Tom Bennett

The problem

I have recently started a new post as lead teacher in a school where behaviour is a serious problem. I thought I was fully prepared for the worst, having worked in challenging schools before and believing myself to be strong on behaviour management. However, the students are completely out of control. I have a particular group of 13- to 14-year-olds whom I can't begin to manage. They refuse to remain in the classroom; if they enter it at all, they will not sit down. They are constantly disruptive and refuse to work. One child will throw any work I put in front of him on the floor. I know I have started at a difficult time, but I need advice about how to keep them in the room. The normal "entertaining lessons" are useless as they won't even focus enough to begin. If anyone has any advice or has been in a similar situation, please let me know as I am worried about how I will cope. Most of all, it is embarrassing that I am an experienced teacher in a position of responsibility yet cannot manage my classes.

What you said

I suggest you slowly but surely use whatever sanctions the school has in its behaviour policy to grind them down and make them behave (remembering to praise anyone who reforms).


Start at the beginning with the basics, such as entering the room properly, being silent while the register is being taken and staying in their seats. Get a senior teacher or headteacher to stay in the room while this is all taking place and until the students learn how to do the fundamentals.


The expert view

It's not you. You're just new - to them. They are 13- and 14-year-olds who need to see the steel in you before they will take you seriously. Drop the entertainment and focus on routine. Show them what it means to be a student in your classroom. Never punish the whole class, and praise them openly and loudly when you can. Punish with precision and rigour. Mark their books hard and deep, showing them exactly what they need to do, academically and behaviourally. And get ready for some serious detention time for a few months. This ship isn't built overnight.

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

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Tom Bennett

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