Electric fences

If you’re a new teacher reading this, you fall into one of two camps:

1. You have had a lovely honeymoon period with all your classes and are feeling dead happy about your behaviour management skills.

2. You are sitting there biting your nails because anything between one and all of your classes seems to be descending rapidly into anarchy. Kids argue back. They talk over you. They sneer. They cause drama over the tiniest things. Every bit of work you give them is too easy or too hard and they won’t do it. They’ve got visibly worse since your first lesson with them and you’re terrified the downward spiral will continue.

I suspect the second group is much larger than the first.

If you are in the second group there is one thing I want to say to you.

Every time a student walks out of your door after a lesson without a sanction, you are telling them how they just behaved for the last hour was A-OK.

It seems obvious, but is it genuinely the case that every child who misbehaves is sanctioned in your class right now? It wasn’t for me. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Maybe you let Jack earn his detention off. Maybe you felt unfair giving Jessica a detention when she wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Dane. Maybe you felt like your lesson was so awfully planned and unengaging that you don’t really blame Yusuf for talking.

Just stop.

Don’t agonise over the past and how it’s gone so far. Just stop. Decide that Monday will be different.

What are your boundaries? Decide. Etch them into your skull and heart and classroom wall. Mine are that you do not make a noise – any noise – when the starter slide is on the board. You SLANT when I am on zero.

As predictably as an electric fence gives an electric shock, you give out a sanction for crossing those boundaries. No matter who it is or when it is.

Yes, some angelic students will end up in detention. Yes, sometimes most of the class will be on your detention list. I’m not going to lie: if your first two weeks have gone badly, most of the class WILL be on your detention list for the next couple of lessons. They are testing the electric fence. It hasn’t really been there the last two weeks.

Gabriel will moan that he doesn’t get detention in any other subject. Lucille might cry. Persist. A detention isn’t a cruel and unusual punishment. They will be OK.

Decide this weekend to put up the electric fence. The sooner you do, the less painful it will be – for you and your students.

3 thoughts on “Electric fences

  1. Pingback: Dealing with Diabetes in the Classroom | MrPigottMaths

  2. Tom Grey

    Thank you for the advice RGP, I’m joining Teach First this year and am looking for every grain of advice I can find. I read a post by Tom Bennet last night (titled ‘How do you solve a problem like Meryl? Tough Young Teachers midweek special’) which has made me a little anxious about whether I will find myself in a ‘Bad School’ as Mr Bennet discusses.


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