18th January 2013 at 00:00
The problem: I have just started at a new school where my main issue is the girls. I am an experienced teacher and in a middle management position. In this Year 10 (S3) class there are four or five ringleaders, and when they are not in it is blissful. The main culprit is loud but very bright. When her friends aren't there, she contributes well and is fine. When they are she starts up - making comments about me, the way I look, the way I teach, constantly giggling and so on. I have had her in detention and I used that time to try and get her to understand why her behaviour isn't appropriate. She thinks she is right all the time and whenever I explain that her behaviour is unacceptable she just says "OK, then" in a really sarcastic way. I had to stop my lesson completely last week and couldn't restart until I used the emergency button to get her out of my class. I have shouted when needed but I get told to F off

What you said

You've exhausted your strategies without achieving the desired result. This one girl will not comply with you until the negative consequences of her poor behaviour outweigh any benefit to her. Look again at the strategies that you find distasteful - maybe she needs to be humiliated in front of her friends, maybe a raised voice will make her think about challenging your status. Remember, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got". Henry Ford said this and it's true.


The expert view

Stop trying to rationalise behaviour that is instinctively emotional and selfish. She doesn't need understanding. She takes your sincerity and attempts to reconcile as a sign of weakness. You don't convince someone to be kind - you give them reasons not to be unkind. Simply apply the school sanction system every time she mugs you off and accept that not every kid will bend to your will. You're new to them, so as far as they're concerned you're a supply teacher. Your relationship with the class will take a while to build up but for now you're sport. You'll get them in time but you need to go structural with the strategies and use interpersonal tactics later on when they come round to you a bit more.

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