Have you ever apologised to pupils?

(26 Posts)
WelshMoth Sat 03-Nov-12 09:33:29

I think I need to.

I teach a Year 11 class (started at new school in Sept) and a group of lads who sit at the front have always been under my radar. They talk constantly, even when I'm at the front trying to lead the class. Whenever I address their rudeness, they blame other pupils in the class too. There's an odd dynamic in this class - two classes joined at the latter end of year 10 - lots of resentment, cat-calling and threats of fighting. It always seems centred around these lads.

I moved them before half term and they sulked and seethed the whole lesson, saying loud enough for me to hear that the lesson was "shit". I plugged on with the lesson, stomach churning and ignored them. (BTW: Leadership team are un-supportive) so kids don't listen to the discipline system, don't turn up for detentions etc and they aren't chased up at all).

Now that I've marked this class's books over half term, I can actually see that these boys I've targeted have actually done the work. All of it. Really well-presented too. Better than some of the others in the class. I'm at a loss now. Clearly I've badly managed the situation (I'm a fairly new Teacher) and whilst I usually get on with most teenagers (even really awkward ones usually), I've cocked up badly with these two.

I'm considering apologising to these lads, and admitting that I've made a mistake and targeted them wrongly. Is this the wrong thing to do? To be honest, I can't think of any other way to rectify this situation.

HELP!

weegiemum Sat 03-Nov-12 12:02:15

I'd do it (I'm a secondary teacher of too many years experience!)

I apologised to a class once when I accidentally gave them some wrong information.

I'd take the boys aside and say something like "I can see from this excellent work that I've underestimated you. How cani help you to keep it up?"

Or something similar.

I remember well from college "it's not a weakness to admit it when you're wrong!".

BerryMojito Sat 03-Nov-12 12:04:17

I am not sure what you would be apologising for tbh? Great that they have managed to do the work to a good standard, but they are still causing a disruption in your lessons, which is why you have moved them.

I think I would speak to them and say that you have been impressed with the standard of their written work but would like to see the same level of effort during lessons. There is no way that I would put up with them talking all of the way through my lessons!

EvilTwins Sat 03-Nov-12 12:05:23

Yes, I have. More than once, though oddly I can't remember exactly why. I think it helps to admit that you sometimes get things wrong- helps them see you as human!

TheMonster Sat 03-Nov-12 12:21:36

They have still been a disruption. You could acknowledge their work and praise them for it, but point t that their chatter stops others from working.

WelshMoth Sat 03-Nov-12 12:22:16

Thanks everyone. I think I'll do it.
Berry, part of me agrees with you, and I think I'll still tell these rude, sulky and insolent teenagers that I still expect them to quieten down when I start teaching from the front.

I think they feel that I've picked on them, whilst letting the chatty ones at back (the one's they clearly hate) go un-punished. So I DO need to address this too, and I'll make sure I'll tell them that. I've been concentrating so hard on trying to understand and 'help' the broken dynamic of this class, that I've missed some basic teaching skills. I've allowed these lads to drive the way I approach the class, and if I'm totally honest, I've dreaded each lesson, and teaching and learning has been very, very poor. I'm ashamed of this and am desperate to rectify it, even if it means swallowing my pride.

WelshMoth Sat 03-Nov-12 12:23:39

Eeyore, yes, agreed, but I think it's going to take 'more' than just praise to get them back on side.

knitknack Sat 03-Nov-12 12:23:43

I think you can use tis to your advantage actually. I agree with Berry - why would you apologise? Poor behaviour isn't negated by good work! In fact I'd be wondering how much BETTER they could do if the disruption we're to stop - and THAT'S why this is good for you - will you give them verbal as well as written feedback/targets etc? If so, this is where you sell to them a really aspirational target that they could achieve if their behaviour improved - you need to pass the responsibility for their achievement over to them. It would be great if they were a bit competitive with each other because tht would help drive it too. Make it clear that now you've seen the high standard they're capable of you won't accept anything less, big them up! Refer to their expertise - anything to make THIS the focus of the lesson rather than poor behaviour...

nothruroad Sat 03-Nov-12 12:25:16

I think their poor behaviour is separate from the fact that they can do good work. I would praise their work but not apologise. The fact they can achieve does not give them the right to disrupt your lesson and talk over you.

notnowImreading Sat 03-Nov-12 12:26:11

I have apologised to pupils in the past, but not under the circumstances you describe. You should praise their work when you return it, but that's it. They have deliberately undermined your teaching and been rude to/about you. In fact, the good quality of their work suggests that they may be responding to your attempts to enforce better behaviour and calling them on their slackness. Well done! It sounds like it's working.

Pupils in general like teachers who tell it like it is and won't allow nonsense. Having said that, they also respond to positivity. You have an opportunity to be positive about their work now, which will give you a bit of respite from the cycle of criticism and conflict. I think you would be shooting yourself in the foot if you confuse good work with good behaviour, which they haven't been showing. Keep tackling the attitude as it comes up but focus on the good stuff too.

If you are an NQT or early in your career, I would also talk to your mentor or HoD about ways to challenge and inspire the class. Maybe you can find a way to tap into their ability and interest. You may find that they are bright boys who have been pushed down a set because of poor behaviour, or that they are disaffected because they were poorly served last year, or that they are just testing you because you're new. Whatever turns our to be the truth, keep being firm and tackling behaviour.

One last thing: if your school has an ineffective behaviour management system and detentions go unremarked, find other sanctions than DTs. Try keeping them for two minutes at the end of lesson to wipe down the tables with flash wipes, or putting up the chairs, or carrying a heavy box to another room for you - anything that doesn't take long and is practical/manual. This kind of sanction (not appropriate for rudeness or saying something is 'shit' but fine for chatting too much) is instant and will allow you to be pleasant to them when they've finished it.

Oh, and call parents to let them know that their work is good and that you think they have potential. See if you can enlist parent support with behaviour while praising them. Do this regularly if you can. Call back when behaviour improves and butter up parents to boost pocket money etc as a reward.

You are probably not as on your own as you think and your HOD should support you, but it would be a good idea to keep a record of everything you do to tackle behaviour in your class

Anyway, I've waffled on for long enough. Good luck with it.

WelshMoth Sat 03-Nov-12 12:45:21

Don't want to read and run - off out now.

I'll reply later, but just wanted to say that I'm massively appreciative of your responses. Really I am.

And yes, I'm an NQT an aged one

notnowImreading Sat 03-Nov-12 12:54:12

It sounds like your pupils are being arses but basically want to learn. Have a really good think about which bits they have a point about and deal with those, but I wouldn't advise a mea culpa approach, especially in front of the class. Just keep up the tough love.

As an NQT, you should have much more help from your mentor and your HOD. If you set a detention, they should be walking that kid in for you and putting the hard word on them. If anyone says your lesson is 'shit' within earshot, send a kid to the HOD and have that pupil removed from your lesson. It's out of order and you shouldn't have to put up with it.

t0lk13n Sat 03-Nov-12 13:00:46

Praise their work but do not apologise.

TheMonster Sat 03-Nov-12 21:17:06

Of course it will take more than praise to get them on side.

Loshad Sat 03-Nov-12 22:32:03

i have apologised, and i think in the circumstances i would too. I would probably spoil it with a but shock
they do need to know you have noticed their work is good, but equally they need to know they are too chatty and it is doing your head in.

WelshMoth Sun 04-Nov-12 08:12:47

Thanks everyone. I really appreciate all your replies. I am going to speak to them - 3rd lesson tomorrow (gah - where HAS half-term gone?!).

Eeyore, sorry if my post to you seemed a bit rude and ungrateful - reading back on it, it seems that way! Huge sorry's! I actually do agree with you, but I responded to your thread in a musing way (scratching my head for ideas) IYSWIM? Sorry again.

AViewfromtheFridge Sun 04-Nov-12 13:44:40

I agree with the people who say don't apologise - you've done nothing wrong. I've apologised in the past for giving wrong information, or being in a bad mood, or overreacting to something, but you've done none of those things.

In my NQT year I had a Year 10 class which I DREADED - lots of disruptive boys, not particularly nasty, but immature and who were definitely testing me because I was young and new. In hindsight, they were babies, and would have responded much better to a "Now, aren't we all being very silly today" approach than the hard-line aggressive one I took. Hindsight's a wonderful thing though, isn't it!

I would maybe start the lesson tomorrow with a bit of a pep talk. First half term done, only four left (!), you've been very impressed with some of the work you've marked, particularly that of Bill, Ben and Bob, and you're really looking forward to this half term - it's going to be an exciting one because you're doing x, y and z.

What's worked for me with classes like this in the past is having a week of lessons where it's literally books out, turn to page whatever, read the information, and answer the questions in complete silence. Really boring stuff. Explain why you're doing it - because they can't work in silence. Once they've got the hang of it, hopefully they'll appreciate your well-planned, exciting lessons a bit more! (I realise I've just contradicted my previous paragraph though, sorry!)

Don't be afraid to ask for help - it doesn't mean you're a bad teacher, it's not a sign of weakness and it's nothing personal! Good luck.

stargirl1701 Sun 04-Nov-12 13:47:12

Yes. If I made a mistake. It's a pretty fundamental part of relationship building. (I am primary)

PleeeeasMiss Sun 04-Nov-12 14:17:25

The way to rectify the situation is to up your game. No apologies, just stimulate and challenge these boys academically! All of classroom and behaviour management has to come from the teacher. You have to take some responsibility for the students behaviour. You are lucky that you have recognised that these are talented students who are misbehaving. So a simple solution. You need to pitch the lesson to these students, you need to give work, tasks, discussions that are appropriate for their academic needs. You will see the behaviour change accordingly.

I totally disagree with working in silence and reading or answering questions, Get them involved, inspire them, get the whole class motivated by the boys ability. Use them - they are a fantastic resource.

What is your subject? We can then give your specific tasks and ideas to stimulate the class.

colditz Sun 04-Nov-12 14:25:41

Why do you feel like apologising? Have y actually punished them wrongly? Have you punished them for something they didn't do?

Or, when you have punished them for saying things like the lesson is "shit", are you now feeling guilty because y also feel like the lesson is shit and you know that it's not their fault?

I wouldn't apologise, I would be cracking down firmly on all disruptive behaviour, from anyone in the class, and I would make sure I acknowledged their good work. Is there any sort of reward system in place that they would care abut?

TheFallenMadonna Sun 04-Nov-12 14:44:59

Praise them for what they do right. Sanction them for what they do wrong. The two are not mutually exclusive!

I would be starting the half term by giving everyone a target based on what I had seen un their books. Tell them you have upped your expectations of them based in what you have seen of their work and focus in them in a more positive way for extending answers.

Phone home and say the same thing to their parents.

Ask for some support from others in your department. If you share the group, ask to observe them with your colleague. If not, try to observe them in a different subject.

And very clearly crack down in the quiet slackers!

TheFallenMadonna Sun 04-Nov-12 14:48:06

And to answer the OP, I have apologized to students before, but I don't think it would be right here. They are stopping others from learning, and that isn't OK, even if they are completing the work themselves.

teacherwith2kids Sun 04-Nov-12 15:03:25

I had a slightly similar situation with a child earlier this year - was 'down' on him all the time about his behaviour, though actually he was mostly getting the work done.

Gave myself a stern talking to over one weekend, and decided to talk to him each day about one positive thing. So I'd have a brief chat with him each morning about his out-of-school passion (football), or ask him about the book he was reading, or how much I'd liked his homework, or ask him to share one of his ideas with the class because I liked it. It wasn't an apology as such, but it was a recognition that I'd been focusing on the bad things and not on the good ones.

I still nag him about his behaviour, but much more rarely, because we have a more positive relationship and he knows I'm 'with' him more than I am 'against' him.

In your shoes, I wouldn't apologise - because their behaviour has stopped others working. However, I would try really hard to be positive about the good things - even if it's just a remark as they're coming into class that you have some specially challenging work today because they are making such good progress, or a 'good work on your homework' or whatever, and also switch your 'public' focus to others for a few weeks. I would also echo PleaseMiss's comments that you need to create aome REALLY stimulating lessons for this class for a few weeks to 'up your game' and gain their interest and respect.

sashh Wed 07-Nov-12 02:21:22

I have appologised, but I wouldn't for that.

I might take them aside and say that I could see from the work that they understand the subject and are working. However the behaviour is still unacceptable because it distracts others.

Then I'd give them some extension work.

campion Wed 07-Nov-12 18:32:52

If they accuse you of picking on them, point out that it is their behaviour that you are picking up on rather than anything personal.

You don't need to apologise for anything described and you don't need them to like you either.

Disrupting the learning of others whilst smugly achieving their own required grades is not an admirable trait. I shouldn't think they'll be including that on their Personal Statements in a year or so.

And, yes, I have apologised. Many times.

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