Problem - I work in a tough school and many colleagues turn a blind eye to bad behaviour such as swearing. How do I convince the senior team to take it seriously?
Having to deal with difficult pupils can be gruelling - persistent low- level disruption, swearing and back-chat can lead to a loss of confidence, as well as the loss of valuable form time. However, finding yourself unsupported by colleagues is even more demoralising and can leave a teacher feeling helpless. It does not have to be this way.
Several practical steps can be taken to remedy the situation - and it is advisable to follow all in quick succession or at the same time to get the best outcome.
The first is trying to deal with disruptive pupils directly. Set out your limits and expectations within your own classroom, says David Allaway, educational content director at Behaviour UK. "It will be hard because it sounds as if in other classes, behavioural expectations are low."
However, establishing clear guidelines can prove effective, even if it is limited to your own classroom. "At the same time, it could be useful to approach other members of staff who feel disheartened with behaviour," he adds. Together - even if it is only one other member of staff who admits to feeling this way - it is easier to make your concerns known. This can be done by initiating a staff meeting where behavioural issues can be discussed in detail.
If these actions do not lead to change, steps can be taken to make your grievances known to the senior leadership team.
"In order to convince senior leaders that there is a problem, this teacher needs to keep a systematic record of behaviour-related events," advises Professor Philip Garner of the University of Northampton.
First, the teacher must speak to the line manager and the designated member of the senior leadership team, making it clear there is a behaviour issue and that they want to attempt to define it so that positive, remedial action can be instigated. The teacher must simultaneously record pupil behaviour - positive such as on-task, pro-social learning and those that they find unacceptable.
"Doing the latter will supply documented, systematic evidence to discuss with the senior leadership team to find a way forward, while showing that they are not a `victim' but rather a proactive agent of change," Professor Garner says.
"It may also illustrate to the teacher that even the most difficult youngsters are capable of learning appropriately and behaving positively at times - it may be an important point of professional development."
The appeal to the senior management team should be in a letter, says Dr Hilary Lee-Corbin, senior lecturer in primary education at the University of Winchester. "A letter is more likely to get a response than an email, which could be side-lined."
If you get nowhere with a written appeal to the head of department or the senior leadership team you should take your grievance directly to the headteacher. The steps taken to record pupil behaviour and the written appeal to the senior leadership team will show the headteacher that you have taken steps to change your situation.
Another viable option is to suggest to the senior leadership team that you could attend a behaviour management course as part of your continuing professional development. "The teacher's local authority should be able to help and there are a number of leads that could be picked up from the DCSF site," says Dr Lee-Corbin (www.dcsf.gov.uk).
Despite the benefits of taking steps to change one's situation, this is not always going to be enough - sometimes more drastic action is called for. A more beneficial change might be to look for a school in which the teacher's other attributes can be made better use of, says Professor Garner. "This is not to say that the teacher is ineffectual," he adds.
Despite the problems that teachers see themselves surrounded with in situations like this, they mustn't forget they are change agents. Changing the situation in the classroom, not only for your personal benefit but also for the long-term benefit of the school, can considerably heighten your sense of self-esteem in the long-term
Next week: Bullying
WHAT TO DO
- Try to tackle the issue by clearly setting out your expectations to pupils.
- Seek allies among the other teachers - together, you can initiate a staff meeting.
- Speak to the line manager and the designated SLT member.
- Keep a record of behaviour-related events.