Behaviour: Top tips for managing sneaky kids

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

Kids are human beings, just like us. We have the capacity for sweet works of altruism and for depths of me-me-me that would make Gordon Gecko blush. Some children are extremely good at playing a game with you. Make no mistake, some of them will plot and confer about how best to topple your best laid plans. For some of them it is about avoiding work. For others it is about making sport of your lesson and, by default, you. Most of the time it isn’t personal; you’re just the drag in the corner with all of the work, and therefore have to be baited.

Some of these kids operate like squirrels, and some of them like foxes. They know every trick in the book to carefully undermine the path of your righteous lesson plan and can do it in a way that makes it seem like no charge can be laid against them. Like their bushy-tailed counterparts, they dig up your roses and bury eggs in your primrose patch while you are asleep, so that when you turn around, all is chaos in the secret garden of education. Here are some repellents that don’t involve pepper traps and motion sensors (although both have crossed my mind at times).


With some classes and with some pupils, it is necessary to keep a beady eye on them at all times. You must be like Sauron. Seriously. Plan lessons so that you are constantly facing them. Some classes can be trusted with your credit card details and your first child; others can be trusted to clone your Visa and start trading in narcotics and small arms. Make sure that these classes are not given the rope with which to hang themselves. It is for their own good. If you show them that you can see them then many issues will melt away. This might mean that you move around the room in an odd, crab-like manner. Or, you could just teach from the front and face your team at all times.

Deflect their deflection

How many times have you confronted a behaviour issue, only for the perpetrator to throw a barrel of chaff in your face in the manner of a compact anti-torpedo device? ‘But everyone else is talking!/ Are you gay?/ What team do you support?/ Why do we have to do this subject?’ etc. The tactic is to cut through this silver mist by pretending it isn’t there. A simple, ‘What should you be doing now?’ usually suffices. Or something along the lines of ‘We need to get back to work’ will do. Remember that your greater purpose is to give them the best damn education that you can. You don’t help them by succumbing to these diversions and educational cul-de sacs.

Go with your gut

This isn’t the European Court of Human Rights; these aren’t felonies or crimes against humanity. You are the judge and jury in a small world where justice sits on your shoulders and yours alone. If you are not sure if someone threw the paper, or cussed someone’s mum, or made the humming, then go with your instinct. If you know the class, and you have a fair idea (and I stress a fair idea, not no idea at all, otherwise the benevolent dictator just becomes a dictator) then hand out some justice. Keep the suspects behind, and quiz them. Get them to write out a lengthy statement of their side of the story. They will soon learn that you have a third eye in the back of your head. Utilise grasses as much as possible, like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch. Some kids will bend over backwards to snitch (sorry, ‘uphold the good of the classroom’). You don’t have to provide evidence that would satisfy an inquest, but merely the needs of the room. Don’t fret about ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Instead, go with ‘probable cause’ and ditch your ambitions of equaling CSI in forensic rigour.

YOU are the law. And good luck to you :)



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


Related articles and resources

Recent ‘Top Tips’

You’re NOT wearing that- uniform checks and sartorial tips

Back to School- starting the term on the right foot

Be the inspiration - role models in the classroom

More ‘Top Tips’

Links to all Tom’s top tips

Relevant resources on TES

Behaviour and classroom management resources

Behaviour and classroom management resource collections