I'm a head of department and do lunchtime duties at a secondary school. A group of senior boys, whose names I don't know, keep abusing me. They shout obscenities and run off. It is becoming increasingly stressful. What should I do?
What you said
"Keep a diary recording the incidents and your discussions with other teachers and with management. If this continues, you'll need to have something backing up your recollections of what happened, when it happened and who was involved, even if you just give descriptions of the boys. Contact your union."
"Are you fairly new to the school? Pupils show this kind of behaviour because they can. They get away with it. Don't think it's just you. It just seems that way."
"Try to get another teacher who you trust to accompany you a few times. Swap duties with someone to avoid this situation. It sounds like the kind of school where the SMT (senior management team) is not patrolling the corridors to prevent this kind of behaviour."
The expert view
Being exposed to this kind of behaviour can have a detrimental effect on your well-being. It is important for the discipline in school, the experiences of other pupils and your own emotional health as a teacher that it is addressed effectively and pupils are made aware that it's unacceptable under school behaviour policies.
If possible, talk to your manager or headteacher at the earliest opportunity to alert them to the situation, discuss how it makes you feel and ask for support. Remember that it is perfectly reasonable to ask for their help in tackling this.
If the pupils cannot be identified immediately, could a change in your working routine help to avoid another incident? Could a reminder of the school discipline policies be reiterated in senior classes so that this group is addressed on the issue?
If you can identify the pupils, it may be more appropriate to ask your manager or headteacher to take the lead in talking to them, or tackling any disciplinary repercussions, rather than dealing with them yourself. This is especially important if you feel vulnerable. When talking to pupils about their behaviour, particularly if they are being loud or aggressive, you and your colleagues should remember to keep calm and not to confront them. It may also be worth waiting until they do not have an audience to play up to.
Remember, too, that you need to look after yourself. These kinds of stresses can affect you as a teacher and as a person, so learning to cope effectively - with the support of your school - is vital. Seek out networks of other teachers who may have had similar experiences, or share your problems with someone outside your school or profession who may be able to supply an unbiased perspective.
- Julian Stanley is chief executive of the Teacher Support Network. www.teachersupport.info
- Keep a diary. You may at some point need to back up your version of events.
- Remind those involved, and other pupils, that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.
- Consider asking for a change in your routine to avoid any further incidents.
- Lose your cool if you do confront the boys.
- Allow the stress to get to you. It's fine to ask for help from the head or a colleague.