The behaviour question

20th September 2013 at 01:00

I have been asked to write a reference for an extremely badly behaved and disruptive student (I was his form tutor before he was expelled earlier this year, and also taught him briefly for a methodology class). This child has no redeeming features and made every member of staff's life a misery before being kicked out. I have no idea what to write, and even if I can produce something it will be ridiculously euphemistic. Can I refuse to write the reference? And if I can't, what on earth can I write? I don't want to ruin a potentially positive future direction for him, but at the same time he made the lives of everyone in the school very difficult and I feel I owe it to any future employer to be honest.

What you said


Perhaps you could discuss this dilemma with the person who has asked you to write the reference. Why should you write anything positive for someone who did not earn a good reference? That is why students should behave in school, so their teachers can provide them with good references when they need them.


I would write nothing more than the dates he attended the school and the fact that he had attended my lessons. Anything else is not necessary. Whoever receives this will know he was excluded, so anything that negates this information makes the reference look stupid. Also, it puts into question any future reference and could damage another child's future. Of course, you could be completely honest and describe what a nasty little so-and-so this student was, maybe giving graphic detail of his "better" incidents. Good in theory, but probably not the way to go, no matter how tempting.

The expert view

Keep it bland: he was here, he left, we threw a party (maybe not the last bit). If the employer wants to know more (and who wouldn't be intrigued by such a gripping reference?) they can call you. If a student hasn't earned a good reference, they shouldn't get one.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES Connect blog (bit.lytombennett) or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher Proof, is out now, published by Routledge

Post your questions at www.tesconnect.combehaviour.

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