Non-stop talkers

15th October 2004 at 01:00
Liz Henning is associate adviser for Manchester local education authority.

A former head of maths in Rochdale, she is a troubleshooter, giving support in behaviour management and maths teaching strategies to teachers in the city "I find that whenever I have a new class - and in my job I am facing new classes all the time - drawing up a contract is useful. I ask students what they want from me: they want me to be fair, to help them learn, interesting lessons, and so on. I tell them I ask for one thing and one thing only: that when I am speaking they listen, they do not speak. A contract gives you some leverage.

"It's important not to get drawn into an argument. Avoid letting the lesson break for the child because then you've thrown a lot of power their way. I look at the child, I hold their gaze while carrying on teaching; if they carry on talking I stretch out my arm with an open hand towards them, not pointing, while continuing to teach; then I might click my fingers; then I walk towards the child and stand in their vicinity; then I put my hand in their personal space, by their books for example, not touching them, to let them know I'm on their case.

"If none of that works, only then will I break for a word. Sometimes I tell them I'm bored with it all and that surprises them into silence, because boredom is their territory. Then comes a warning, followed by an order to stand outside the door, followed by detention. I do the detentions myself so children know I follow things through."

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