The Behaviour Question

22nd February 2013 at 00:00

I'm in my second year of teaching and struggling to manage a top set of 30 Year 11s. I really like this class: they are polite, funny, give insightful answers and most of them seem to enjoy the lessons. The issue I have is that whenever they are doing a task, about half of them will not stop chatting. Because they are high ability, and a little arrogant, a lot of reward systems I use with other classes seem babyish and patronising to them. Could it be that the work I am setting is not right for them?

What you said


If they are doing the work well, despite seeming not to concentrate, then maybe they're too clever for the work you're setting and you need to make it more challenging. If their lack of concentration is manifesting itself in substandard work then just deal with it. Reasonably at first, but robustly if necessary, and with escalating sanctions. Top sets are more articulate and may be more skilful at complaining about you and getting parents on their side, so make sure you can justify any punishments you issue. But teachers are entitled to instruct pupils to work quietly and to sanction those who disobey, whatever set they are in.


There isn't a magic correlation between ability and behaviour; bright kids will still push the boundaries to see what they can get away with. You don't have to be an ogre, you can still have fun with any class, but the top sets need rules and boundaries just as much as the others. Ask yourself this simple question: would the pupils learn more if you were tighter on behaviour? If the answer is yes, step it up. You're not their friend, you're their teacher, so don't be afraid to act like it.

The expert view

Even the most able need to follow the regulations of the room, which are designed to benefit everyone. Their chatting deters others from working and it reduces the amount they can achieve. It also reduces the effort they put into the task you have set.

Whatever the motive for their misbehaviour - be it benign or malignant - the outcome is the same. And if you have politely made it clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable, and they continue to behave in the same way, then it deserves the same consequence as any disruptive behaviour: in this case, a short detention, working quietly.

Do not fret that this may deter them from participating in the future. You are the teacher, and you set the standard. Good luck.

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

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