Tales from new teachers

18th April 2014 at 01:00
terrible twosome

The problem

Before beginning the new school year, I was buzzing. My classroom was organised, the walls were decorated and my plans were coming together for the term ahead.

Then I met my class and realised that this year was going to be a huge learning curve. I tried to pre-empt behaviour issues by discussing individuals with previous class teachers. I carefully arranged learning groups based on their advice. Over the first few months, I grew very close to the class and the children knew that they could come to me to talk about anything.

However, I soon realised that a couple of girls were so desperate for attention that they would interrupt every lesson, shout out, complain about the behaviour of others, refuse to work cooperatively and throw tantrums when they didn't get their own way. All I could think was, "What am I doing wrong?" I believed it must be something about me and I eventually broke down in front of my mentor and my headteacher. Everything had become too much.

The options

The headteacher and mentor handed me a box of tissues, gave me a big hug and explained that these behaviours had been building up for a while; it wasn't just me.

Although I now saw that other teachers had felt this way, I did not want this issue to spiral further out of control in my class. My mentor offered to focus on the behaviour management strategies I was using during my next observation and my headteacher got the students' parents on side by initiating difficult conversations about behavioural issues. After taking advice from our educational psychologist, we decided that the only way to tackle this was as a team. We created "positive behaviour diaries" and the girls set new targets each week. My comments were signed and stamped by the headteacher and parents every day.

The result

Slowly, things began to change. I highlighted one or two issues each week and reinforced these targets when attention-seeking behaviours occurred, which reminded the girls that other teachers and parents were aware of what was happening in class.

I am only just beginning to believe in myself and my ability to respond to difficult behaviour. Without the support of my mentor, headteacher and the students' parents, this year would have been so much trickier. This strategy may be time-consuming, but it feels worthwhile when I am able to tackle issues as they arise and have a better dialogue with other staff and stronger communications with parents. It might have been easier to accept the difficult behaviour, but I have learned that this would not have helped the children in the long term.

The writer is a teacher in Scotland

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