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"Teacher Baiting" in the classroom and around school

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by peppermint85, Apr 25, 2015.

  1. Hello,

    I am a new teacher in a good comprehensive school. Although the behaviour in my school can be tough, I love where I work and I have managed to turn really difficult classes around so that even the notorious girls in them work with me most of the time and are making progress. However, I have a particularly difficult, KS3 shared class. I share this class with the same teacher who taught them since they came to the school. They are perfectly behaved for their other teacher, but seem to use my lessons with them as an excuse to mess around and do whatever they please.

    This class has quite a few difficult children in it and they seem to pack together to make it almost impossible for me to teach them. They are very rude, do not take my detentions or phonecalls home seriously and they always talk over me and do not stay focused on their learning. I am planning lessons for them that are fun and I get these looked at every week by my HOD and the teacher I share the class with before I teach them to make sure they are pitched appropriately and that they are enjoyable.

    Despite trying every strategy I can think of and have read about in books/internet and from teacher friends, getting other members of staff in to help and being really firm with the girls, they still do not pull together to focus on the learning. It is making it horrendous to teach them and I feel totally powerless when I am in the classroom with them.

    Worse still, for the whole year the girls have been dragging their total lack of respect for me into the corridors, mimicking my accent and making rude comments. Although I have reported this to their HOY on several occasions, nothing has changed.

    Their progress is really being affected, not that they seem to mind about this, and the good girls are really suffering for it: in the class though, it seems there are only about 5 good girls and the rest want to talk, argue, be rude and generally do whatever they want with no care at all for the sanctions even though I always follow up what I say I am going to do.

    I have tried everything with this class and I don't know what to do next. Recently a girl who is notoriously poorly behaved was moved out of another set and into mine too because her poor behaviour in the other set was causing so many issues. This has only made things with this class so much worse.

    Does anyone have any tips on how to turn this round? What do I do with the class if it can't be sorted out?

    Thanks in advance for your help!
  2. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    There will always be hard core classes like this that any teacher teaching with them would struggle with, so don't blame yourself also you say you are new to the school so you haven't had time to build up a reputation or build relationships although you are beginning to and that is positive.

    ~With the class you are struggling with try going back to the basics of what you know works. Reboot the class with your rules. Try just having three:

    Follow instructions fast

    Stay on task

    Work without disturbing others

    Go through the process of using scripts: "I saw you throw the pencil across the room" You've broken rule number 1. You now can make a better choice. Thank you.

    After warning number 2, have them removed or whatever policy your school uses.

    You won't be able to do this by yourself: you will need the school's support. You could have a hierarchy of detentions: 1. detention with you. 2. detention with HOD. 3. detention with Head. During the detentions, make them write essays on the importance of learning and contributing to the group. Not lines, but proper paragraphed and well written essays and articles.

    You have to go in a LOT firmer - not harshly but firmer which is different. You are the boss in the room. Explain that the class is a group which every member affects the whole group. Everyone including you has the right to learn and that is why the rules are in force. They can either choose to follow the rules or choose to leave the class. Use a firm voice ( not harsh) and calmly explain what the new system is and then use it.

    Once they see you are not going to be messed about with, you will see the difference in the corridors and then you can start to build relationships with the students who are giving you trouble.

    Forget the "fun" lessons....once they are on task working then give them some fun lessons. I would use reading activities where they have to sit and read something then answer some questions. That might sound boring, but they need to learn how to behave then they can have some "fun" lessons. Giving them fun lessons will not change the behaviour.

    Once they start behaving, give them praise.

    You might also want to ask the parents to come in and meet with you and their children and you can discuss the way forward with them.

    If you can't get this sorted and I don't think you can do this yourself, look for another school where you will get better support. I can't believe that they moved the notoriously poorly behaved girl into your class so someone else could have some "holiday" time from the poor behaviour. Instead of dealing with it, they've just moved it around.

    Schools are full of classes just like the one you describe and is one of the reasons that teachers are leaving in droves along with the workloads. Who would want to enter teaching to work in those conditions? That is why I work on supply and that is draining enough.

    Even in the better schools some of the behaviour is "on the edge" with some students and it is getting a little harder each year to deal with some of the behaviour.

    The only way to be able to sort all of this out is for teachers to work together and the heads may have to schedule more time with working with students and help support the class teachers since they won't be able to solve the problems alone.
  3. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    Wow, Susannah - sounds very similar to my own situation, even to the mocking of my (American) accent. I thankfully, also have the support of my HOD and their form tutor, and over time, have cracked some of the issues - e.g.

    1. After countless echoes of my voice, I turned this around (this was after a few weeks) and said that whoever was the mimic a) wasn't very good; b) people weren't laughing at me, but them and c) I felt pity for them that they thought the best way to entertain was to try to upset a teacher, because I only had them to have them for 1 hour a week, and their classmates had to deal with them ALL the time. Oddly, it stopped after that.

    2. I adhere to a very scheduled lesson, e.g. 5 minutes for a starter; a game or activity (I teach a language), and if they wasted that time, we go straight into the lesson. I made sure that I had the lesson objective and translation/comprehension on the board, e.g. so that the better students could progress; and then I walk around the chairs/tables (in rows) observing, checking and helping. Don't feel like doing the work? Fine. Not doing it for GCSE? No problem. Can't be bothered? Ok. Oh, but if you cause any problems, the entire class has to stay after. [Normally, I don't agree with entire class detentions, but this was the only thing that worked); and we would end on a Horrible Histories or something short 5 minutes - but only if they earned it.

    Some classes are better, some not (I am referring to two (2) groups out of my 20+ across KS3, 4 and 5) and I am lucky enough to have support for one class in the class, and it has settled down - but I am not the only teacher who has had problems with these two groups in particular, so that makes me feel slightly better.

    However, I have secured a position at another school - I teach in a 'good' grammar (and it is 90% of the time) and my colleagues, especially in my department, are lovely. But my new mantra when they annoy me: girls' indie, girls' indie, girls' indie - that's where I am off to in September , but the irony now is that the majority of the students either won't be taking it at GCSE or the Y7s and Y8s (except one group) are pretty nice kids, so it will be a shame not to stay as they know now I do follow up detentions, emails home and generally let SLT know, so there is some grudging respect. [I will literally go and find a student who has skipped a lunch-time detention, e.g. he might be playing football? Not any longer....)

    best wishes
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Thanks for sharing about the accent as I too have an accent.

    I work only on supply and sometimes I will hear the mimicking and I usually say: " If I hear anyone mimicking me, they will be choosing to leave the room". I'm sort of sensitive about it and I suppose I shouldn't be, but it is so RUDE. Usually they will say : Miss, what is mimicking? Next time, I will say, you will have plenty of time to look it up in the dictionary when you choose to leave the room by mimicking me. LOL
  5. Thank you for such great comments back. It is difficult to know what to do with children like that - I know they find it fun to test the newby but it is hard to get the class working after that and it can leave you feeling quite demoralized sometimes. I like the idea of class detentions - as I share the class with another teacher who has them mid week, I can catch them then at lunch - but I always feel like such a meanine when I do that because there are about 5 girls who shouldn't be staying - I have let the good ones go in the past. I think most of the girls in the class just chat and go along with it because they know they can as the other students are demanding more immediate attention.

    Sabrinakat, I am glad most of your classes are good and that it is only a few who are bothersome. It sounds like your strategies are working really well, especially getting them in if they miss a detention with you. I can imagine they get very embarrassed when you go to collect them for their detention - excellent plan! Good luck for your new job too :)

    Pepper5 I completely agree with you, it is really rude to mimic people and you are right, why should they stay in the room after they are being so directly rude?! Don't let them get to you with the mimicking - it is horrible but they are doing it for the reaction which somehow makes it all the more frustrating. I try to remind myself that they are just children looking for attention.

    Thank you for your ideas and sharing your experiences with me :)
  6. Pepper5 thank you so much for such excellent advice. I really like the idea of the three rules, keeping it very simple so that they can understand these rules. I am going to implement the strategies you have suggested next week when I see them again.

    I agree with you that the fun lessons need to go for now. It seems a shame to make the handful of good girls in the class suffer but when almost a whole class is trying to destroy the learning it seems so natural to go back to basics with them. I am being observed with them towards the end of this week so will implement the strategies you have suggested after that lesson.

    I was very concerned when such a difficult student was moved in. She is known throughout the school for being a really difficult character and even some of the experienced teachers struggle with her too. I guess they thought the class would be a good influence on her, but given the girls already in there, it hasn't worked out that way.

    I must admit that since I did my PGCE a few years ago, I have seen a massive shift in behaviour too. I did a bit of supply work before doing my NQT year as I really wasn't sure whether to do the NQT or not - the PGCE was such hard work I think I just wanted a break - and the behaviour has really gone downhill even since then. Even in the last year in my school there has been a behaviour shift. I also know several people from my PGCE training year who have dropped out of teaching because of the behaviour. It seems such a shame to spend so much money and work so hard on training to be a teacher to then leave because of behaviour and an all-consuming workload. My partner's mum is a teacher and has been for almost 20 years and she has even started saying she is thinking of leaving because the workload is too demanding.

    What do you think is causing the shift in behaviour? Is there really any way to overcome it? I think there is definitely a cultural shift in terms of respecting teachers and authority figures. I could be wrong, but I was certainly brought up not to be rude to anyone else, and when I was at school we never spoke rudely to a teacher or argued back with them. The worst we had then was some people being a little chatty in lessons but one detention was enough to sort them out. Now it seems that the students don't have that respect anymore, or seem to enjoy detentions almost because they don't seem to be fussed by them.

    I hope there is a way forward that will help classroom teachers to do what they love!

    Thank you again for such great advice!
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi Peppermint85

    Please let us know if any of the strategies work.

    The reasons for the shift in behaviour is complex. Families are under stress with both parents having to work, families where jobs have been lost, divorces, and other pressures put on parents make it hard to cope and if parents are finding it hard, the children are affected. It is no doubt far more complex than just this, but these are some of the reasons along with the cultural shift towards how teachers are treated as you point out.

    I haven't looked at the figures, but are there more SEN children than there was say 10 years ago?

    Schools may give up with the behaviour because there is so much of it and they can't solve all the problems and become overwhelmed by it.

    You were put in an even more difficult position when the very challenging student was moved into your class; that doesn't, however, surprise me as nothing schools do now surprise me.

    If I were you and the school doesn't support you with sorting out this class, I would look for another post and find a better school.

    If you start setting detentions, try getting the parents to attend some of them with their students so you can discuss a way forward, as you are right a lot of students don't seem fussed about attending a detention, but if the parents are involved, then perhaps they would have a different perspective on it. Detentions on their own do not change behaviour but have to be seen as means to discuss the behaviour with parents and to challenge the inappropriate behaviour so it does not keep occurring.

    Ensure you give the well behaving students plenty of attention and praise too.

    I think there is a way forward, but it starts at the top with the Heads of schools taking a lead and putting more time and effort into working with students and staff instead of burying their head in the sand and leaving it to individual classroom teaches to tackle by themselves.

    Right now, I believe this country is heading towards a crisis in teacher recruitment and keeping teachers once they are trained; and if the Government does not do something soon, there will be very few teachers left who are willing to continue to work under such poor conditions.
  8. re

    re New commenter

    Has the school got an after school detention system? If so, put them into it if they show such blatant rudeness as mimicking you/taking the rise out of your accent.

    When I started in my present school, some Y11s started shouting my nickname out when they saw me around school. I immediately put them into detention for rudeness. If it was a mob of them, I would put as many as I could identify whether they were that actual culprits or not. Soon stopped the problem, as I got phone calls from parents protesting their offspring's innocence, to which I replied that they were part of an antisocial mob hiding behind the fact that they were a mob.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Thanks so much for posting.

    Sometimes I think it is only me that is on the receiving end of students' blatant rudeness. I do meet a lot of students on supply most of whom are wonderful and well behaved. There are, however, some who are rude and I do generally follow up with addressing it. I am, however, now even more determined not to let it pass when it does happen.

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