Behaviour management: How to cope under pressure


Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

Teaching is a stressful job. Every time some clown rattles my cage with a jibe about long holidays, I remind them that we mop up the psychic angst of hundreds of children and their parents. We stand in the classroom and absorb the schadenfreude and anxieties of the cruellest, most egocentric animal devised by the Grand Architect: children. It’s not only the kids, but their families, parents and carers too, and that’s along with the aspirations and damnable targets set by the gods of assessment. We are the pivot, the fulcrum, the crucible of their desires. It is not easy. I’ve seen good men and women crack under the strain. I know that I, too, have cracked at times, until I learned how to better manage the pressure. We could all do with a Panic Room now and then. So, how do you cope?

1. Deflect, don’t absorb

When someone complains, shouts, defies or demands from you, the most horrible part is that you feel powerless to do anything. Instead of taking it personally, you should remember that the individual probably doesn’t know you in any level beyond the infrequent relationship you possess with them. They aren’t shouting at you; they’re shouting at what you represent. You must learn to dislocate your emotions from the immediate situation. Let them gale, blast and fume. Pretend it’s something you’re watching on a screen; see how far from your inner self it is.

2. Don’t get mad, get even

Remember that you cannot control anyone other than yourself. You will see pupils (and adults) openly defying you. At the time it can feel crushing, IF you imagine you are powerless. You aren’t. You have more power than you know…in following up after the lesson. That’s when your superpower becomes apparent. Phone home, report, set detentions…whatever it takes to make sure that poor behaviour hasn’t gone unanswered. It is not a matter of revenge - although children do deserve to face the consequences of their actions - but a matter of rehabilitation, as the pupils realise it is far more to their advantage to behave well.

3. Always tackle things head on

Don’t run from the problem. The more you face up to difficulties, the better you feel. Resolve frustration by doing something constructive. You needn’t be powerless, or a victim; you can be the one who slowly, slowly, carves your class into the shape you want.

Good luck



Tom Bennett is a teacher at Raines Foundation, a state school in inner city London. He regularly supports teachers through the TES behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour pages or on the @tesBehaviourTwitter account.

His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum/Bloomsbury.


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