I got into a conversation one morning at the end of last week about dealing with stroppy year 6s. Ultimately, I suspect, my main problem with them the previous day was that I was tired and a bit irritable so that fairly minor poor behaviour was irritating me more than usual. The main point still stands though. Currently Year 6 children are attempting to throw their weight around. SATs are done. They haven’t yet had results and many of them believe that there is no point in any of their work they are doing now, however interesting or ultimately useful it may be.
Some children, maybe most, will still want to learn, simply because they always do, some are naturally co-operative and obedient but there are always those few who just keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour.
In general, I like to look for the cause of poor behaviour and tackle that. I reason rather that threaten or punish but some children seriously test my resolve. The ones I find most difficult are the arrogant ones who seem to genuinely believe they deserve special treatment, that the rules don’t apply to them. They are the child equivalent of adult drivers who park in disabled spaces or double yellow lines because they are “just popping in”. You have all met them. They perfect the art of sighing and eye rolling well before the rest of the kids and always have a (totally ridiculous) excuse.
These are also the ones who are most acutely aware of the hierarchy that exists in schools. They will modify their behaviour for the head and somewhat grudgingly for the deputy or senior staff but not so much for newer, less experienced teachers and if, like me, you are support staff, they regard you as irrelevant and unimportant.
I used to be a teacher in sixth form. I have taught all kinds of students from level 1 to A level, and, although classroom management wasn’t in all honesty, my strong point, I wasn’t routinely ignored when I issued instructions. Even there the hierarchy was evident. The most graphic illustration of this was in one of our very rare assemblies. A student was talking as the Principal was about to speak and did not stop quickly enough. The Principal asked her to leave. In typical student fashion she argued and insisted she would be quiet now, he was having none of it “You either leave this hall, or you leave the college. Your choice.” No-one else could have said that! In turn Department Heads or Programme Managers were known to possess more power than classroom teachers. The students know this! They will adapt their behaviour accordingly. If students play up a teacher but behave for someone more senior it may not be that the senior teacher is that much better at behaviour management (It may be of course but that’s a different issue).
But, back to support staff. As a TA working with the top group on their weekly mental maths I had a pupil argue with me about the the answer to a question on percentages. They firmly believed they were right and I was wrong (I wasn’t), but it was indicative of the general regard in which we are held. I also work, as many TAs do, as a Lunchtime Supervisor. These are the members of the school staff who are apparently the lowest of the low. We are routinely ignored when implementing the (minimal) rules that are in effect at lunchtime. Our initial sanction is to put miscreants “on the wall” for a limited period. (Is this universal by the way? – Standing students next to the person by the entrance to the school). If this is not effective the next step is to send them to stand in the dinner hall or to the Deputy Head which is really simply relying on a higher authority who may not always be available and, in all honesty doesn’t seem to have any real long-term effect. It can make for a very fraught hour some days.
I suppose, ultimately, this post is simply asking you (especially senior staff) to note that if you believe you have behaviour in your school sorted, check with your support staff to see if they are still having issues, make sure you have systems in place for them to use and make sure you back them up in practice.
In some ways it can be tough down at the bottom of the school hierarchy.
Oh. And if you do have advice for dealing with especially arrogant children I’d be delighted to hear it.