The Behaviour Question

Tom Bennett

I'm quite a strict teacher and have high standards in terms of behaviour, but I'm wondering how to present this in interviews. If you have your own class, you can do the "heads down" and "sanctions" stuff, but in an interview situation the kids know you are not coming back, so it is a lot harder to implement the expectations. Also, I recently taught a lesson in someone else's class. The class teacher told me that this particular class took better to male teachers. Is that because their current teacher is male? They really tried to push the boundaries with me.


In any lesson, but especially an interview lesson, make an effort to use names. It is obviously harder when it is a 30-minute interview lesson, but two minutes putting names on stickers at the beginning is an investment you will not regret. As someone who observes more interview lessons currently than teaches them, I like to see candidates who make an effort to use pupils' names.


Two excellent questions. I'll take them in turn.

First question: for interview lessons, you're absolutely right; you can't rely on the normal conventions that you have through a relationship and familiarity with pupils. But you do have one advantage over a long-term teacher: surprise. Most pupils, even rowdy ones, will be fairly biddable for a short while.

Of course, because it's an observation lesson, you should have the benefit of one or two experienced teachers in the room. This often helps. Sometimes it doesn't, but you can mention that they are there if you want to remind pupils that you are not alone.

While teaching can't always be singing and jazz hands, for an observation lesson it reflects badly on you if you can't provide interesting, well-planned resources. If they are punchy, well-paced and interesting, you will have a head start with a new class. Note that this cannot be sustained, and even very well planned lessons can be dashed against the cliffs of their indifference if they want to rebel after the honeymoon period. But by then, you've gone!

Finally, set up as many structural cues about what kind of person you are as soon as possible, as clearly as possible. Be there early, be prepared, greet them firmly as they come in. Don't be too chummy, but don't be too hard either; look them in the eye when you speak to them and don't look or sound nervous.

Keep speech slower than normal, speak low and a little more loudly than conversational level; have the activity ready for them; insist on a normal seating plan and ask for it before the interview.

Second question: they push the boundaries with you because you're new. Don't be a victim to the expectations of this other teacher. Pupils will respond to a woman as well as a man if the teacher sets the behavioural standards and cues appropriately. Your gender is neither an excuse nor a justification for good or bad behaviour in the room. You are a teacher and an adult, and you have the right to run the room. If you're new, they will test you, man or woman. Your gender isn't a factor in your teaching, and if the pupils - or staff - try to make it so, you need to put them right by setting clear, fair and loving boundaries with strict consequences.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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Tom Bennett

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