Counting the cost
Whatever type of maverick a colleague might be, these teachers live and die by their open subversion of school policy. It is interwoven into their teaching, from the casual but constant "oversights" of mobile phones in lessons and the bending of rules to help someone in need, to the open revolt of statements such as, "I don't care what the policy says, you are spending the rest of your natural life in my detention!"
You may think that this doesn't really affect how you operate in your own classroom - if another teacher wants to break the rules, good luck to them, right? But you would do well to pay closer attention. The maverick buys status on the cheap and everyone else pays the price.
This is because great schools rely on consistency in the behaviour of adults. A unified message means an unbreakable wall with no escape hatches or openings for students to creep through. A maverick puts a crack in that wall and bad behaviour soon floods in.
You will see the impact first on new staff. Newly qualified teachers buy into consistency in policy and practice immediately. They cling to a behaviour policy like a life raft. In the eye of the storm of the first term, it is their only chance of survival. For a while, they believe that everyone is applying the agreed rules consistently and so follow them to the letter. Gradually, they realise that some teachers are sabotaging them.
The mavericks' disregard for policy sends ripples of doubt through new teachers, cover supervisors and anyone else who relies on the adults standing together. And then, slowly but surely, the impact spreads to the rest of the teaching staff.
You see, children know how to use a maverick to gain advantage. A defence of "But Miss lets us do it in her lessons!" works better than it ought to in a school. The instinct of the child who wants to disrupt is to divide and rule. Many have developed real expertise in these tactics at home and bring the same skills to school. They latch on to the inconsistencies in their teachers and exploit them ruthlessly - at times, it seems, just for their own entertainment.
I have often had students bang to rights only to hear: "But he gave all seven of us toilet passes at the same time. He always does", or the "No, you don't get it, Sir. She doesn't use the same rules as everyone else" riposte. You feel powerless.
So what can you do? You have to work on the maverick. To do that, you have to understand them.
The maverick is driven by a strong core purpose and a considered philosophy. Like the most intelligent children, they are difficult to manage: at times quietly subversive and often confident enough to question decisions head-on. At the heart of the maverick lie an ego, an arrogance and a selfishness that, paradoxically, can be utterly compelling and utterly destructive.
Your first realisation from this should be that confrontation is not going to work - they will meet it not with fear or understanding but with an attack of their own. Going through the motions of the school systems won't work either - mavericks delight in subverting those systems.
What is needed is more subtle and personalised management: an approach that blends emotional connection and solid, principled argument. Don't micromanage your maverick's flair but make them aware of the genuine responsibility they have for how children act in other people's classrooms: give their innovative streak some structure. Your maverick needs some tough love to ensure that they remain committed to consistency, but they also need the autonomy that makes them brilliant with the children.
Paul Dix, a former teacher, is an education consultant at Pivotal Education
Balancing act: how staff input can be vital for a coherent behaviour strategy.
Help is at hand: making the most of your teaching assistant.