It might be easier to tame lions

16th July 2004 at 01:00
Is it true, sir, that you wanted to be a lion-tamer?" asked the new Year 7 pupil. He'd obviously heard the rumours about my "individual" style of discipline - though say what you like, it was a method that worked. But times change and I open-mindedly attended training on new approaches to behaviour management.

Feeling well-informed, I said goodbye to Mr Hostile, who barked no-nonsense commands while waving an imaginary upturned chair and stick and began to introduce Mr Assertive-But-Fair, using the rules-with-consequences method.

Young Jordan was my first challenge. He dared to attend my lesson in the banned denim jacket.

"JordanI jacket!" I snapped, momentarily lapsing into my former ways. Then, remembering my mantra - "rules and consequences!" - I tried again.

"You know denim is not allowed," I said, nicely. "So don't wear it tomorrow orI" (Quick! Think of a consequence!)I "or I'll burn the jacket with you in it."

You can tell I was a beginner at this. But Jordan grinned. His classmates grinned. They knew me of old. What a pity Jordan's mum didn't share his sense of humour. The next morning I received a curt letter from her to say that if I threatened him again she'd be contacting her solicitor.

Who says boys don't tell their parents what goes on at school?

Time to refine my approach, I decided. So, when Tracey came into my classroom eating a bag of crisps, I opted for the criticise-the - behaviour-not-the-pupil method.

"I'm just getting a book from the store cupboard," I said, lightly. "And I trust that no crisps will be in evidence by the time I'm ready to start the lesson."

All that training must have addled my brain, for the consequences mantra kicked in againI "Otherwise," I added, "I'll put the bag of crisps on the floor and stamp on it."

Tracey giggled. And the class giggled. And instantly there was not a crisp to be seen or heard.

This method seemed to be working. Until the next day, when a letter of complaint arrived from Tracey's mum, pointedly asking whether I knew the cost of a bag of crisps these days.

This never happened with old Mr Hostile. Everyone knew where they stood: no reasoning, no consequences, no room for parental interference. Just the simple knowledge that if Mr Hostile said you didn't do it, then you didn't do it.

Forget the mantra - the lion-tamer is back.

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