoD and mentor know that this is how you'll tackle it, and by doing so there will be absolutely no doubt about "where he is " with you.
    Good luck.
  7. Raymond, good advice for Loopy, and may I just express genuine gratitude for your recent contributions on this forum? A breath of fresh air, sensible practical modern thinking, and a wonderful contrast to the handful of "punishment" dinosaurs and bitter ex-teachers with chips on their shoulders who seem to inhabit the place. Much more of this, and it will be worth reading here again. Don't suppose there's a vacancy for the slot of behaviour "guru"? Sounds like you could fill it admirably better than at present. [​IMG]
  8. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Sorry, Mr Bronson, but that is a catch-all statement I cannot agree with. Principles mean nothing in a classroom that is going wrong. So, if praising a pupil or rewarding them with a positive comment for not shouting out in class WORKS, then do it.
    Besides, what you are rewarding is not "following rules" - you are rewarding a difficult pupil who has successfully met a behaviour target that you have set. That works.
    I don't ascribe to any one particular theory: I am in fact a theory tart. Restorative practice, assertive discipline, reframing, humanist practices, systems theories - whatever works from any one of the hotch potch of thinking about behaviour management is going to be used in my class. I think it's inflexible and limits our professional judgments to say things like "Do not give pupils rewards simply for following basic rules like not shouting in class."
    And think about our families. Don't we reward our own children for following basic rules? "Tidy your room and we'll go to the pictures at the weekend"; "do your homework now and you can stay up a bit later." Isn't it basic psychology?
    During a behaviour management training session, a teacher once said to me that there was no way he/she would ever thank pupils for doing something he/she expected them to do. Gobsmacked, I calmly tried to relate it to life outside the classroom: we thank people for opening doors for us, even though we expect that they won&rsquo;t slam it in our faces; we thank waiters for delivering our food, even though we expect it of them. And thanking someone is a reward. Now, I reckon we should treat the children we work with every day with the same level of basic respect with which we treat total strangers: don't you?
  9. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Sorry - I don't subscribe to any one particular theory! [​IMG]
  10. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    I disagree. As a child we went to the pictures because it was a fun thing to do as a family. We tidied our rooms because they needed doing - there was no association between the two. I'm glad my parents didn't manage our family on a series of bribes.
    I also think there is a difference between thanking and rewarding. I do thank students for doing things they should do anyway - opening doors, collecting books up etc, just as my parents would thank us for clearing away our toys. However, I wouldn't give them a reward for doing so occasionally - otherwise it becomes unfair on the students who do the right thing all the time.
  11. I'm with bessiesmith on this. I would never do this with my own children.
    The please and thankyou exchanges on opening doors and passing the salt are simply taught as good manners, not as rewards for performing routine tasks.
    However, I did tell my children, <u>at times totally unrelated to any instance of manners or behaviour</u>, that we were very pleased to have such polite children and it was a pleasure to take them visiting or out shopping or whatever.
  12. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Thanks bessie and ade - and I think you prove my point. There is no one sure way of getting children to behave, and classrooms, like families, will do it differently - and perhaps do it differently at different times. Some parents I am sure quite successfully link rewards with behaviour around the household - and if it works for them, more power to them. Let's not try to come up with "absolutes": children are individuals, and as such will respond individually to different strategies. It's what works that counts, what gets the results - particularly in a stressful classroom. I believe that, just as we have to differentiate how children learn about their subjects, we may also have to differentiate how they learn how to behave.
    Ade, my point about rewards is in relation to my earlier comment about setting behaviour targets for a difficult pupil. Look at the "rewards" I suggested: a positive faculty report, an informal note home. In other words, I formalise the "thank you" as a reward for the child meeting a behaviour target. Believe me, that works.
  13. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    An interesting point, bessie - but I'm not talking about using a "thank you" as a reward for occasionally doing what's asked: I'm talking about those occasions when a particular pupil has been set a specific behaviour target to meet. I'm sure you can see the difference.
    I'm often asked about "the students who do the right thing all the time." My answer usually is - well, why aren't they being rewarded and thanked all the time for doing everything right? If we have a culture in our classroom that celebrates children doing things right, then the good ones should be being thanked all the time, and the bad ones should be seeing the positive rewards they can achieve if they start behaving.
    If good children aren't told often enough that they're good, I'm afraid that's not the fault of the bad child we reward for meeting specific behaviour targets:the problem lies in the culture of the classroom.
  14. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    @ Loopyfluff
    Sorry to hear you've had a hard time. It certainly looks as if you've been somewhat let down, for the following reasons:
    • You indicate that the policy is for pupils who abscond to be fetched by the department head. If this is school policy, then it's clear that, by not doing this, the HOD has played a crooked ball.
    • The reason that this kind of policy needs to be followed pretty meticulously is that the children deserve to know what the expectations are upon both students and staff. When the boundaries are clear, then no one can cry foul. And few people cry foul like a teenager who senses that his or her rights have been infringed.
    • In addition, there's an important principle at stake: trust. If the school says, 'If you perform x, then y will happen', and it doesn't, then the students learn that the rules depend on context. Which teaches them that sometimes they'll get away with a transgression, and sometimes not. For students keen to avoid work or discipline, this is an open invitation to do both- they know sometimes they'll get away with it. If we say we'll act one way, and then fail to do so, trust has been eroded; not just the trust between student and pupils, but between staff members, as has happened here. I would say that the loss of confidence you feel in the structure of the school is itself a demonstration of this principle, and a clear example of the damage it can cause.
    • Your school is challenging. Many students at these schools lack boundaries at home that will scaffold their future properity and flourishing; in this case, it is doubly important that the school does so; and it is doubly important that the school makes its requirements transparent and assertive.
    • It is extremely easy to be the nice guy for someone else's naughty student. As someone who regulary gets called into classes to remove disruptive pupils, I know from experience how easy it is to play good cop, because I'm not the one that's been offended against, called names, or had his lessons disrupted. It's easy for me to say, 'Have an Ice-Cream, sonny' as I tousle their hair and smile like Santa. It's harder- and more professional- to support your colleague by tacitly complying with at least the seriousness of their complaint, if not the content.
    • When rules are applied rigorously, consistently and predictably, they achieve a greater good: fairness. This is the nature of law, and at a structural level, this is why criminal and civil laws are universalised; because, as Herr Kant says, to do otherwise is irrational.
    And yet, and yet....there needs to be a flexible space in between the guidelines. Any universal edict suffers from inflexibility; any pronouncement endures exceptions. A law against killing is defeated by the defence of self defence; a code against stealing might be debated if a man is starving (see: Les Mis). This, then is the kryptonite of rigidity; that life presents us with complex situations where exceptions need to be allowed unless we are to be crushed under the weight of regulation and necessity.
    In the Law, this flexible space is found in the hands of judges, who have some systematic breathing space for interpretation and refelction, who can consider context, character and consequences. The Law, as with all laws then, is best served by balancing these two ends of the spectrum like a see-saw. Or indeed a set of scales...
    As another correspondant has pointed out, when we delegate upwards, we surrender the decision-making process to the line manager we have engaged. That much is certain; their decisions need to be made, not for the pleasure of the plaintiff, but for the greater good of justice.
    But that's exactly what hasn't happened here for you: the rules were clear- sanction follows misbehaviour. If a child is on report, the expectation is good behaviour, or further action is taken. It already exists as a last resort before further punitive measures. The contract between teacher, pupil and line manager has been eroded by the sentimentality of the latter, who even if they felt that the boy was improving, owed it to the greater good of justice to see that promises were kept.
    This pupil has now learned that if he/she mucks around, then the class teacher can't do very much, as long as he/ she runs to the line manager. And in my experience, repeated bad behaviour tends to happen with pupils who apprehend that their boundaries are fuzzy. This is especially true in challenging schools. The sad thing is that the gentler approach probably can work in more mature environments, but in the difficult schools such kindness is perceived as weakness, and the kindness becomes an impediment to a safe, secure learning environment.
    I suggest that you discuss your concerns with your line manager again, and make it clear how you perceive the relationship. Be firm, and ask them to explain why procedures weren't followed, and if they could clarify on what basis they expect you to run classes if they renege on agreements. It is very likely indeed that they didn't seek to undermine you. It is very certain that they have.
    Good luck
    PS JamesTES. This is a fantastic forum for advice and discussion. I may not always agree with posters' opinions (nor they with mine), but, as with RaymondSoltysek's thoughts, it's always interesting to read a diversity of views that contribute to the teaching conversation, especially when they are as thoughtfully and elegantly put as his are. I avoid personal digs as unworthy of good quality discussions, so I would ask you to have the grace to do likewise.
  15. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Please ignore my PS - it seems we were posting simultaniously.
  16. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    No I'm afraid that's still wide of the mark imo.
    Please could you point out where oldandrew has said "things which are not true". This is quite a claim.

  17. Do you realise that it is hypocritical to get on your high horse about being insulted then use the same insult on someone else?
    Anyway I'm sceptical that anyone, especially in education, would pay someone a person for a service they had never offered to provide. Also you haven't suggested any particular strategies aside from simpering to children and not rocking the boat around incompentent managers.
    Ah so you only have a problem with confrontation when it is you and incompentent managers who are being confronted.
    Also you said you have a 'less confrontational' relationship with your colleagues and students. Since it is unlikely that Andrew confronts his students for anything other than poor behaviour are you going to retract your claim that you 'have less confrontational relationships' than he does?
    Look the OP's problem is that the sanction available are being applied inconsistently and therefore have a diminished effect. What is the point of your advice if it, ultimately, needs these sanctions as a fallback.
    Really? Since you've already praised the students who behaved normally I can only imagine what sort of gushing you would have to give to the ones who actually worked really hard.
    Your solution for 'dealing' with the management is asking for more help from the very person who has already failed to provide any. What is the point in having the senior manager along to 'reinforce the discipline line' when they have failed to enforce any line in the first place?
    Sadly I don't really have any solutions for the OP because, in my opinion, most of the causes to the problems are beyond their control. My advice would be:
    • To not blame themselves
    • Try and follow the school policy even if no one else does.
    • Keep a record of every occasion the manager fails to follow school policy in case the blame for continual poor behaviour is placed on the OP.
    • Leave the school if a better position becomes available.
    You could, of course, confront the manager but you know as well as I do why it does not do to rock the boat in state education.
  18. DM

    DM New commenter

    Boo, picture didn't display.
    If this doesn't work, it will be gag fail.
  19. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

  20. Raymond, thank you for trying here. Your analysis, both of the issues raised and of the contributions of other posters, seems to me pretty much spot-on. I hope and would like to believe there is a "silent majority" who would agree with this. However, there is a small group of regular posters with rigid outdated views who act in concert to vilify anyone giving sensible modern positive behaviour management advice such as you have provided. My guess is that their minds are so closed that they cannot perceive how abusive and negative their responses are, or how out of touch with modern society their prescriptions seem to be. Once again, your contributions are excellent, and your civility, patience and tenacity admirable!

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