Behaviour: Surviving a student encounter in summertime
Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management
The six weeks of summer is the best chance you get to plug your waning battery into the mains and get a few bars back on your meter. By an amazing coincidence this may also involve actually visiting bars, which is nice. But one odd consequence of the summer holidays is that it can throw students and adults into simultaneous proximity by chance. This terrifies some teachers, who react as though they’ve seen a ghost. Do not panic. Students (for the most part) don’t bite.
Here are my tips for dealing with running into a student:
1. Keep cool
If your body language says ‘ZOMG IT’S A STUDENT’ then it will make them think you’re odd, and they’ll be right. Meeting a student outside of school can be an opportunity to make a connection with them that surpasses the classroom. I don’t mean invite them to Sunday lunch, but it is amazing how even the thinnest encounters can give you juice for a better relationship at school. So, make sure you say hello. If you’re feeling hipster, lift your head up in a reverse nod, like a horse pulling against a bit. Apparently it’s how children say ‘hi’ these days without conveying effort or concern.
2. Don’t run away
It is natural to feel a bit awkward if you’re in the Trafford Centre catching a movie, or chillaxing in the Beefeater beer garden, and Shaheda Wilkinson from 9F is standing next to you in the queue. But really, who gives a monkey’s? I’ve seen teachers hide wine glasses and sit up straight, as if children can’t handle the fact that you may have the odd crafty Muscadet with your lesson planning. Or even a not so crafty one. Just do the ‘nod’ thing again. Show them you care not a jot.
3. Keep your powder dry
Sometimes the kids themselves don’t handle the encounter very well. Believe me, most kids will either be paralysed with embarrassment, as is proper and natural, or possibly even polite and courteous towards you. But there are a few who will believe that, being extra-school, they can mug you off with impunity. If they do, don’t get worked up. I’m sure even Postman Pat got called a tool from time to time. Don’t get mad. Serve justice, like revenge, cold when you get back to school. Treat it as any other behaviour incident even though it happened beyond the school gates. Knowing that, you can settle back into the last fortnight of piña coladas and minnow foot spas.
Good luck, hipsters.
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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