Arguing the pitch of a sneeze.
One of my big targets for my complimentary placement was to really get my behaviour management cracked. Well today I think I've turned a corner.
My view on behaviour in schools has evolved dramatically since I began this course. At first I thought all kids were angels and if they did display dirsuptive behaviour it was a direct result of low self-esteem, poor parenting and being misunderstood. These poor little darlings just needed to be spoken to nicely and given some one-on-one time. How naive of me. Yes, some kids do have troubled home lives and have been shouted at all of their lives. But some kids are just plain horrible.
I overheard a conversation in the staffroom today about a pupil that absolutely refuses to do any work in lessons. Nobody seems to know what to do with him, as gently coaxing him into doing work just falls on deaf ears. Teachers have been instructed not to confront him in case he kicks off!! So what options are we left with?! It is ridiculous that a 15 year old boy has got the entire teaching staff wrapped round his little finger. He literally puts his head down and sleeps his way through lessons. It won't be long before the other kids see this and follow suit. After all, why should he get away with doing nothing whilst they have to do work?! As teachers, we are failing him by pandering to his every request, heaven forbid he kick off. If he had been disciplined for kicking off from day one, with proper disciplinary measures, not just a warning and staying in for 10 minutes at lunch, then perhaps he wouldn't get away with it now. Unfortunately he's now going to leave school with very few qualifications, another number to add to the unemployment statistics. But it's ok, because although I failed him at school, I'll be supporting him with my taxes later in life.
I spoke to one teacher today who said that he thinks behaviour in the school seems to fluctuate. As the kids learn how to get round the (wishy-washy at best) behaviour for learning policy, behaviour plummets and then the powers that be crack down on behaviour and it improves again. In fact, one pupil in his tutor did mention to him that she used to be scared of teachers but now she isn't because she knows that they can't do anything. And I'm betting she's not the only pupil to have this startling revelation. As part of PSHE pupils experience a Prison Day where the local police force bring in a portable prison cell and police dogs to drum into the pupils the consequences of continued bad behaviour. I think schools should work more closely with the police. Pupils are so used to simply ignoring rules in school and suffering no more than a mark on their SIMS record and 30 minutes less of their time after school. Perhaps if their school records stayed with them for life they would be a little more careful about behaviour marks adding up. I put a mark on a particular child's record today who had 34 marks since the beginning of the school term, that's 10 a month! But I question what is being done about it. Why does this pupil continue to get behaviour marks when he has already stacked up such an impressive total?! Why isn't he in isolation or on report until his behaviour drastically improves? Why isn't he being denied privileges such as free time with his friends? And why aren't his parents bothered? This child in particular is considerably disrespective to any authority, but particularly women teachers. A teacher told me how she had seen him out with his family once and his Mum was wearing the traditional Burka worn by Muslim women. Apparently, she was quite clearly bottom of the pile in her own household. It seems we may be fighting a losing battle.
However, as I mentioned before, I did turn a corner today. I am an assistant tutor to a year 8 group and today we had a whole hour and 20 minutes off timetable for registration. This time was designed to be used for giving the pupils advice on choosing their options. They were expected to work through plans which helped them identify their strengths and weaknesses and would eventually guide them on which options to take. Unfortunately their tutor was off ill and, as I had only been with the form for 2 days, I did not have a clue what was going on! The cover teacher had been sent an email with instructions for the hour but we still had to find the various booklets and plans and reports that were hidden around the room. Eventually we managed to get each child on task and working well on their plans......with the exception of two siblings of the devil.
The pupils in this tutor haven't really experienced me as teacher yet as I've only been observing a class that a few of them are in. I'm pretty sure they know I'm a student teacher and, as I haven't got the build or face of a rugby-player, I haven't managed to strike fear into their hearts yet. In fact, the longer I go before I start teaching them, the longer I feel that I'm losing any control over them, as they realise I'm absolutely no threat to them whatsoever. When I started teaching I always thought that the kids shouldn't be scared of the teachers, and I still stand by this, but they absolutely should respect them. And sometimes, this respect is only earned by showing that you are completely and 100% in control and ther are very serious consequences for anybody who does not toe the line. So, back to the original story..... the devil children. It all started when one of them, let's call him Ben, started copying everything the teacher said in a squeaky annoying voice. She couldn't tell him off because he just copied her. She tried to stare him down but he seems to have a fantastic skill for keeping his eyes moist without blinking. The rest of the class found this hilarious and I thought, "right, I am not going to stand and watch a colleague get mocked by 12/13 year olds. I'm going to step in and I'm going to make it count". I knew that I was going to have to teach these kids in a week, and I'm pretty sure I'm getting observed with this class, so now was my chance to earn myself a reputation. So, mentally swatting the butterflies in my stomach, I said in my firmest voice, "Ben, outside now, this behaviour is completely unacceptable" and hoped to all the great and wonderful gods above that he would move. He did. I thank the Gods that he did really because I didn't have a back-up plan that wouldn't have got me arrested. He slouched out into the corridor and I made a show of slamming the door behind me. Now, listen up folks, I employed the classic technique of strategic bollocking. Here's how it goes...
1 x naughty kid (preferably the crying type)
1 x classroom full of kids you want to scare
1 x door with glass panels (doesn't work if it's soundproof)
1 x empty corridor (pretty embarrassing if it's full)
1 x good shouting voice
multiple dramatic arm gestures
a range of glares and scowls
1. Take the naughty kid outside.
2. Slam the door for dramatic effect.
3 Position yourself so that you can be clearly seen through the glass panels in the door by the classroom full of kids you want to scare.
4 Let rip. Make sure you shout loud enough that the pupils in nearby classrooms can clearly hear you. Employ good use of dramatic arm gestures and pointy figures. Cast many glares and scowls.
5 Walk back into the classroom with a face of thunder and a parting word of "Thank you for your apology, I expect better next time (you horrible demon child of Satan)" ...... the bit in italics is best said in your mind.
I got this idea when I was observing a year 8 class earlier in the week and a male teacher in the opposite classroom was employing the strategic bollocking technique on a cocky year 10 lad. The whole year 8 class went absolutely silent whilst they listened to the fate of their poor fellow brat. It was fantastic.
My method appeared to work with this tutor group. I was particularly shouty for the remainder of the lesson. I figured I would maintain my grasp on them whilst I can and ease off when I've established a sufficient reputation for having a terrible temper.
However, I did have to come down like a ton of bricks on another child. He was the delightful child I spoke about earlier who is the most disrespectful little urchin I have ever spoken to. He continued to turn the tap on and off, despite being asked not to by the teacher. When he was confronted about this he decided to demonstrate his wide vocabulary of ridiculous noises. I warned him that if he continued to make stupid noises he would have to do his work outside in the corridor where he couldn't distract anyone. As soon as my back was turned he made a vile, hacking, cough noise which sounded like a dying moose. I ignored it, figuring for all I know he could be smoking 20 a day. Emboldened by his spectacular display of ‘witty’ noises, he attempted a high-pitched, squeaky sneeze. Do these kids not have a little red flag in their brain that jumps up and waggles around when they’re just about to do something stupid?! Or perhaps even a giant, flashing sign saying, “WARNING! YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING STUPID…. DESPITE BEING WARNED THAT IF YOU GO AHEAD WITH THE AFOREMENTIONED STUPID ACTION, YOU WILL FACE THE CONSEQUENCES……. WHAT EXACTLY HAVE YOU GOT TO GAIN FROM IT?!”. Ok, so the sign would have to be fairly large, and the font fairly small, for it to fit inside their brain; and there might not be any room left over for brain cells. But I’m convinced that some of these kids just have heads full of air anyway so a large warning sign would put the space to good use, like advertising boards round the edge of an ice rink. So, back to Squeaky Sneezer. I took him and his work straight out the classroom and asked him why he had been removed from the classroom. Rookie mistake. I was drawn into a lengthy argument over the exact pitch of a sneeze. Sigh.
Perhaps the problem with behaviour in schools is that a startling proportion of the kids haven’t even got the fundamentals right. I handed out 32 worksheets as the pupils entered the classroom yesterday and a grand total of 3 thanked me. I said thank you to every single child that entered the room as I believe strongly in setting a good example, particularly with the basics such as manners. Pupils rarely use the word ‘please’ when they ask for help or resources in class. They just expect it.
“Miiiiiiiiiiissssssssss……… I can’t do it! I need help!”
“Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssss…………………. Can I have more paper?”
“Miiiiiiiiiissssssssssssss……………………………….. I need the toilet!”
And these are the good kids! The stinky ones refuse to look at you when you’re talking to them. Or they put their heads on the desk right after they’ve called you over to help them. I’ve realised now that “Miiiiiiiiiiissssssssss……… I can’t do it! I need help!” is loosely translated to “Do my work for me Miss, I can’t be bothered cos I was up till 1am playing Modern Warfare”.
When I was in mid-bollocking with Ben he was happily wandering up and down the corridor ignoring every word I said. He couldn’t care less that I was angry with him or even that I was speaking to him. But at least the kids in the classroom thought he was getting an earful!
Oh well. Despite what it may sound like I am actually really enjoying my placement! The majority of the kids have been really welcoming and cooperative. I think you just have to realise that you can’t move mountains but if you do manage to even shift a pebble occasionally, and maybe that pebble might just knock another pebble, and if you’re really lucky that pebble leaves Pebble Academy with a good education and the skills to survive in the gravel, then you haven’t done too badly.