Get the bad guy in your sights

5th May 2000 at 01:00
THE Nottingham researcher was sure of his facts. If teachers didn't blame children so much, there would be more success in the classroom. According to his findings, children misbehave because teachers are unfair, have bad moods, shout all the time, pick on pupils and show favouritism. In the same newspaper, the First Minister stated that pupils should not be written off "for something as basic and artificial as their postcode".

So there we have it. The child who smashed a brick through the windscreen of a teacher's car when he was supervising the evening disco had been shouted at in school. The two boys who held a pupil upside down over the central stairwell were reacting to a teacher's bad mood.

The primary pupils who torched their school one evening and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage were annoyed at not being picked to watch the class when the teacher legged it to the staffroom for a fly smoke.

Such a distorted view of the world of pupil behaviour represents fiction as fact with Pinocchio proportions. Of course, teachers can be guilty of impatience, anger, partiality and raising their voice - but these are human faults, rare when compared with the encouragement, interest, dedication and humour with which they approach their daily work.

f the notion of social inclusion is meaningful at all, it has to mean - on occasion - protecting the majority of pupils who attend, who behave and who want to work, from a group whose sole intent is disruption.

When the Government seeks a reduction of a fifth in the number of school exclusions it ignores the fact that there are some pupils who are, simply, badly behaved - and who may, after every positive response and attempt to nudge them towards co-operation, require to be removed from the classroom for the benefit of the majority. And yes, that does solve the problem, at least for the remainder of the group who want to learn, and some of whom would be influenced for the bad as well as for the good.

One school, happy to receive its pound;30,000 of Alternatives to Exclusion money, waited eagerly for the difference it would make. A troubleshooter was appointed who would hoover up the miscreants and return them later, reformed and eager for learning.

Within a few weeks the teacher in question had redefined the job and saw the role as interviewing singly those timid pupils with low self-esteem, no doubt encouraging them to break the monotonous silence of the interview room while the woods were burning round about.

Who says discipline's a problem?

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