Ask Tom

13th June 2014 at 01:00
Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

When students say things like "My mum says this is pointless" or "My dad says I always have to hit first", how can you ensure that the work is engaged with and the rules are followed without insulting the child's parents? I have several students like this and I find it really difficult to form my response in a balanced way.

A teacher, via email to

Yes, that is a tricky knot to untie. The simplest way is to remind students that there are different rules for different situations. Their parents may give them one set for living at home, but the school has its own rules and they have to be followed there. The parents don't have the right to set school rules and vice versa. And that may mean different consequences for the same action in different contexts. Render unto Caesar! That way no one is offended.

Is the worsening of behaviour over the summer term inevitable? Or is there something we can do or say to help prevent the rot? I am fed up with having to re-establish ground rules with students who gave me no problems six weeks ago.

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

It is probably inevitable that the temptation to slack off will strengthen as we approach the end of term, but it isn't inevitable that we have to put up with it. Re-establishing ground rules is something that we have to do throughout the year. It is part of the medicine we give and, although it can be a pain at times, it is just what we have to do to get what we want and what the students need. What helps is if all colleagues share this vision and don't succumb to DVDs, fun lessons and other such works of Satan. If you keep your expectations high, your students will have something to aspire to.

I have been interviewing for jobs over the past few months and have received mixed feedback. One of the most frustrating things is that when I wore a tie to one interview, I was told I looked too formal and it was a barrier to engagement with the students. For the next interview, I duly left the tie at home but they picked me up on being too laid-back and not having the required authority. As far as I am aware I acted the same way in both interviews. Does wearing a tie really make a difference to how you are perceived as a teacher and if so, which school was right?

A teacher, via email to

Is the issue really the tie? Was it mentioned specifically in either interview? Or are you inferring from the theme of the feedback? Any school that thinks that wearing a tie is a barrier to engaging with students probably doesn't deserve to have you - being a great teacher is about much more than how a man accessorises his Adam's apple. Authority doesn't reside in a neckerchief, a hijab or a snood. It comes from actions and style. So dress smartly. The school should judge you on your interview and lesson. Nothing else matters.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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