An Argument Worth Having?

A student doesn’t have a pen. You loan them a pen. Next lesson, the same student doesn’t have a pen. Now what?

Let’s assume – because I’m a professional teacher and, if you’re reading this, probably so are you – that we’re not talking about a student who (a) has specific needs making pen recall a problem or (b) a student whose family/carers can’t supply a pen. In each case of course it’s our job, as a school, to sort them out. Let’s ignore the students who usually manage it but, like everyone including me, sometimes forgets. No, this is a student who habitually fails to bring a pen to school.

This is a choice.

This student has learned that not having a pen somehow offers a benefit. Perhaps it means they can demand attention, trying to pick a fight at the start of a lesson. They can start conversations with classmates about borrowing a pen, reinforcing friendships or subtly exerting dominance. It means they can waste time and disrupt the starter. Maybe they’re doing this to avoid writing. It’s hard to know.

Of course their motivation is important, but in this case we also have a choice.

  1. Refuse and see them waste more time, complain that we “don’t value their learning,” and perhaps refuse to write.
  2. Give them a pen, without consequences.
  3. Give them a pen, with consequences.
All of these take time. Enforcing consequences takes more time, either within the lesson eg recording names or afterwards for short detentions (or both). This time is increased if we actually expect to get the pen back (in which case our colleagues will face the same dilemma).  Because this is not an ‘and’ situation. Like so many other examples in teaching, this is an ‘or’ situation. Doing this means less time to do something else. There is always a price to be paid, something the government forgets whenever they have a new initiative to promote.
This is learning time. Wasting learning time is not okay.
If a student says they care about their grades, but actually spends every evening on their XBox, then we can reasonably suggest they don’t care that much about their grades. If we say we care about learning, we have an obligation to spend time helping our students learn. Whether you favour group work or teaching from the front, ‘progressive’ or ‘didactic’ methods, inquiry-based or core knowledge, I think we can agree that learning takes time. Less time means less learning. This is not rocket science. (Rocket science is more fun.)Teaching is not just about our subject knowledge. Students come to school to learn about life. To be, for want of a better word, civilised. The same as we’re not born knowing how to use a knife or fork, we’re not born organised. If students learn that they will be provided with equipment that they could reasonably bring themselves, they are learning dependence. We are teaching them to be needy. We are effectively preventing them from becoming self-reliant. We are giving them an incentive not to be responsible for their own pens and, by extension, their own learning.

Of course having a pen doesn’t automatically make a student a good learner. But not having a pen definitely makes it more difficult. Compare this with the things we so often pick up on, such as uniform. Now, I’m not starting the argument about whether having a uniform at all, or a blazer, or whatever, makes a difference. But I think most teachers, asked whether they would prefer students to have a pen or a tie, wouldn’t see this as a difficult choice. So why do we make a lot more fuss about uniform than equipment?
Of course I address this within my classroom. Of course many students learn to bring basic equipment most of the time. There are many lines in the sand we could draw, but this has the benefit of being one most adults wouldn’t really argue with. Even most teenagers find it hard to justify once they’re away from an audience. But like so many other things in school, it needs a united front. I don’t really care about my colleagues’ policies on group work, homework schedules or underlining titles. But if they’re loaning pens out freely when I make a point about the problem, they’re making my life more difficult.

When I rule the world, schools will check equipment instead of uniform at the start of the day. In fact, imagine a school where uniform rules only apply to those kids who have gained three or more debits the previous week. If they want to wear their own clothes, they have to behave. Imagine what that would be like…

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Reluctant Teenage Readers

I tweeted a while back how frustrating it was many of a class of fourteen year olds seemed incapable of reading for fifteen minutes without distraction. I could understand it if I had handed out copies of The Origin of Species, but they choose the reading material. They can bring in their own books or borrow them from the school library (or my own selection), or they can bring magazines.

Admittedly, I am probably also a long way from ‘normal’ when it comes to reading. It’s an unusually busy week when I don’t read four or five books, usually a mixture of fiction and fact. I have an upstairs book, a downstairs book, one in the car and several on my Android. (Currently You Can’t Read This Book by Nick Cohen, The Perfect Ofsted English Lesson by David Didau aka @LearningSpy, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching by Fisher and Frey and Where The Bodies Are Buried by Chris Brookmyre, if you’re interested.) I would rather read than sleep and, in fact, often do. So it was always going to be hard to understand their extreme reluctance.

So I did some research.

An old item in the Telegraph discussed a link between kids reading at 16 and a higher chance of having a professional-grade job in later life. Sadly this probably says more about the kids who voluntarily read a lot as teenagers, than ways to encourage readers at this age. The comments below this article in the Guardian are quite depressing, and there’s really not much in the way of solutions. A more recent article on their professional network is more constructive, but still focuses on the books that could be offered.

LoveReading4kids is an online bookstore with a section for reluctant readers, but it’s more about books than strategies. Their downloadable leaflet is more aimed at parents than teachers. I had a look at BookTrust, but their research page has more about evaluation of their programmes than anything else.

The research page at the Literacy Trust was much more useful, although most of the ideas they have for engaging with reluctant readers need a whole-school approach. Not much I can do alone for Year 9 students in one form time a week! The most recent survey results, however, were interesting. I’d recommend having a look yourself if you’re interested, but I was shocked by how little the young people surveyed read for pleasure.

55% of KS4 students (58% of boys) read once a week or less. A third of KS4 students (40% of boys) agreed with the statement “I only read when I have to.” This covered all aspects of reading, including magazines and online, not just books. And it’s despite around three quarters agreeing that “the more I read, the better I get,” with roughly the same response across all ages.

Of course, difficulty in reading is identified as a major factor putting young people off reading. There are many approaches to this, none really applicable in form time. In my situation, I don’t think it’s a significant factor as they have a free choice of material and our library is well-stocked with a range of options. Another problem is that even those who do happily read seem content to stick with familiar and non-challenging books, long after their skill level increases, perhaps increasing boredom.

I suspect part of the issue is that they are using this area to assert their independence and provoke confrontation. The social cachet from defying the teacher – even passively, by repeatedly reading the blurb on the back instead of the book itself – is worth the few minutes of boredom.

So what can I do? It does feel like a broader approach is called for than the options available to me in form time. The research has certainly highlighted the problem, and in some ways reassured me that it’s not a ‘local’ issue. But it doesn’t solve it. Tried so far:

  • Rewards/sanctions for those who repeatedly remember/forget.
  • Suggesting 200word mini-essays “Why I would rather be bored than read.”
  • Keeping a selection of my books to hand.
  • Sending students to the library, where we have a range of choices including graphic novels.
  • Reminding them of magazines that they could use.
  • Passing on recommendations from other students of good books.

I’ll pass on my comments to the Head of Year – it’s a mandated form activity – but suspect I will be told to persevere for at least the remainder of the year. Any other suggestions?

Behaviour Management by Flapjack

This isn’t quite as weird as it seems. Last year I had a very talkative (but good-natured) year 9 class. They weren’t malicious, but they just couldn’t be quiet; frequent interruptions and conversations, which were irritating even though they were often on-topic. So I started to write the numbers 10-1 on the board. Each time I had to repeat a request for quiet, or they interrupted me or each other during whole-class discussion, I rubbed a number off. I explained that we would only have time for a ‘fun’ plenary if we finished above 5. Down to zero would mean a silent lesson next time – I never had to use this, not once. But if they managed three ‘perfect 10’ scores in a term, I would treat them to something, and they suggested home-baking (it seems I had a reputation through older brothers and sisters who had done DofE). I should point out that this was in addition to dealing with individuals, by all the usual methods, who showed themselves to be persistent offenders.

This was one of their favourite recipes. It’s a hybrid version using a concept from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (‘Nicola’s Zesty Flapjacks’ in the River Cottage Family Cookbook), but starting with a classic Mary Berry recipe.

  1. Preheat oven to 140 C and grease pans (2x 8inch round or equivalent) if they’re not silicone. (And go and buy some silicone pans).
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 225g butter with the zest of a large orange, 225g brown sugar and 75g golden syrup.
  3. Simmer 100g sultanas in a small saucepan with the juice of the orange.
  4. Once butter/sugar mixture is all melted, turn heat down to lowest setting and add 350g porridge oats. Mix well.
  5. Add in sultanas, simmering juice and the secret ingredient, 2tbsp lemon curd. Mix well.
  6. Tip into baking pans, pat down firmly and bake for 20-30 minutes.
  7. They should still be slightly soft when they come out – how long it takes depends on what kinds of oats etc. They’ll harden as they cool so you may want to score them so they cut easily, but don’t chop up until firm. Makes between 20 and 30 pieces.
  8. Add ‘touch and die‘ sign while cooling on a rack.

These do not count as one of your five a day. Sadly. I have a few other variants (maple and pecan, honeycomb and drizzled chocolate) which I can blog if people are actually interested. I’d also love to hear (maybe even see pics?) of anyone’s batches, variations and improvements.

Bill Rogers on Behaviour (1of2)

Last week I did a one day course – called a conference for some reason – on behaviour run by Creative Education. The speaker was Bill Rogers, who if you don’t know (of) him is an Australian teacher and consultant who focuses on how teachers can improve the behaviour of their classes. You can also read some of his material on the Creative Education blog or via Google Books here.

On the whole I think I got a lot from the day. To get them out of the way, my gripes were minor – no WiFi which made it harder to check ideas and references through the day, and the books for sale were still priced higher than on Amazon, for example. The facilities in the hotel were good and there was the chance to swap ideas with colleagues over the very good lunch. I didn’t really get much from the exhibitors, which were available through the fairly long breaks, but then that’s because as a regular classroom teacher I’ve no control over budgets for things like VLEs or new equipment. I leave that to the important people.

There were three sessions with a total of about four and a half hours of lecturing fom Bill. And it was lecturing; through most of the time he was speaking from the front with little interaction from the audience, of whom there were over 100. There was some time for questions, but it was done as ‘hands up’, each of them then triggering a ten minute response. I wonder if written questions submitted over lunch would have allowed more substantive answers?

Now, I’m not complaining about the lack of Powerpoint; I must confess my heart sank when I received a booklet with at least 35 pages of content. But the material (which I’ve since been supplied electronically, to make these posts easier – Thanks Pooky!) was made up of essays, book excerpts and examples of some of the forms that Bill talked about, rather than something which matched the content of his talk precisely. I’ve since used it when reviewing the notes I made during the sessions (electronically via EverNote, if you care – much more readable than scribbled handwriting!). While talking Bill used cartoons on OHTs to illustrate his ideas, as well as a sometimes bewildering array of abbreviations and acronyms. (I had to admit to an unpleasant shiver when he talked about being a very visual learner.) I’ve tried to show a few respresentative extracts from the handouts, interspersed with my notes below.

So what was it all about? The following is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a complete record. Rather they are the highlights from my notes, matched up with my personal reflections on how I plan to apply the ideas to my own practice. I’m sure many colleagues use this breakdown, into notes and actions, for everything from inset to meeting minutes. If any of my notes differ from Bill’s original format, my apologies – the fault is clearly mine.

Introduction

What is behaviour management all about? Think about where we can be on the scale; realistically we cannot hope for Control, the kids have a choice. We should consider Compliance a minimum step, where students follow instructions (despite eye-rolling or complaining). The last level suggested by is Co-operation.

What about Collaboration? This would be where kids play an active part in suggesting avenues, setting aims and extending themselves, more than just co-operating with ideas from someone else.

We all get into habits, good and bad. This applies to teachers and students, and it takes time to set up new routines, so that better habits can be learned by all. It is easy to overreact to relatively minor issues, and once you have done this it means you must deal more harshly with more serious issues. The severity of consquences is often fairly irrelevant – it’s set by the context, both of your lessons and the school as a whole. What matters is that the consequences are certain.

What bad habits have I been in? How can I address them?

Dealing with incidents during lessons

Tactical Ignoring is about choosing which behaviours will not matter, so you will not ‘notice’ them. Where you set your threshold will vary, but a good way to consider it is to think about how it affects learning. Focus on whether behaviours are primary (what you address because it matters) or secondary (irrelevant accessories which should usually be ignored, even if they are irritating).

Where I will set levels? Issues here in terms of my choices vs school rules – when does ignoring irrevelant behaviour undermine colleagues? I spent some time thinking about this a while back and posted about my own decisions. Now to make sure I am consistent.

Describe Obvious Reality is a reminder that asking questions of students who are misbehaving is often a bad idea. “Why…?” and other motivation-based, open-ended questions, are an invitation to grandstanding and time-wasting. Instead state what they are doing in way that can’t be argued with or misinterpreted. If you need to ask a question, it should be straightforward, ideally checking recall of instructions or class procedures.

Next give students a Directed Choice, so that they are clear on the expectation and what they need to be doing. Allow them Take-up Time; it’s important that during this you continue to Tactically Ignore any secondary behaviours. If they don’t get back to what they need to be doing, Clarify Consequences with them and allow further Take-up Time before you isolate them, either within the room or elsewhere. Any point where you have to stop teaching, cue the class as well as recognising the specific issue.

My interpretation; this makes explicit that you value learning behaviour from (majority of) the class over disruptive or distracted behaviour. It also acts as a prompt that the problem is affecting the class, not just the teacher.

Timeout – in terms of putting kids outside the classroom, but accompanied – is of limited use. If the issue is a severe one then they should not be unaccompanied – send them to (or have them collected by) SMT. If it’s a relatively minor issue, then sending them out is often seen as an overreaction. Instead, keep on track with lesson and then ask them to come back in their own time. (see ‘Interventions’ below).

I think I’ve overused short time-outs by having kids stood outside my lesson too much. It makes them the focus, rather than the learning that everyone else is doing, and means I have to disrupt the flow of my teaching.

Interventions and punishments

Whenever intervening in class, try to follow the principle of Least Instrusive action. This has a dual purpose, not only reducing the effect on the remainder of the class (in some cases they will not even realise what you have done) but also allowing students to make the choice themselves.

Follow the 3 Rs: Related, Reasonable, Respect.
Lines are pointless. Any punishment should be related to the action the kid is in trouble for. It needs to be proportional; beware overreacting, even (especially?) if the student is a repeat offender. Finally students and teacher need to maintain a working relationship despite issue. This is part of offering, and being seen to give, a fresh start.

Try to avoid analysis of issues during lessons – is unfair on other students, plus there is the problem of kids playing to an audience, or still being upset. Have a chat after lessons, or as an informal lunchtime interview, when you work through these stages:

  1. Tune in – what emotional state is the student in.
  2. Emphasize the primary issue. With permission, mirror what they wee doing and explain why it was a problem in terms of learning – theirs or that of others.
  3. Give a right of reply. Use Partial Agreement to acknowledge legitimate issues or concerns, but try to avoid contradicting what they say, esp emotional responses.
  4. Return to the rules – this is what we need to happen. You are explaining/reminding, *not* justifying. It is not a negotiation.
  5. Separate amicably. (If this seems hard, remember it could always have been worse – student could have sworn or run off. Recognise this, they probably considered it.)

Sometimes we react to kids demonstrating that they have power in the classroom. If this happens then we need to ask if we are allowing students that power. What have we done – or failed to do – within the classroom that has resulted in them acting as ring-leaders?

Did ‘Fred’ and ‘Barney’ (Year 11s who have recently left) have power in my classroom? If I have to ask, the answer is yes. How did I let that happen? What can I do to avoid it happening again?

Some of this was probably about (mis)managing challenging behaviours within the classroom, some was about failing to ensure they felt they’d had a right of reply – part of the problem was perceived unfairness. In some ways doesn’t matter if it actually was unfair. I should have asked for – and will ask in the future – for more directed support with this small group of students.

Mentoring

For a difficult class, or to re-establish a teacher’s role within a class, team teaching as part of mentoring may be useful. As a first step, being observed can be very constructive. This doesn’t need to be SMT, simply having another professional in the room to give you a ‘back row view’ can be good. Grab a coffee afterwards (Bill had an interesting perspective on the difference between ‘having a moan’ and ‘having a winge’ about a class) and go through a simple structure:

  1. “Did you notice when you…”
  2. “Did you see the effects of…”
  3. “I would suggest you… because…”

Although not explicit I find the distinction between immediate and longterm consequences is useful as part of 2 – this is where resentment can build up, when a teacher enforces compliance and a student feels aggrieved.

One point made (both originally and reinforced during the brief question session) is that having a member of SMT as an ‘enforcer’, either in or out of a lesson, is more likely to cause than solve problems. Research has shown that the best outcomes are found where an experienced colleague comes in to team-teach instead.

This offers fresh perspective, and while the new routines and habits are being established it allows kids to respond ‘by proxy’, as they see that the teachers are working together. This reduces the chance for students to attempt divide and conquer tactics; these  are a problem in terms of attitude even when they are unsuccessful as far as punishments are concerned. The issue with mentoring, of course, is that to be effective it needs time from experienced staff and those who are less confident, both in lessons and for ‘debriefs’. Bill suggests that simply demonstrating that difficult students can be challenging for anyone is helpful for staff.

I’m certainly going to invite colleagues to watch my lessons, with the intention of focusing on behaviour routines. It’s far too easy to look at subject knowlesge, or teaching activities, and assume that behaviour is being effectively managed. I think in particular I’ll ask colleagues to comment on what steps they saw me taking to build and maintain a rapport, even with students who were challenging me in other ways. This small group of students is where I need to be more effective.

To Follow

This is becoming a rather longer post than planned. Rather than taking ages on it, the remainder – discussing the most effective ways to establish (or re-establish) a class, and ways to deal with students who show particularly difficult behaviour across their subjects – will follow in the next couple of days. Any ideas or comments would be welcomed below…

Evidence on Behaviour?

And next week, the Commons Select Committe for Catering will be hearing evidence from the latest participants of the TV show “Come Dine With Me.”

A year ago the newly appointed schools minister, Nick Gibb, made clear that he did not consider teaching skills to be important for teachers. Politicians clinging to ideology and bias is hardly a news story, and you only need to ask Professor David Nutt for further examples of government meddling in the sharing of evidence. More recently Gove’s suggestions – from 50 books a year for all students to the opportunities offered to tiny percentages of pupils through the free schools programme – have angered many who have seen them as stemming from a nostalgic view of private schooling.

On Tuesday, and since then, many teachers have been particularly frustrated by the Commons Select Committee for Education. They chose to interview some of those involved with Jamie Oliver’s controversial Dream School project. If you missed it, this idea involved asking university academics, Olympic sports personalities and Shakespearean actors to ‘teach’ disgruntled and disruptive students. To put this in perspective, they worked with the students for on average an hour a week over several months. They appeared to have little advance instruction in teaching techniques, but to rely on inspiring students with their wit, charm and considerable subject knowledge. It would be fair to say that their success was variable.

So naturally these are the people who understand behaviour issues in British schools.

The Select Committee has many alternative sources of information – but they seem to have forgotten that they asked for it only 3 months ago. This wasn’t a chance to get a contrasting viewpoint to reports from OfSted that emphasize the need for a range of agencies, counselling and mental health services and the use of teaching assistants. They didn’t refer to research from the General Teaching Council, or even their own Department for Education review pointing out the dangers of focusing on details of the curriculum at the expense of classroom management, especially for staff new to the profession. Many organisations, including the Teacher Support Network, have pointed out that free schools and academies tend to encourage competition rather than cooperation – making it harder for teachers to share ideas. And this is before I point out just how many world-class researchers in education could explain their evidence-based ideas, if asked. (@DeclanFleming did a great job tweeting his responses to the video, which he has since Storified.) Why are the opinions of a handful of non-teachers being seen as having equal weight to that of education professionals and the research they have undertaken?

The focus in government often seems to be on the small number of extreme cases, rather than on the persistent low-level disruption which makes life so difficult, and learning less successful, in classrooms over the country. Maybe I’m lucky that I don’t worry about students bringing knives to school. I’d just like students to be able to focus on learning, rather than a long series of exams and resits which they see as my problem, not theirs – because they know that grades matter to the school.

Dream School was about experts inspiring young people. The problem is that, to misquote Ben Goldacre, teaching is ‘a little more complicated than that’. Of course teachers – myself included – aim to inspire students. We are enthusiastic about our subjects and hopefully knowledgable. We hope to share our interest, the ideas that captivated us in the past and often still do. It was clear as the series continued that the ‘teachers’ at Jamie’s Dream School were also passionate and expert, and in some cases students were able to recognise this, even respond to it. But it was also painfully obvious how vital the other skills of teaching are to a functioning classroom. They struggled, partly because they failed to understand that teaching is more than inspiration. The kids on the show hadn’t failed in mainstream education just because Rolf Harris had never shown them how to draw a picture, or because they’d never dissected anything supervised by Professor Robert Winston.

To me – and I suspect to many teachers – Dream School was a huge missed opportunity. I would kill for the chance to share some of those resources with my classes, even to team-teach with some of those people. Imagine if instead of trying to reach just 20 students, a completely different programme had been created. Imagine if Tinchy Stryder and Alistair Campbell, Simon Callow and Ellen MacArthur had found out what teaching is really like – not by taking on a full timetable, complete with marking, but by visiting real schools.

Imagine 12 inner city schools being offered a schedule with a dozen visitors. Imagine Rolf Harris and Mary Beard seeing 5 classes in a day, supported by regular classroom staff. Imagine if Starkey, with his resources and knowledge, had been paired with an experienced and enthusiastic, professional. Imagine what we as teachers would have gained from the chance to talk to someone at the top of their field as a peer, to swap ideas and see what they were excited about sharing with the students. Imagine how much those young people could have learned if instead of playing pretend for the camera, it had been real. Imagine if Jamie had realised that teaching, just like history, law or science, is a career and a profession in its own right.

Reflecting On Behaviour

Sometimes I find myself wanting to talk – or write, or tweet – like a student. Not one of the mature, enthusiastic students, or the ones who ask challenging, interesting questions. I’m not referring to the kids who impress you with their optimism and their insight. I mean the ones who sulk, stick out their bottom lip and mumble under their breath, “but that’s not fair…”

The good news is that I’ve been sitting on this post – apart from a few more-or-less spontaneous tweets – for the last month or so. In that time the proximate causes of the original problem have vanished, coincidentally at the same time as Year 11 went on study leave. (Call of Duty/Farmville leave more like.) The bad news is that I’m still sulking because it feels like the consequences are lingering, and more for me than them.

On the whole my classroom management style works pretty well. I’m particularly pleased with the rapport I share with my KS3 and KS5 classes, extremes in age but often alike in enthusiasm. I try to follow the same guidelines we all aim for:

  • be firm but fair
  • be generous and specific with praise, focussed on effort as well as achievement
  • ignore minor transgressions where possible, warn when needed, then be balanced with consequences
  • start every lesson with a clean slate

So after some issues – and I should emphasize that I’m not denying them and am trying not to be defensive about them – I’ve been doing some serious reflection on how I manage my classroom. No teacher likes to feel that they’re being criticised. This is why I’ve tried to take time to formulate my response; I’ve been doing a quick audit of my behaviour strategies across my classes and asking a few trusted colleagues for their viewpoint. After all, ‘knee-jerk reactions’ can usually be summarised by the middle word of the phrase. Three facts have helped me to put the criticism in context, for myself if not for SMT. That I am happy to type this kind of comment is yet more evidence of the benefits of blogging and tweeting under a pseudonym.

  1. I used standard school channels to flag up the difficulties I had been having with these kids before Christmas
  2. The issues only appear to exist with a small group of Year 11 students who are known as ‘challenging’ across the curriculum
  3. SMT have only spoken to me about it after several of these students objected to being removed from a lesson they had chosen to disrupt

Of course, although this makes me feel slightly less paranoid about my teaching style as a whole, it doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there. It just means that I’m getting things wrong with a relatively small group of students. I’d probably feel a lot better about the course I’ve had suggested  to me if I had been offered it a few years ago, rather than now. But that’s not the point, right? Any opportunity for external CPD is not to be missed, and I’ll be the one there choosing what to focus on.

After some reflection, I have several strategies that I’m putting into place. After discussion with a couple of colleagues, it appears that part of the problem is that I’ve not been kicking enough kids out, or that when I have, I’ve not done it soon enough. I guess I was trying too hard to fix the issues myself when it wasn’t really my job. The result is that in some of these cases, the kids feel a lot more entitled to feel resentful of me than they would if the same censure had come from a member of SMT. I’ve also decided that I’m going to stop worrying about school rules that don’t directly impact on learning, with KS4 students. They arrive to my lessons – in some cases from the office of a Head of Year – wearing nail varnish or jewellery, so I’ve had enough of being the one who picks up on it. Some scribbling has given me a new approach, which encourages me to think of sending them out first option rather than as a last resort. Partly this is adapted from some recent training I’ve done on triage techniques (probably best if you don’t ask). It may horrify colleagues who focus on ‘catch them being good‘, which I do, I really do – but with some a different approach is called for.

Behaviour Flowchart: click on the image for a pdf version

Another tactic I’ve tried is to discuss with classes about levels of involvement. I did this using a discussion about averages, of all things. I pointed out that there are relatively few individuals at the extreme positive (make great contributions and help other students by what they say or do) or the extreme negative (disrupt the learning of others) end of the effort spectrum. I pointed out that students who failed to make reasonable progress due to their own laziness, sad as it was, would not be the priority of a teacher who was having to deal with actively disruptive members of a class. They agreed that it would be unfair to stop someone else from learning, so perhaps making that viewpoint more explicit will be helpful.

I’m also going to ask some colleagues to do some observations of me with my Year 10 classes, to hopefully pinpoint any issues before they return in September, already counting the hours until “Leavers’ Day”. I’m happy with my subject knowledge, my teaching and learning side of things is going well (as checked by my recent quick audits), so this seems like the priority. Personally I think this would be more constructive than a course, but hey. One thing I certainly plan to do is to document any and all referrals I do make, although perhaps now it’s gotten to this point SMT will be more helpful anyway. I guess the biggest change will be to try very hard not to see referring kids during a lesson – as opposed to afterwards, for information rather than action – as a failure. I’d tell a student teacher that, after all. Time for me to get back into good habits.

Things could be much worse, right? Perhaps if anyone has suggestions of how they’ve dealt with similar issues – a small group of pupils refusing to cooperate, but also convinced that a teacher is unfairly singling them out – I’d love to hear your ideas. It can’t just be me, surely?

Surely?