Why parents should support schools

2017-05-14T12:10:29+01:00May 13th, 2017|behaviour|

Like all parents, I want the best for my children. When they're unhappy, I'm unhappy. When they suffer injustice, I'm incensed. When their school makes a decision I disagree with, my first reaction is to get in touch and point out where they've gone wrong and what they should do about it. When she was in primary school, my eldest daughter had a teacher who believed in the power of collective punishment, and, as a well-behaved, hard-working pupil she was made to suffer for the poor behaviour of some of the other children in her class. This struck both her and me [...]

Easy is easy, hard is hard

2017-05-09T10:16:34+01:00May 8th, 2017|behaviour|

Recently, I had the ill luck to be present for a friend's five-year-old daughter's birthday party. To add to the naturally generated mayhem of putting 30 small children in a space with fizzy drinks and sweets, my friend had shelled out on a children's entertainer called Johnny G - or something along those lines. Johnny has nailed down a repertoire certain to appeal to the unsophisticated palettes of the very young; he has an impressive array of fart and burp gags and makes very creative use of the word 'poo'. The kids loved him and their delighted shrieks echoed his every flatulent [...]

The consequences of freedom Part 2

2017-04-12T12:08:33+01:00April 12th, 2017|behaviour|

Last month I wrote about RD Laing and how his conception of freedom has had a lasting and negative impact on education as well as wider society. In this post I want to consider the role of Isiah Berlin in shaping how we have come to think about freedom. Berlin was a Russian born, British educated philosopher and political theorist. At the heart of his thinking was a concern with how to protect individual freedom. He wanted human beings to be free to make their own mistakes without well-meaning, paternalistic institutions making decisions about what is best for us. He saw this nannying attitude [...]

The consequences of freedom

2017-03-26T21:38:23+01:00March 23rd, 2017|behaviour|

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM! Mel Gibson Freedom is one of the most popular tropes in modern thinking. We yearn for it and yet feel constantly thwarted. Like Macbeth we are "cabin'd, cribbed, confin'd, bound in to saucy doubts and fears." Wouldn't it be [...]

Bottom sets and the scourge of low-level disruption

2016-11-14T21:10:57+00:00November 14th, 2016|behaviour|

In many English schools, low-level disruption is the norm. Children talking when expected to be silent, fiddling with equipment and each other, calling out, and generally not being 'on task' are all routinely accepted as just something with which teachers have to contend. In 2014, Ofsted published this report on low-level disruption in schools. It it, "around two-fifths of the 723 teachers in the survey who believed that disruptive ‘talking and chatting’ was a key problem said it occurred in almost every lesson." The entire concept of 'behaviour management' is predicated on the idea that teachers must manage students' inevitable disruptive [...]

Is our behaviour a choice?

2017-08-11T11:50:52+01:00September 29th, 2016|behaviour, literacy|

Arguments about free will date back to ancient Greece, but the scientific consensus now tends towards the belief that free will is an illusion. It's become an article of faith in the life sciences that all organisations can be reduced to algorithmic processes written in our genes. We either respond to environmental stimuli either by rapidly and unconsciously processing the best option in terms of survival or through random biochemical blips. We may believe we choose our actions, but in actual fact, choice is an illusion.  If every choice we seem to make is just an electrochemical brain process - a deterministic reaction [...]

Should everyone follow the rules?

2016-09-08T14:38:27+01:00September 8th, 2016|behaviour|

I've never liked being told what to do. I'm not a great team player and I struggle with authority. I've always chafed at constraints and, as I get older, I've become increasingly aware that what I used to imagine was an over-developed sense of injustice is actually entitlement; a sense the world should bend itself around my whims and conform to my desires. Childish, isn't it? Part of being an adult is learning to suppress these baser aspects of our nature and this is something I attempt, often with negligible success, to do. I've come to realise that if I want to avoid [...]

What’s the big deal about school uniform?

2016-09-08T07:21:24+01:00September 7th, 2016|behaviour, Featured|

Is there any evidence that school uniform affects learning? In a word, no. Or, rather I should say, I'm not aware of any beyond weak testimonials offered by uniform manufactures and the personal anecdotes of true believers. Where there is reputable research, it's equivocal. So, why do schools make such a big deal about uniforms? Well, although it would very difficult to conduct a study which isolated the effects of wearing particular clothes on student achievement, it's probably a lot easier to look at how uniforms might affect social norms and in-group/out-group behaviours. There's a lot of research on how institutional [...]

On report

2016-08-20T16:26:33+01:00August 20th, 2016|behaviour|

Most of the schools I've taught in have operated some sort of 'on report' system for poorly behaved students. The idea is said poor behaved student presents his or her report card to teachers at the beginning of each lesson and the teacher records how satisfied they are with the behaviour exhibited in the lesson. Usually, the teacher will have to score the students behaviour, punctuality and sundry other qualities out of 5, maybe add a brief comment and then sign or initial to make the whole thing official. The student then takes the completed report to a senior teacher at the end [...]

Five things every new teacher needs to know about behaviour management

2017-01-15T18:57:18+00:00August 19th, 2016|behaviour, training|

Managing students' behaviour can be the most terrifying aspect of becoming a teacher. Although it's the nightmare scenarios of being told to eff off on your first day, or having a chair hurled at your head that tend to keep new teachers awake at nights, these are - in most schools - relatively rare events. More often than not it's the small stuff that undermines lessons and erodes the best efforts of teachers and students alike. In my eventful (and often unsuccessful) picaresque to discover what actually works I've made scores of mistakes and wasted countless hours trying to tackle the horrifying banality of [...]

Should students be punished for poor behaviour?

2016-08-18T15:45:08+01:00August 18th, 2016|behaviour|

The following blog was written for Teachers Register - the online solution to supply teaching. Punishment is a bit of a dirty word for many teachers. There often seems to be a presumption that children are naturally good and that any attempt to control or impede their impulses is somehow akin to child abuse. I’ve seen enough cruelty and cynicism from children to inure me against the belief that being ‘good’ and ‘kind’ is in any way natural. Children are capable of being as mean-spirited, spiteful and selfish as any adult. William Golding’s depiction in Lord of Flies of children left to their own [...]

What do new teachers need to know about behaviour management?

2016-07-27T14:35:37+01:00July 26th, 2016|behaviour, training|

Full disclosure: this article appeared first on the Teachers Register blog. Teachers Register is an online solution for schools needing supply teachers without wanting the hassle of going through a supply agency. You can follow them on Twitter here. When I first resolved to train as a teacher – and worse still, a secondary school teacher – everyone I informed of this momentous decision would stare at me aghast and ask, with varying degrees of pity and horror, “What do you want to do that for?” Then they’d sigh and mutter something along the lines of, “Well, rather you then me.” Teenagers [...]

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