The Behaviour Question

2nd November 2012 at 00:00

I have just started at a lovely school. However, I am having trouble with my Year 8 and 9 classes. Despite outlining my rules and expectations at the beginning of term, and subsequently when pupils were ignoring them, these classes still fail to abide by them and talk when I'm talking. There are so many pupils talking that it's difficult to pick out who is misbehaving and who isn't. I've tried many tactics - waiting for silence, speaking to individuals after the lesson, keeping pupils behind - with no joy. I feel as if I'm not a real teacher but a fraud because I can't control these classes.

What you said


As soon as you notice someone talking when they shouldn't be, warn them that you've noticed and tick their name off on your list. They will invariably protest that they were not the only person talking out of turn. Agree with them but point out that they were the one that you noticed first and you'd be happy for them to give you the names of other culprits. They won't as "grassing" is a cardinal sin with pupils. Start ringing parents of the pupils who have the most ticks over a week's worth of lessons.


When they say that they were not the only person talking, as well as inviting them to share names with you, use an analogy I have found handy. Tell them that if you are stopped by the police for speeding in your car, you can't get out of it by telling them that the guy in front of you was speeding, too - caught is caught. Just because you can't catch everyone doesn't mean that you can't catch anyone. It has worked for me in the past.

The expert view

You are going through what almost every teacher has gone through, and will until the universe succumbs to entropy and chaos. You are new to them. They do not respect your authority.

But they will. You are doing the right thing: laying down the law, setting the boundaries and then enforcing them. But you must keep it up. It takes far longer than a few weeks; it takes months for some classes, and the whole year for a few. But eventually they will come to see that you mean what you say. If you give up, they will renew their disobedience; if you persist, the clamour will dissipate and you will be gifted with another classroom entirely, one governed by law and structure.

It seems far away now, but keep setting detentions, make them severe, make them boring and full of hard work. Make them places no sane pupil would want to be, make the class learn that you will not be crossed, because you care about them and you know what the rules need to be in order for them to learn. You'll get there. Good luck.

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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