I used the words “behaviour crisis” in a recent tweet and I was rightly called up on it. The evidence out there suggests behaviour isn’t getting worse. The Daily Mail et al love to catastrophise and teaching can be a moaning profession. Do I have grounds to worry beyond the confines of my school gate?
I have a few reasons for generalising.
Firstly, I speak to a lot of other Teach Firsters who have similar stories. I do hear many, many stories like mine. When I asked my tutor how normal the behaviour in my school was amongst all the Teach First schools he’s in, he said it is exceptional for a TF school not to have entrenched bad behaviour.
Obviously Teach First is deliberately focussed on schools in deprived areas. More significant, I think, is that the offer will be taken up mostly in schools which have problems with recruitment and retainment. It takes a particular steeliness of balls to stay at my school. I know for a fact that I, and the other Teach Firsters at my school, was appointed to fill the gaps where they couldn’t hire anyone else able to pass the interview. So the stories I’m hearing probably are some of the worst in the country. I really am not qualified to comment beyond the deprived inner/outer city school.
The second reason I worry more generally is our Ofsted inspection. We got good for behaviour and outstanding for leadership. For the love of Christ! Good for a school where fire alarms go off multiple times a week, teachers are verbally abused on a daily basis and corridor fights are so common most teachers just walk past. Outstanding for leadership in a school where we are repeatedly told in briefings that our behaviour concerns are unfounded and where the Principal rules by threats and intimidation.
What am I meant to do with this information, as someone who has only ever worked in this one school? Well I my conclusions were either
- Ofsted has shockingly low standards and our standard of behaviour is normal, or
- Ofsted is way, way too easy to game, so why even pay attention to it?
Either way it means I personally have no faith in Ofsted as a barometer of behaviour and general standards of schools.
Third, even in my school, children will behave in the “right” circumstances. That generally means an experienced teacher and not too taxing work. So some people presumably thinks this means behaviour in general is fine and we can blame individual teachers where there are problems. To me, this is not good enough. I believe that children should be respectful and follow basic, politely-given instructions (please put that lucozade away etc.) in any circumstances.
Of course I practice positive behaviour management, have quiet words rather than creating a stand off and so on. I wouldn’t have survived this long if I hadn’t. You can blame the bad behaviour on me for not being like the small minority of teachers in my school who do generally have a handle on behaviour if you like. All I can say is I try my damn hardest.
In a school with big retention problems, children will be taught by struggling and/or new teachers. In these circumstances, relying on individual teachers’ behaviour management is lethal. If you don’t have an ethos of basic respect and focus on learning for throughout, embedded in the kids bones, it’s the children’s education that suffers.
Please do comment below with your own thoughts and experiences: as I said I’m an incredibly new teacher with the experience of only one school.