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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennettis the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Not a child, not yet a woman: behaviour in the sixth form

Teaching sixth form is a piece of cake isn’t it? None of that misbehaviour rubbish you have to deal with lower down the school. The kids are there by choice, having picked your class from a range of options. They probably like you, or at least don’t mind your teaching. Plus they’re almost adults, aren’t they? You can trust them to do so much more than their tiny counterparts in keys stages 1-4. It means you can just turn up and do what you’re paid to do: TEACH.

Dream on, brothers and sisters. behaviour management takes a few bendy twists in key stage 5, but the basic principles are the same. Just because they now wear their own clothes, or sport struggling, puny facial growths and talk about driving lessons, doesn’t mean they need you any less to run the room. Many a good teacher has fallen into this bear pit, and forgotten that in the process of Boyz 2 Men, Men can still be as muchBoyz as anything else. Here are three tips to promote great learning behaviour in your sixth form classroom.

  1. Remember how short a time it was since they were in year 11, and treat them accordingly. The trick isn’t to see key stage 4 as school pupils,and year 12 as little adults; acknowledge the transition they are going through but don’t succumb to an either/ or mentality. Give them boundaries very similar to those that they have recently experienced; set out your classroom expectations, homework expectations, and everything else you normally do. They will be to a large extent expecting you to do this, and many are surprised when the teacher apparently has NO ground rules as soon as they step through the big door.
  2. Cut them some slack for being older, but not much, and only as much as necessary. I love teaching sixth form more than any other group. Why? Because of the level of debate; because of the relatively mature capacity for conversation; because of the level I need to be teaching at, keeping me on my game. So promote activities that require more maturity, that challenge them right up to University level, and round about now you can start using references and humour that you might have been more careful of in a mixed setting. But do NOT, as some do, treat them as slightly less sophisticated versions of people you might meet in the pub. They are still children (and the law will back me on this) and need you to be the adult. The relationships can be brilliant, complex and interesting, but the primary relationship should be adult: child, teacher: student.
  3. They still might need sanctions and rewards, so use them. By all means detain them if they break the class rules. Don’t call it detention- call it ‘supervised catch-up’ or something if you have to, but they’ll know what you mean. If they muck about call home, iIf they miss lessons, call home. Log, report, discipline,….all the things you normally do. You can tailor these strategies to individual pupils as you see fit- by this stage, some sixth formers are so mature you could let them run a lesson while you skip out for a fag (IRONY ALERT: DO NOT DO THIS), so it’s important to know them well.

One final thing; few things will scupper a sixth-former’s attainment in key stage five than how they work outside of your lessons. So don’t be afraid of coaching them in study skills, helping them to write revision timetables, etc. Advise them of the perils of dirty cash and casual labour, as the lure of filthy lucre starts to take root. And if any of them come in red eyed from late gaming, caning it like Frankie Cocozza, or the demon weed, then you need to get involved like a pastoral marine.

Good luck


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