I am a newly qualified teacher and my class is lovely apart from two boys whose behaviour is very challenging. Bad language, abusive behaviour and disruption can be extreme and my response has been to "hit them where it hurts" - stopping them playing football at break times. This occurs if they get three ticks after their name. The problem is that if I applied this to the letter and gave them a tick every time they misbehaved, we would have an all-out constant war. Consequently, I sometimes choose to overlook their behaviour, concentrating instead on finding positives. The teacher of the year below, however, says that when the boys were in her class she did not tolerate any bad behaviour. What do you think?
What you said
My gut reaction is never to ignore bad behaviour. That doesn't mean you always have to issue a punishment or a sanction - but to let them know that you have spotted something amiss is good practice.
The teacher in the year below ought to spend more time looking at the behaviour of her own class.
The expert view
The fact that most of your class is lovely for you speaks volumes about the quality of what you do already. That just leaves your terrible team. It is important that you crack them, as if you do not they will become role models for the others.
There is definitely a time and place to tacitly ignore some low-level behaviour - for example, you might overlook a bit of chair rocking if bringing attention to it would create greater disturbance than the event itself. But it always contains seeds of potential trouble, because by ignoring a behaviour you also tacitly approve of it, and that can cause a damaging landslide of disobedience, as students start to realise that rules apply only "sometimes". You need to appear consistent.
I sympathise with your not wanting to start a war but is that alternative any worse than what you're experiencing now? In my experience, tackling children like these head-on is always tough but if you do it a few times then you will make headway with them. If you don't, you'll be dealing with the same problems for ever.
Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.