The problem

I am currently on a training placement and am having problems with my class of 13- and 14-year-olds. I have observed the class for the past few weeks and it was painful to watch. There was no control or direction. The students seemed desensitised to everything the teacher said. My mentor thinks it is a good challenge for me to take the class and trial behaviour strategies with them, although everyone else thinks I've been lumbered with them because no one else wants to teach them. In my first lesson with this group, I tried to establish some authority: seating plan, names on board, the "three strikes and you're out" strategy. Their behaviour today showed some improvement but how do I go about managing it in future?

What you said

Some classes will bring experienced teachers to their knees, so you, as a trainee, surely would not be expected to bring this class around after seeing them only a few times.


You need to understand the reasons behind their poor behaviour and plan to remove those. If you get the lesson activities and level of challenge right, you will increase student engagement and reduce poor behaviour.


The expert view

Trust me: you probably have been given this class because no one wants them. It's common to dump problem classes on new recruits and justify it as a "learning experience". So what should you do? Well, the good news is that it sounds as if you've started well. They may not be used to anyone getting tough with them so perhaps they will respond to it eventually.

That said, a placement isn't usually long enough to turn the ship around, so don't expect miracles, although you must still expect them to do as you say, even if they thwart you often. Aim high, hit slightly less high. Keep the seating plan. Set detentions and other sanctions when you must. If someone is persistently disruptive in a lesson, have them removed. Make a few phone calls home; praise and penalise a few children. Follow up. Escalate if necessary. Involve your line managers and ask for help.You've got a tough job ahead of you but you can do it.

Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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