When I was training to teach, I watched an experienced teacher effortlessly silence a difficult Year 8 class. He seemed simply to stand there and the pupils were quelled. I've been fascinated by school discipline ever since. And whereas once it seemed a form of innate mysticism, now I realise there are definite skills which can help to create an ethos of structure, security, calm and order.
These books examine ways of shaping pupil behaviour. Eddie McNamara's is the approach of a seasoned educational psychologist. At first I kicked against the talk of "functional antecedents and conse-quences". I was ready to dismiss this as another book about school life by someone who had fled from it. But McNamara's thesis proves cogent and stimulating. Pupils' behaviour can be shaped and improved, he argues, by considering a range of factors - from groupings and environmental factors to teaching and learning styles.
Most usefully, he provides a wide range of sample documents such as records for documenting pupil behaviour, report cards and self-assessment sheets. Many of these give responsibility for behaviour back to the student - something school sanctions don't always manage. The result is a lively and thought-provoking working handbook that members of a school's pastoral team may find useful in developing their thinking.
Quality Circle Time in the Secondary School places similar emphasis on getting students to take responsibility for their actions. I'd anticipated a rather pious account of full-throttle happiness and minimal learning. In fact, the authors make a convincing case for the igour of quality circle time: students talking openly on a range of issues within set rules. They show how circle time can enhance the ethos, lead to improved self-esteem and more self-led learning.
While there will be members of your tutor and teaching teams who will need some convincing of its value, the sheer range of suggested activities and self-evaluation prompts in this book justifies the price of a copy.
A student teacher at my school is currently trying to convince me that I should turn up at my Year 11 English class in character as Macbeth. He says it will help the students gain a grasp of the issues of the play, but I'm just too self-conscious. I can happily play the role of man in a suit strutting the corridors, but the Thane of Cawdor?
Seasoned practitioners Gavin Bolton and Dorothy Heathcote would have few such qualms. They write a lively account of the uses of role-play, which is clearly not aimed at drama teachers. They prescribe such approaches for management training, doctors and the police force. One chapter was tried out with managers from Northern Gas.
I recognised many of the techniques and situations. I've used some of them, but how they would work with my friend Simon who runs a small manufacturing business, I'm not sure. Perhaps his tool-makers would leap at the chance to role-play industrial relations or customer support. Certainly the book provides a strong rationale for using such techniques and an astonishing catalogue of possible situations to use and adapt.
All three books are useful reminders of what is at the heart of successful teaching - positive relationships with students. They offer insights into ways we can all develop those essential, central skills. And they make good starting points for further reflection.
Geoff Barton is deputy head of Thurston community college,Suffolk