Tales from new teachers

5th June 2015 at 01:00
sticking to my strategies

The problem

You would think that by the end of my first year in teaching

my behaviour management would have been proficient. For the most part, it was: my students were engaged and disruption was minimal. But there was one class that I just couldn't get to behave.

We're not talking chairs being thrown out of windows or all-out war, but the class was certainly unruly. It would often take 15 minutes just to get them calm enough to start teaching, and then my lessons were frequently interrupted by students shouting, walking around or questioning everything I did.

This was not only depressing from a professional point of view but it was also personally distressing. I dreaded every lesson with that class. I tried every tool at my disposal but I just couldn't seem to get through to them.

The options

I sought advice from my mentor, who gave me a pitying look when she saw the class list. She explained that some groups were worse than others, and that this particular class contained a high number of children who were known for being tricky.

We ran through some of the strategies I had used and she seemed confused about why they had not worked. Then she asked how long I had used them for and the problem became clear.

I had rolled each strategy out like the courses of a tasting menu: deliver it, discard it and move on to the next one. Rather than consistently enforcing my strategies, I was jumping from one to the next, leaving a trail of abandoned techniques behind me.

My mentor explained that there was no consistency and the students had realised that these were short-term measures. Every strategy I abandoned they took as a victory and my authority was getting progressively weaker.

The result

I devised a plan with my mentor. We talked through possible strategies and chose two that I would run from that point until the end of term.

We drew up a seating plan to break up the main groups of troublemakers and distribute them evenly across the class. We set a clear discipline structure: the first offence received a warning, the second offence earned a lunchtime detention, the third got an after-school detention and the fourth meant intervention from the leadership team.

In the very next lesson, I moved the students to their new seats and explained the new system. And I gave out a lot of detentions.

Since then, things have got easier. The boundaries are clear, and although there are still incidents of bad behaviour, I no longer dread my lessons with this class.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in the South West of England

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