First get control of your class

4th November 2005 at 00:00
You can look at some of your colleagues and immediately see their past.

When I look at Vince I know he must have been the college anarchist.

He is the first to speak out on student rights. All decisions must be referred to the student council. Everything is an example of a capitalist conspiracy, a symptom of deprivation and enslavement. In most circumstances I would probably agree with him. But there is a problem.

Sadly he is hopeless. So when he reminds the leadership team of responsibilities, when he demands that the staffroom is redecorated, when he collects signatures for petitions against the war in Iraq, however just his argument, all is tainted by his underachievement in the classroom.

He cannot teach because he is unable to maintain discipline. It is recognised by everyone, especially his students. His classroom is a shambles, his lessons constantly disrupted and diverted. For Vince, behaviour is an issue to be discussed. All can be solved through co-operation and reason. When I am called to his class to deal with issues, he always mediates on the students' behalf.

It is good that someone preserves a belief in the essential goodness of human nature. I think Vince is our spirit and our soul. He still believes in education, how it can liberate and shape the society of the future. He still knows why he is doing the job.

However, the classroom is not a democracy. A dictatorship? Certainly. A benevolent dictatorship? I hope so. We cannot escape from the fact that teachers must assert themselves. We have to be winners in the trench warfare of the classroom. If you cannot win that battle then you cannot teach.

That is what makes teaching special. There is a huge barrier to overcome before you can even begin to do your job. It is important to maintain your idealism but first you have to shut them up.

The classroom can be dirty work. You have to dominate. Successful teachers have different ways of achieving this. You do not need to bully or intimidate. But you have got to be boss. Sometimes we need to lose our temper but we are always in control.

I wish Vince would get cross now and again, be assertive. Teachers sometimes must go beyond reason to achieve a reasonable end. Until he does this with some sort of conviction he will remain a figure of fun. Fear has no place in the classroom. But a good shout now and then can restore the power balance.

Ian Roe is a teacher in north Wales

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