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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 Bennett is 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.

Be At One: reconciliation in the classroom

As it’s Easter, this week’s theme is building bridges between foes and relationships that have broken down. Whether you’re born again or an acolyte of Stephen Fry, the need for enemies and the estranged to come together in education is equally great. Pupils will be with you for a long time; no teacher has an automatic right to refuse to teach, and the removal process is often as deliberately difficult as you can imagine (and you won’t have to imagine, normally). It is important that damaged relationships are as far as possible made good, whether between you and the kids, you and the parents or the kids and the kids. Here are my three top tips for reconciliation:

  1. Fresh starts. It is the easiest thing in the world to adopt pets, favourites, familiars and homunculi in the classroom. It is equally easy to vilify and demonise (often deservedly). However, make sure that your perspective on a student hasn’t become a stereotype, and re-evaluate them as students from time to time, without the baggage of the past. Perhaps their behaviour has improved, and you still think of them as trouble makers? Perhaps their grades have improved, but you still see them as weak? Try to see the class as if you’d never seen them before. How would they appear now? Of course, your evaluation of them may be perfectly serviceable. See if it is.
  2. Watch difficult classes with other teachers. If you have a class that you think is innately evil in the manner of Beelzebub and all his little wizards, observe them elsewhere. Other teachers may get a different side from them, or may have strategies that encourage them to behave and exceed your expectations. This isn’t to suggest that you deserve misbehaviour, but learning from other professionals is often an excellent way to shake up the pictures you have drawn in your mind, like an Etch A Sketch (this may date me..).
  3. Don’t go to bed on an argument. Good advice for married couples, good advice for teachers and classes. Don’t end the term with a detention hanging over you if at all possible; try to clear all debts before the term ends. If you have something to say to a student, say it this week, before you demob. If you need to keep someone behind for a sanction, do it now. Let the slate be clean. Don’t wipe it clean artificially, or you pervert the course of justice. But try to see if you can sort as much out as you can before you put your feet up for Easter. You’ll have a much better time when you get back if you can.

And good luck

Tom

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