Tom Bennett

The problem

I'm a new English teacher at a secondary school with challenging pupils. I have seen that they can work well and behave with other teachers, but my nature is quite timid. Other teachers have advised me to get louder. However, I feel that when I shout more, they listen less. I follow the school's sanctions, but find it hard to pick people out when it is a lot of the class. My board is constantly full of names.

What you said

I have found that frequent positive praise (praising those who are doing what you've asked rather than constantly focusing on the ones who are doing the wrong thing) can work wonders.


The expert view

If the class is difficult, they do not need hugs, they need you to be a hard-ass. A loving one, but a hard-ass nonetheless. You need to get in their faces a bit more, figuratively speaking. They need to see that you have rules and will not tolerate them being broken. That way, they will see you as an authority figure.

- Tell them what your rules are. You may have done so already. Remind them. They do know how to behave, but they need to know that you know.

- Calmly take down the names of anyone who breaks these rules. Tell them at the end of the lesson if they have incurred a sanction. Detentions are the best option for the new teacher, plus phone calls home and lost privileges.

- Make sure they attend the sanction. If it is a detention, do not let them work it off for being good. Give them both barrels. If they do not attend.

- Escalate. Use the line management structure to invoke more substantial penalties and consequences.

- Nudge line management to make sure this happens.

In 99 per cent of cases, it just takes patience and time. You will have to repeat yourself endlessly, but you will wear them down. Maybe park the "names on board" idea for a while. That works fine with a few naughty kids, but if there are loads then the strategy strangles you. Just take names in your notebook.

Get a little louder, but try not to shout unless it is just to be heard. It is what you do that dictates how they behave with you, not what you say or how terrifying you are.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Post your questions on:

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Tom Bennett

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