“It’s all about relationships”

2019-10-14T14:19:34+01:00November 11th, 2018|behaviour|

Every now and then I come across the argument that the success or failure of a teacher is due to the quality of their relationships with students. Poor behaviour? Ineffective lessons? "It's all about relationships."* Most people are incapable of maintaining much more than 50 relationships and the number of people we actively care about tends to be far fewer. Most of the people we encounter we know slightly if at all. How then do we contend with the Hobbesian idea that the natural human condition is a "war of all against all"? Why don't we just take what we want from [...]

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 [...]

See it, own it: how to destroy a school

2019-11-10T15:44:05+00:00August 31st, 2015|behaviour|

I went for a coffee with a former colleague a few days ago and inevitably, after some small talk, the conversation turned to a discussion of his school. He started off by confiding that the GCSE results had fallen again, before launching into a tirade about how unbearable he found teaching. One of his biggest bugbears was the school's behaviour policy. This 'policy' has been rebranded under the heading 'See it, own it'. Essentially, this means that when teachers see students flouting the school rules they must then own the consequences and enforce the appropriate sanction. There are no whole school systems to [...]

'No excuses' is no excuse

2015-05-13T11:31:38+01:00May 13th, 2015|behaviour|

We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. Rudyard Kipling I was a bit taken aback at the vigour and vitriol with which some people condemned Michaela School's approach to behaviour. The argument seemed to go that if you refuse to accept poor behaviour then you simply pass on the problem to another school. As far as I can see, that's entirely up to other schools. Consider this scenario. A town has two secondary schools, New Free School and Old Comprehensive School. New Free School has just opened its doors and has made the decision that it [...]

Undermining teachers is easy

2019-01-25T15:28:37+00:00January 29th, 2015|leadership|

Your views are out of date, David and don't work, just expecting pupils to behave. Paul Garvey, Education consultant There are two schools in every school: the school of the high-status staff member, with the luxury of time and authority to cushion them from the worst classes; and the school of the supply teacher and NQT, who possess neither. Tom Bennett, Two schools bad, one school good: Ideas for improving school behaviour Everyone involved in teaching wants teachers to teach well. We spend a lot of time disputing what 'teaching well' looks like, and that's fair enough; there are plenty of effective [...]

What’s it like being a new teacher?

2020-02-09T16:45:53+00:00January 6th, 2015|leadership|

I've been very fortunate to spend time with a variety of new teachers over the past few years. Whether they're on PGCE placements, NQTs, RQTs or Teach First participants they are all, without exception, impressive, hardworking, compassionate, dedicated and brimming with enthusiasm about the difference they hope to make. There is however one consistently ugly blot on this bright landscape. It's not the workload - they're up for that. They're still young and supple enough to cope with the absurd demands placed on a teacher's time. It's not even pupils' sometimes stunningly insolent, casually vindictive and plain bone idle behaviour - they went into [...]

Are children better than adults?

2015-01-04T21:10:33+00:00January 4th, 2015|Featured|

There is no sinner like a young saint. Aphra Behn I just read this post on why Teaching is Wonderful and while teaching is wonderful (if astonishingly gruelling) I take issue with the argument presented that children are better than adults. Now obviously children are ace. (I have two of my own and they are - usually - delightful.) The only thing I really miss about not being a classroom teacher are the often hilarious and heart-warming daily interactions with kids. But they're no better than anyone else. Children are not naturally good. They can be as mean-spirited, spiteful and selfish as, well, anyone else. Children, like [...]

Back to school Part 1: Routines

2020-07-14T13:07:41+01:00August 19th, 2014|leadership|

This series of #backtoschool blogs summarises much of my thinking as it’s developed over the past few years and is aimed at new or recently qualified teachers. Each area has been distilled to 5 ‘top tips’ which I hope prove useful to anyone embarking on a career in teaching. That said, I’ll be delighted if they serve as handy reminders for colleagues somewhat longer in the tooth. 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, [...]

On behaviour

2014-03-26T14:39:06+00:00March 20th, 2014|leadership|

Most of what makes classrooms work lies beneath the surface. The here and now of lessons and classrooms is dependent on the routines and relationships teachers have forged over time. If you’re clear about what is (and is not) acceptable behaviour, firm and fair in applying consequences, and provide meaningful feedback on how pupils’ can improve, it almost doesn’t matter what you do in a lesson: children will learn. But that’s by no means the complete picture. One of the most damaging and appalling lies circulating around schools and teacher training institutions is this: if you plan your lessons well, children [...]

What is good behaviour?

2016-01-01T18:35:40+00:00January 1st, 2012|learning|

There are two schools in every school: the school of the high-status staff member, with the luxury of time and authority to cushion them from the worst classes; and the school of the supply teacher and NQT, who possess neither. Tom Bennett, Behaviour Tsar Everyone involved in teaching wants teachers to teach well. We spend a lot of time disputing what ‘teaching well’ looks like, and that’s fair enough; there are plenty of effective techniques for cat skinning. We also seem to agree that good behaviour is highly desirable, but some see it as the product of good teaching while others reckon it’s [...]

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