So I read this, from Jo Facer, today and I agree with everything in it. I almost thought about leaving it there, but I can’t. It’s too important.
Like Jo, I have in the past had conversations, or reprimands, from senior staff for using behaviour systems appropriately. These conversations inevitably follow the lines of you’re giving out too many behaviour points, you need to build positive relationships or what are you doing to combat x?
Let’s take lateness as an example. If students are late to the lesson, without a reason – or even with a reason, if it’s rubbish – then I will mark them as so on the register. They might be four minutes late, they might be ten minutes late: either way, they’re late. My understanding of the word late is that it means not on time. If every student can turn up on time (OK, moving between lessons can cause problems, I get that) bar one or two, then we have to wonder what those one or two have been up to. More importantly, and more immediately, we need to sanction them.
Actually, I have always had much more positive relationships with students when they know what the rules are and that I’ll enforce them. As Jo says, children like boundaries. They like rules. And they also like other naughty children being reprimanded. And if you visit my classroom you’ll find calm, but hard working children in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, and that’s partly because I won’t allow rudeness, arguments or sarcasm. Sure, there are plenty of things I do to calm a situation, but if a child misbehaves they know there will be consequences because there always are.
Now, should we sanction behaviour ourselves, or should we expect the school to do this? Well, I think that teachers sanction in the lesson, but once the lesson ends any other sanction needs to take place under the auspices of the whole school. Why? Well, despite the phrase that I have previously heard about ‘owning the behaviour’, it is the students who choose to misbehave, not the teachers (usually). Requiring teachers to hold detentions takes time away from them. I, for example, have six GCSE classes along with A level, and that’s on top of all my other responsibilities. I do not have the time to be chasing students for a ten minute detention. I just don’t. Not if I’m expected to do everything else.
Instead, unless I need to speak to a student regarding something specific – missed coursework, for example – I expect the school to honour its behaviour system. I have worked in schools where this doesn’t happen. And guess what? They’re crap. Students rule the school and teachers feel lost.
This is unacceptable, especially for young teachers, or those new to the school. Behaviour is the responsibility of the student who acts in a certain way, not the teacher who sanctions those actions. The school’s responsibility, to both the student and the teacher, is to support that sanction without question, lest the entire system fall apart. I have worked in schools where this was the case. It’s dreadful.
If a school is worried that all these sanctions might show Ofsted that there’s a behaviour problem, then oh-my-word what planet are they on? If schools lie about their behaviour problems then they shoot themselves in the foot. Just be honest: we have these behavioural issues and this is what we do about it. We can’t fix society, but we can help those under our care.