The Behaviour Question

26th October 2012 at 01:00

In my previous school I was the teacher that kids got sent to if they misbehaved. But I've now got two Year 10 electronics classes in my new school that I can't control. The teacher I've taken over from was retiring and was also absent for much of their time in Year 9, so they've basically had practical for 12 months and suddenly I'm there trying to teach them so they stand a chance of passing what is a very difficult course. They don't like it.

What you said


In order to win this battle, you are going to have to enlist the parents. Maybe start off with the worst offenders. Call and say something like, "Hello. I'm Ryan's electronics teacher and I am calling to introduce myself. I wanted to let you know that I think Ryan has a lot of potential and I can see with the right help he will progress. I am calling you since I need everyone to catch up with X."


If you hate the phone, write yourself a little script and read it to the parents. Itemise the behaviour as most parents won't understand "school-speak". Also divide and rule - play musical seating plans. Pupils hate not being beside their mates. Use praise where it is due. It has to be earned or it will be meaningless.

The expert view

You can nail this. The fact that you were "The Guy" in your previous incarnation tells me everything I need to know. You're like Rocky, just before he gives Mr T a drubbing.

You have only just taken over a class full of institutionalised mucking about and lack of interest. No wonder it is tough. It is not your fault; it is the situation in which you find yourself. Now, what to do?

You laid down new rules and they do not like it. So far, so bleeding predictable. Now what you need to do is keep it up. Set detentions, track detentions and repeat. If they do not attend, escalate and enlist help from line management. Children are pretty simple beasts at times. They crumble in the face of consistent resistance. It is when you stop persisting that they realise they can run rings around you. So keep it up; do not waver for one second.

If you have a problem with phone calls, there are ways around it. Letters home can serve just as well (although I recommend you stay on top of the paperwork and do it as soon as it is needed). How about emails? Or enlisting a colleague to help?

This will take months; it will also take balls. Grit your teeth and remember, they have no idea who you are. They are simply being foul to an authority figure. What they need is to be taken in hand, and shown that you care enough about them to give them boundaries. Good luck to you, sir. Even veterans get the blues. Fortunately, they also have the skills to deal with it.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his blog,, or follow him on Twitter at @tombennett71. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum

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