It’s normally at about this point in August that the dull, nagging ache begins; the toad, September squats over the summer. It’s bad enough if you’re returning to a school where you’re well-known, but if you’re starting anew or, Heavens forfend, embarking on a bright new teaching career I have a few words of well-worn advice: school rules are there for everyone’s protection – enforce them consistently, compassionately and zealously.
It is my firm and fervent belief that getting behaviour right is the primary responsibility of the school, not the teacher. In schools where behaviour is not an issue, teachers, and pupils are free to concentrate on the difficult business of teaching and learning. In schools where behaviour is in any way inconsistent, nothing else will work well. By inconsistent I mean that same high expectations of behaviour should hold sway in the presence of the Head, the gnarled old German master of thirty years tenure, the bright-eyed NQT, and the world-weary supply teacher. In schools where this is de rigueur, all will be well. Sadly, although I’m aware they exist, I have never worked in a school like this.
All too often poor behaviour is blamed on poor teaching. If you find yourself in a school like this, you will find, at least to some extent, you’ll need to be an ‘engaging’ teacher in order to survive. At worst this means pandering to children’s whims with activities of dubious educational value, at best it can mean a thoughtful attempt to fight through the thicket of indifference you may encounter. As a teacher in a new school you must find your own balance – some classes will be more functional than others and so misbehaviour will be less of a barrier to the business of teaching them stuff.
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