Behaviour: Olympic Behaviour Management

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

Seeing as how the Olympics have permeated every other facet of our civilisation, it seems only fair that this week’s Top Tips comes to you with a Stratford twist, which is like a normal twist but involves a lot more early mornings and meagre breakfasts. When I consider the human jungle that is the contemporary classroom, I am struck by how some of our more energetic learners can be compared to a variety of Olympic sports. These are what used to be called your ‘kinaesthetic’ learners, before everyone realised this was just a term for ‘kids who like wriggling and capering around a good deal more than they enjoy trigonometry or writing essays’. Unbelievably, the whole daft VAK triangle is still peddled as fact and catechism by some unwary educators and teacher trainers. Until the blessed day when the whole trinity is expunged, I give you my own taxonomy of misbehaviour: Olympic style.

1. The sprinter

This pupil is the Tasmanian Devil of vigour and has a cunning strategy to ensure that energy remains unfocussed on anything productive. They race through set work using the bare minimum of effort: one word answers, writing on the sheet, copying from others. This way they can claim, quite innocently, that they HAVE done the work when you challenge them on the few, lonely marks they have made in their books. Like the Joker, they devote the time they have saved to the demolition of Gotham City. And your classroom.

2. The javelin thrower

Projectile weapons are the weapon of choice for this Olympian. What is thrown must be a) unpleasant and b) invisible to your eye. Half the game lies in not being caught. The other half lies in distressing someone else, which is lovely. The javelin can be made of something small and hard; a bullet of tightly wadded exercise paper always serves, sometimes leavened with a little spittle to achieve that magic weight/ volume ratio. But Blu-Tak serves just as well, and is highly prized. Gold Medallist throwers will become lazy/ audacious/ cruel and simply throw entire books instead. These are often best contained with Olympic sanctions.

3. The distance runner

These guys aren’t in it for a good time; they’re in it for a long time. These are unusually problematic kids who fall into two categories. Either they are strategists who know that, given long enough, they will wear you down into distraction and sick leave. In this case, they will do just enough to keep out of serious trouble, but enough to persistently annoy you, like a sole mosquito in a hotel bedroom. Or, they are the kids too work-shy to do anything meaningful and too cowardly to openly defy you. Spammers rather than planners. The effect is the same: Chinese water torture. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Now that I come to think of it, there are dozens of comparisons. This metaphor can run and run. See what I did there?

Hope you’re having a great break



Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

His latest book, Teacher, is out this month, published by Continuum/ Bloomsbury


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