How teachers can have authority like Jackie Weaver

Council clerk Jackie Weaver's viral masterclass on handling rowdy councillors is a lesson for us all, says this teacher

Lauran Hampshire-Dell

Behaviour: Handforth Parish Council clerk Jackie Weaver can show teachers a thing or two about authority

This week the internet has been dominated by one woman: Jackie Weaver.

Jackie Weaver has emerged as a national heroine, after footage of Handforth Parish Council’s fiery Zoom meeting went viral. The video has led to people all over the country shouting, “Read them and understand them!” in answer to just about any question, and wondering about the legalities surrounding council elections.

Behaviour: Teachers, take control like Jackie Weaver 

Weaver’s ability, as a parish council clerk, to rule a virtual space is exactly the kind of CPD that teachers need right now. So here are my standing orders for what teachers can learn from her. 

1. 'As long as we have reasonable behaviour from everyone…'

The council members asking if they’re going to be removed from their online meeting again reminds me of rowdy Year 9 students who are still confused and outraged that you sent them out last week, despite their clear breach of classroom rules

Weaver stays calm, but she doesn’t apologise. She gives clear warnings, and she doesn’t yield – she places the responsibility back on the councillors. And, more importantly, she sees her threats through when councillors start misbehaving again. 

2. 'A copy of this will be sent to the monitoring officer…'

Knowing that your senior leadership team are around is often helpful for managing behaviour in real life. But it can be difficult to establish this same sense of whole-school support when delivering lessons online. 

Weaver’s firm assertion that the meeting will be recorded and sent on is a reminder that there are still behavioural systems and standards in place, and that you can still be supported – even remotely – when dealing with difficult groups. 

3. 'Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on…'

I can’t remember the last time I saw so much Britney content on my social media timelines, but I’m absolutely loving it. 

Firstly, Weaver’s choice of Britney over more modern pop starlets perfectly reminded me of the hundreds of times that my own pop-culture references have been met with looks of confusion and echoes of “Who?” from students who clearly don’t want me to forget how old I am

Secondly, the joke was a perfect ice breaker: the meeting had got off to a rough start, but Weaver didn’t allow it to set the tone for the entirety. It’s a reminder that even the most difficult lesson can be recovered: you can find a way to start again and be productive. 

4. 'Councillor, we’ve been through this…'

Giving and reiterating instructions has always been an essential part of teaching. But online learning has left teachers feeling like they’re doing this more than ever, as students struggle to navigate working from home.  

Incredibly, throughout the video, Weaver never loses her temper or shouts – even when being spoken to aggressively. Her polite firmness and never-ending patience when issuing instructions makes Weaver even more of a role model for us all. 

Lauran Hampshire-Dell is a teacher and tutor

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