Behaviour

I’ve just had another discussion on the other place about managing student behaviour.

Let me make my position clear: students are children, right up until at least the end of the sixth form.  Because they’re children, they need clear rules and boundaries which are robustly, fairly and consistently applied from the Head downwards, together with clear punishments (‘sanctions is a weasel word in my opinion) and rewards.  Nothing less is good enough.

Students / children cannot manage their own behaviour.  They CAN learn what’s right and wrong, and they CAN be persuaded to make the right decisions.  They deserve to have the rules, and the reasons why the rules are necessary, explained to them, but the explanation should rarely, if ever, be a substitute for the punishment.  I would even argue that the more ‘damaged’ the child is, the more important this becomes.

Furthermore, this conversation is one that should happen between the child and someone ‘higher up’ like the Head of Year or Assistant Principal, not between the student and the teacher who has found it necessary to invoke a punishment.

The problem is that so many trainee teachers – myself included – were taught that it’s our job to ‘educate’ students to behave properly by making them want to pay attention and learn.  Well, you don’t need to be a teacher to see that real life just isn’t like that.  But the biggest downside is that it empowers Head teachers to point the finger of blame back to teachers – it’s our fault if kids misbehave because our lessons just aren’t engaging / challenging / simple enough.  That cry (and I’ve heard it several times) is then picked up and echoed by year heads and heads of department, and before you know where you are the kids have picked up that a teacher isn’t being supported and they home in for the kill.

I wish I’d been taught a range of effective classroom management techniques.  There are some really good ones out there.  As it was, I was lucky enough to be pretty good from the off being older, more experienced, tall, and the possessor of a formidable voice but even that only worked for a while.  If I’d been taught that there was a different view of behaviour management, I’d have asked different questions at my interview and things might have been different.

I’ll know better next time.

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