5th July 2013 at 01:00

The problem - I'm coming to the end of my teacher training year and have a low-ability class who, despite good attainment in previous test results and book work, refuse to work hard during my lessons, presumably because they realise I won't be around much longer. Often they just act as though they can't be bothered.

I was recently taken to task for pitching a lesson at too high a level for them but the frustrating thing is that I know they can do it, as their books are evidence of their ability. Is it wrong to encourage your students to aim high and stretch themselves, and pull them up on behaviour if they don't work at it? Or should you start out by aiming at where the class is and give them easy tasks in order to save yourself the hassle of a fight?

It feels as though we've opted for the latter here but I don't want that to be the experience or precedent that I take away from this placement, as that's not a good motto for the rest of my career.

What you said

Perhaps you could base a carrot-and-stick system around completing work, so that they can see that getting on with work at the correct level gets them points and that being lazy makes their life difficult.


I think the thing you have to take from this is: "It's not always my fault."


The expert view

What you take away is that good behaviour is more than just passive compliance - it's getting the students to work as hard as they can. And that requires high expectations. You may be the only person in their lives who believes that they are capable of more than their miserable target grades, and good for you. The problem is that they know you won't be around for long. It takes time to build relationships based on authority, trust and high expectations. In the short time you have, students often reckon (rightly) that they can get away with being lazy because it's easier.

Some behaviour is definitely connected to planning - if you plan a lesson way beneath them, or way above them, you'll encourage misbehaviour. But something just out of their reach? Much better.

Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher Proof, is out now, published by Continuum.

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