The Behaviour Question

13th January 2012 at 00:00

Pupils who have been sent out of lessons at my school are being returned to the classroom. I only send pupils out for serious infractions and try to resolve issues in a private conversation away from an audience, but sometimes this does not work. We can send pupils to another colleague, but that has its limitations in a challenging environment like ours. Any solutions?

What you said


We can only send pupils to a "buddy" after we have been through the consequences routine. I could quite happily have dispatched several today, but it's just not practical, is it? So what happens? They remain in the classroom, disrupting others and testing your patience to the very limit. It's even worse if you do supply. Detention is the key, especially at break time.

The expert view

To my mind, sending pupils out has only a few practical purposes.

First, it gives them time to calm down and get a bit of a grip. This works best with kids who fly off the handle, then calm down, then remember their manners. Of course, it would be better still if they had the character to not fly off the handle and call adults a "vegetable", but you can't have everything. This way, they have a chance to simmer down and remember that maybe, just maybe, there's wisdom in not being unpleasant to other people.

Second, it allows them to calm down following something upsetting - it might be a cuss, or a rubber (remember them?) in the eye. Sending out can be done for victims, too, who may need a moment to recover from an upset.

Both of these situations are designed to reintegrate the student without serious impact to their education, or that of the class. The aim should be to return them in 10 minutes, usually less. Ten minutes in a corridor is a long time, though it flies by in the classroom; in that way, it's like Narnia.

If the kids are out there for longer than 10 minutes, then either you've forgotten about them (shame on you) or you want to forget about them (less shame, but still not good). In that case, they need to be taken from that place to another place; somewhere supervised, somewhere formal. In other words, a cooler, a time-out room, a soft-play dungeon, whatever you have. The corridor isn't a solution to anything other than your immediate need to not have them in the room. It's unsupervised and kids know when they've been abandoned, as well as Tango'd.

Send them out of the room for an extended period, but do so in a way that minimises simply casting them out. If they are vile, they need to be removed and other strategies put in place. Besides, given enough kids, you start to see packs of them roaming like coyotes. Soon, mischief occurs ...

If some well-meaning Billy Big Balls sweeps a kid back into your classroom (and Ofsted isn't in the building), then ask yourself, "Have they been out for only a few minutes?" If the answer is yes, then stick to your guns and say, "Yes, they can remain outside, I'll deal with them presently". If they have been out for some time and they need to still be out, then ask the staff member to remove them. Good luck.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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