The Behaviour Question

16th November 2012 at 00:00

Behaviour in my lessons is getting worse. I used to see four or five pupils behaving unacceptably every session - now it can be more than 10. Year 8s destroy my books and Year 9s are equally vile, throwing pens when I'm not looking, chewing gum, lying to me, arguing. And that's with my trying to lay down the law, making use of praise and being consistent from Day 1. I can't do anything. They say I'm the only one who gives them detentions. But I've gone part-time, so following up behavioural incidents isn't easy.

What you said


If you are part-time then after-school detentions might be difficult, so why not stick to break- or lunchtime detentions? Kids often hate them more because they're losing time with pals so will do more to avoid them. Also, they don't necessarily require a call home.

Mr W

Don't resort to constant shouting and displays of irritation and frustration. Stay calm, speak softly and plug away at them assertively and not aggressively. Be determined to raise the standard of discipline and they will thank you for it and start to enjoy your lessons. In the meantime, though, punish them for their cheek!

The expert view

Hmm, sounds like you are doing all the right things: consistency - check; praise - check. I suggest the following ways forward:

As you are part-time, make sure that every detention you set is logged ruthlessly and then enlist someone else to take detentions when you are not there. Your head of department would be the obvious candidate. If they cannot do it then proceed around the tree of hierarchy until someone will.

If detentions slip through the net, or if someone no-shows and the follow-up does not happen then the pupils just think, "Brilliant, we might get away with it." It ends up being as bad as if you didn't have any sanctions or boundaries at all.

A child bragging that "You're the only one who gives me detentions," is a bit like me bragging that I beat only my wife. It is not something for them to be proud of. Maybe the other teachers don't bother, but they should. And it is their behaviour in your lessons that counts here.

Plan lessons for behaviour - get stuck in with the worksheets if you have to - because behaviour is prior to learning. Set them something that the nice ones can pursue by themselves, leaving you to get the others on task, taking names as appropriate.

Make sure you have a seating plan.

Somehow, find time for phone calls.

You are a good teacher. You care; you try hard; you are giving everything you can; and you want them to do well. Be kinder to yourself and forgive yourself for the failings of others. Keep at it. 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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