Tom Bennett

The problem

I am a graduate teacher who has come to teaching after working as a graphic designer and art lecturer. I made a stupid joke recently about how I got a scratch on my eyebrow (I ran into a door, so felt a bit foolish). When a group of students asked about the scratch, I told them my husband had beaten me up - I quickly told them it was a joke. How do I cope with teaching and discipline issues when other teachers do not provide much in the way of support or advice?

What you said

The children have probably forgotten about it. If any of them do bring the matter up again, act surprised that they believed you, and either tell them the truth or make up another, more outlandish story. Leave them confused as to the real reason for just a short time, then tell them the truth so that you are not seen as someone who is deceitful but as someone who likes a joke.


The expert view

Do not worry. It was a bit silly to say it to a new group with whom you have not yet developed a strong relationship - it makes you seem more pally and matey and intimate than is helpful at this stage.

But if that is all you have said, then don't sweat it. Just make sure the rest of the communications you have with them are professional and rather more formal for a good while. At first, pupils need to see you in an utterly unambiguous light of teacher; professional; adult. They do not need a pal; they need someone to tell them what to do. Muddying that with personal comments, however witty, is a recipe for trouble, unless they are particularly great children.

What concerns me is that you do not feel you have anyone you can bring this up with in your school. I suggest that you find a teacher with more experience and ask if they can help by coaching you a little. Observe them teaching your difficult classes. Get them to observe you. Have a chat about it afterwards. Then try out some strategies and repeat the process.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. His latest book, Teacher, is out now and published by Continuum. For more details, visit

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Tom Bennett

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