9th December 2011 at 00:00

The problem

I come up against a lot of low-level disruption and I think a large part of the problem is that I am not assertive enough. I am generally a quiet person. I'm not necessarily shy - I don't have confidence issues about speaking in front of a class or making a presentation in a staff meeting. But something I do find difficult is what to say to a student I have kept back to discuss their behaviour. I fear I come across as passive- aggressive, or just passive, rather than assertive.

What you said

Does your school have a good drama teacher? If so, ask if they will give you a session on more assertive posture and the use of your voice. After all, teaching is part performance.

Anna Thornden

This may help - www.teaching-strategies-for-classroom- discipline.comassertive-discipline.html


The expert view

You are right to focus on assertiveness, because if children feel you are either too passive or too aggressive, you will come across as weak or unpleasant. Neither is a good look on someone who is supposed to be running a room.

I think the quickest way you can convey this to the children is by doing exactly what you say you will every time, and never giving up or letting someone off. Half of your behaviour management is done outside the classroom, in phone calls, detentions, conversations and meetings. There is rarely a need to be a grizzly bear in the classroom.

I have seen some teachers who could make Casper the Friendly Ghost look terrifying, but who could run a room like Stalin simply because they said what they meant and meant what they said. You only have to tell a student: "You've got detention". No fuss, no menace.

The structural approach to behaviour management is one of the easiest ways to convey presence and authority. If you have just arrived at a school with good structural support, use it.

It's also worth pointing out that your quietness can be one of your strengths, because if you start to convey authority without being a big mouth, then it will be even more effective.

Tom Bennett is author of `The Behaviour Guru' and `Not Quite a Teacher'. Post your questions at

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