Handling cockyness

I started the year with a beautiful low year 10 set of mainly girls. They had low confidence and massive gaping holes in their mathematical knowledge. I worked hard to create a safe, enjoyable environment where we could work together and stop hating maths so much. They had a few tantrums, but on the whole we got on really well.

Then set change happened. Five boys from the set above got moved down and things haven’t been the same since. The fuck off factor was evident from week 1. They are convinced being moved down was due to a personal vendetta by the Maths department. If they can’t answer a question, it’s always because they “can’t be bothered”, never a lack of knowledge. They will happily continually argue that I, the mark scheme and the mathematical world at large are wrong and they are right. One of them recently scribbled out my careful next steps marking, writing “DONT CARE!!!!!!!” below every comment. I can have sensible conversations with them one-on-one, but get two or more of them together and there is no hope.

Meanwhile the rest of the class are getting frustrated and rightly insulted by the boys attitude and their insinuations that they are stupid. They want calm, encouraging, chirpy Miss back. I (obviously) want to be that teacher again too, but I’ve been catapulted back to the stage of having to be on constant high alert for paper missiles.

At the moment, I frankly just don’t like those boys. I’ve been trying to understand where the boys are coming from in an attempt to change that. They get frustrated by the half of the class who still lack a command of number bonds and times tables, which they see as “baby work”. They think being in this set makes them stupid, and they really don’t like feeling stupid. They are terrified of getting things wrong because they think that would suggest they might belong in this set. Denial and defiance is the easiest option.

It has helped a little bit. But when they are in the classroom, being nasty and showing no signs of humility, that pity and understanding evaporates pretty quickly.

3 thoughts on “Handling cockyness

  1. taviaallan

    You have my sympathy. Who decided to move the boys down? Were you consulted or advised how to handle it? I know you have to deal with the situation as it is, but the person who made that decision should take some responsibility for the predictable results.

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  2. webby101

    As a pragmatist, I tend towards setting in maths because I find it hard to see the alternative. However, I am always suspicious of the way that group changes are made. “Teacher recommendation” can mean anything from “he did badly on the last test because he was away a lot,” through to, “he exhibits challenging behaviour so I’d rather the naive new teacher has to deal with him.” I would ask for the assessment evidence that was used. From your vignette, it sound like they may be more able than the rest of your group and one wonders why they have all suddenly been moved down. I remember once, a student refused to do a test he didn’t feel prepared for, the teacher gave him zero and then used this in an average test score to prove that the child should move down. You wouldn’t think it would happen, but it does.

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