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The problem

I am a maths teacher and have a large number of pupils who "forget" to bring equipment. I have to deal with many other disciplinary issues, too, so I simply can't use the usual reward-and-sanctions mechanisms. I also have some problems with theft, and lending does not seem to have the effect of encouraging pupils to bring their own equipment. I'm now considering lending only "embarrassing" equipment: for example, short, pink pencils for boys. If I can't get pupils to bring even basic equipment, it undermines my authority.

What you said

In practical science with some classes, I have sometimes had to count equipment beforehand, then count it back in before the end of the lesson and not dismiss the class until everything was returned. In my early days of teaching, some lessons were in a classroom and I had to wheel in the equipment on a trolley. Holding the class back can create problems - I once had a mini-riot and some boys climbed out of the window - but, usually, the missing equipment was found and the miscreants were dealt with in the playground by their peers.


Someone I know takes one of the pupil's shoes if they borrow equipment (ie, a pupil borrows a pencil, so you take their shoe). At the end of the lesson, she gets her pencil back and the pupil gets their shoe back. It hasn't ever not worked. Personally, I've ceased to make a big issue of it. Yes, they need to be prepared, but it is easier simply to lend them a pencilpen than get into a big argument.


The expert view

Everything here sounds lovely, but it's all frightfully complicated. Just keep it simple. If they forget, record it and give them a pen, whatever. The second time they do it, and every time after that, give them a detention.

It's that simple. After a few times, they will start remembering, I guarantee you. They don't care right now, because they don't have to. Make them care.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES blog, or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum Post your questions at

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