The Behaviour Question

17th February 2012 at 00:00

The highlight of my week should be a top set Year 10 group, but it is being spoiled by a girl who seems to have the knives out for me. A typical lesson will involve her demanding I do something then shouting and whining throughout. She will also tell worrying lies about me and accuse me of being unfair. I cannot describe how wearing it is having her going off like a burglar alarm all the way through the lesson. I hope it's "new girl" syndrome - I started the post this year.

What you said


This girl is bright, attention-seeking and disengaged - so I'm assuming not pushing herself. It's a very familiar vicious circle. What caused her to disengage? What is home like? Have you contacted the parents? Get to know her. She's crying out for attention. Keep her back after a lesson and give her the opportunity to talk.


Ignore all requests that are not polite and appropriate apart from to ask the girl to wait or speak to you politely. Consider every demand to be both an interruption and a refusal to follow instructions. If the school has an option to send her out then do so as early as you can while following the behaviour policy.

The expert answer

This student is being awful with you. Let me hone in on something - it is her behaviour that is the problem here. This is not a cry for help, any more than picking my nose is a cry for plastic surgery. Everything you have described is classic new teacher abuse.

I suspect that she probably does have a pen and paper every time she complains that she does not. And if she doesn't, then she damn well should. What level of intelligence does it take to remember such things? Next to nothing. What it takes is a heart that cares, and she clearly does not care to obey the rules of your room.

She probably also smells the uncertainty from you; one way you communicate this to her is by feeding her obnoxiousness with your kindness. It has gone far, far beyond intelligent, rational chats with this girl. Stop engaging with her unreasonable needs. Unless she has a condition that requires medication, she is perfectly capable of following the simple rules of your room. She chooses not to, because she does not like youyour lessonsyour style. But who cares? It is not her class. It is yours.

Cut to the chase with this lovely lady - the next time she huffs and cusses because the world does not bend over backwards for her, send her out. Give her a detention. Call home. Arrange a meeting with the parents. Repeat as necessary. This will require a great deal of repetition. You may have already tried this simple procedure. The trick is to continue doing so until she realises that it is more trouble to fail to comply than it is to toe the line.

Do not give her the ammunition of your generosity. You have a class to teach and she is one part of it. You can do this. Be tough and stop treating her chaff as anything other than a nuisance. If you cannot amend this girl's behaviour, then you need to remove her to prevent her from doing any more damage to the others.

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

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