Behaviour - Unruly girl

25th June 2010 at 01:00
The problem: I'm a secondary PGCE student assigned to a top-set Year 9 class. Most of them are manageably boisterous, but one girl constantly goads me for a fight. I want to avoid a scene, but how do I handle her?

What you said

"Bite the bullet, apply the school sanctions. And never give in."


"How about just ignoring her? Is it possible that she is simply attention- seeking? Focus on the good kids and blank her as far as possible. Set her really low standards as if she is actually not very bright and praise her as and when she achieves them. Keep calm, be pleasant, but don't let her feel that she is the centre of attention."


"The worst thing you could do would be to feed this little madam's ego by giving her the pleasure of seeing you explode at her antics. That's the kind of reaction she will eat up with a long spoon. But you have a far more effective weapon in your arsenal that she will never have: you are a member of the teaching community, and you can enlist every other teacher and school rule in your support."



Remain calm and rigorously and consistently use the school behaviour systems to manage her behaviour in your lessons. If she needs to be removed from the classroom, do not see this as a failure: she is being removed to enable the other pupils to learn.

Before every lesson you must plan for her inclusion in dynamic, engaging and varied learning activities. Try using different seating plans and groupings and note where she works well and what types of activities seem to motivate her. Speak to her form tutor and find out how she behaves across the school. If there are areas where she is working well, ask to observe the lessons. Speak to the class teachers about how they manage her behaviour.

If your timetable allows, you could also ask to shadow her timetable for the day. This will enable you to observe her behaviour in a variety of settings and see ways in which you might try to secure good behaviour from her.

Ask to meet the girl with your mentor. At this meeting, discuss the impact her behaviour is having on the learning of the whole class. Agree targets for her behaviour, which you then monitor on a class or departmental report with clear consequences for failure and rewards for success. Discuss these expectations with her parents and provide them with regular reviews of her progress.

This process will serve to open a dialogue between the two of you. You could ask her what helps her to learn and offer to incorporate any realistic strategies into your planning. You could also try giving her additional responsibility in your classroom, perhaps handing out books. This will keep her engaged and allow the lesson to proceed with less disruption.

Mark Lewis is deputy head of Marshland High School in Norfolk. For more behaviour advice, go to



- Try to find activities that interest her.

- Vary seating patterns to see if this makes a difference to her behaviour.

- Speak to colleagues and her form tutor about how they manage her behaviour.

- Agree targets with the girl and keep her parents up-to-date with progress.


- Be afraid that removing her from class will be seen as an admission of failure.

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