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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.

Exit Strategies: Beam them out, Scotty

One of the most common questions I get asked (after ‘how do you get your hair like that?’) on the Behaviour Forums usually starts with the problem, ‘There’s this one child who makes teaching really difficult,’ or something like that. It seems that for many of us, the tipping point of classroom sanity is quickly reached, and often through the actions of an army of one. It’s amazing the difference one student can make to the dynamic of a room, especially if that child displays extreme behaviour in whatever context or origin. So, in the manner of any good maths problem, I pose the following question: What’s the fastest route to get pupil A out of classroom B?

  1. The Time Out. This is a popular resort of many a new teacher, mainly because it serves to remove the grit from the oyster of your lovely room. Many children are happy to comply with this, because it gets them into the corridor of lovely freedom, which might be boring, but at least it isn’t your classroom. And, because it’s often used as a temporary strategy with few further consequences, there is often little harm to their ego if they comply with your expulsion, especially if they concede to your demand with a theatrical flourish as they slam a door or shout, ‘You’re rubbish at teaching!’ or something equally charming. They know that they can now enjoy ten minutes of monkey time in the jungle of the school arteries. Some pupils, knowing that teachers do this quite quickly (especially some teachers) plan their sending-outs. Some ninja grandmasters of this art synchronise their expulsions with their friends in other rooms, effectively making appointments with each other, which at least shows ingenuity.

    If you send out, makes sure you do so in order that they can cool down, not just because they’ve been naughty. If you want them to come back, then sending out a chatty kid is pointless. It isn’t a punishment for them. It’s a relief to you. We should be honest that this is what it’s used for frequently. If you want them out for good, then…
  2. Have them removed. Have you seen Waterloo Road? Try not to. But if you do, you’ll notice that in this fictional school series, kids get sent to the cooler regularly…and they just GO when they’re told. The whole point of a persistently disruptive student is that there’s a battle of wills going on between you and them. Compliance is already off the table. They know that refusing to leave the room for a ‘BIG’ send out is one of the easiest ways of mugging you off. So they fold their arms and say ‘No’. If you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know how awful it is, how utterly humiliating. That’s why it’s best to enlist assistance. Pick a nice kid who will go to the office or designated staff member’s station, and get them removed by someone else. It shows the kids you work as part of a team, and not as an island.
  3. Pre-empt an expulsion. This takes more care. If you see a kid simmering away, either with embarrassment for some slight, or rage, or just…anything, and you know that the future holds an outburst, then take the fuel from the fire by sending them out, maybe giving them something to get from another room or space. That way you don’t have to endure an inevitable tsunami of emotional leakage and the kid gets to take five to cool down and save face.

    Remember, if one pupil is persistently disrupting your lesson, not only do you have the right to have them removed (temporarily at least), but you’re being remiss if you don’t remove them. Don’t suffer with a child to the expense of the rest of the class. They deserve a safe learning space too. Sometimes, children provoke their own removal. To do otherwise would be to placate when you need to be protecting.

And good luck


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