Behavioural difficulties

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
A friend of mine was teaching Romeo and Juliet to a Year 9 class recently. The class was working happily in pairs, with the exception of two boys who seemed intent on avoiding work. My friend sat down with the pair, making sure that they understood what was needed, and then left them while he spoke to other pupils.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two boys engaged in low-level disruption, hiding the pencil case of the pupil behind them, and so forth. This time, he separated them and made them work on their own.

He then saw one of these pupils leave his seat and begin to annoy another child.

My friend - aware as we all are now that he must not lay a hand on the child, even to the extent of guiding him gently back to his seat - forcefully ordered the boy to sit down and was told to fuck off.

The lesson was disrupted for a further 10 minutes while a member of senior management was found to remove the offending child. Later, the boy's mother praised her son for standing up for himself, and it is being hinted to my friend that perhaps his behaviour management was a touch confrontational and that maybe he needs to review his classroom practices.

My friend was, unsurprisingly, rather confused by the rapidity with which the behaviour of an idle and abusive little boy came to be seen as a failure on his part, but I am now able to send him the definitive advice as given by David Perks (TES, April 18) in his letter: stand up for yourself, do the job you are supposed to do, tell children how to behave and make sure they do so.

Thanks, Dave. Life must be so simple for you.

FRANK STARTUP

46B West Street Farnham Surrey

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