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Experienced teachers please - behaviour management

(17 Posts)
HexBramble Wed 19-Nov-14 07:48:05

I teach a particularly rowdy all-girl year 10 class in a city comprehensive. One pupil, rather chopsey. This week, she was having trouble with one task and I heard her exclaim "Jesus". I politely and quietly pointed out that I'd rather she didn't use that word. She challenged me, told me that it wasn't swearing, kept saying 'Jesus', demanded to know if I were a Christian (I am, it's personal, I don't talk about it) and insisted that she was fully correct in using it.

I closed the discussion down by saying that it was neither here nor there what my religious beliefs were, that using the term 'Jesus' in the classroom wasn't appropriate and I'd rather she didn't do it again. She found this hilarious and it sparked off a group grilling of the rest of the class "Who finds this offensive?". Again, I closed it down and reminded them that being off task would result in a detention. The situation fizzled out.

It's bloody annoyed me though, moreover because I couldn't put this madam in her place, and that her insolence in challenging me has really irked me.

I'm happy to be told that I could have handled it better. Please could someone tell me what you would have done?

Thank you.

honeysucklejasmine Wed 19-Nov-14 07:55:58

I'm a Christian too, but I don't think I would have challenged it. The most I would have done was ftrowned at them, then gone to see what the problem was. Maybe after sorting the problem I would have said something light hearted about asking me for help first before bothering Jesus with it.

I think you handled the "fall out" well. smile

FunkyBoldRibena Wed 19-Nov-14 08:00:22


'He can't help you here Julie. If you need help the thing to say is 'Miss, please can you help me'.

HermanSkank Wed 19-Nov-14 08:00:50

'Insolent'? 'Madam'?

Are you a bit 'old skool', OP? Perhaps your classes are picking up on this.

FunkyBoldRibena Wed 19-Nov-14 08:01:05

The trick to classroom behaviour management is 'de-escalate, de-escalate, de-escalate'.

sashh Wed 19-Nov-14 08:30:15

I'm atheist and I would have challenged this. But most of my students are going in to health care so respect for others is built in and I can say, "it doesn't matter if no one in the room is offended, when you are on work placement someone might be".

Do they have some sort of tutorial or form session? Appropriate and inappropriate language would be a nice topic, especially if you are preparing people for work.

It depends on your subject, I've had sessions of students going out to work placements so relevant language and dress is covered.

A session on mores (more-ayes not the plural of more) can be useful, I have done this with adult learners looking at appropriate language and dress and that what you would wear and say at a football match compared to a funeral, what about different working environments?'

Appeal to their adult side, "Come on, you are more intelligent than that, you must know other words" Oh and check, I had an incident with a student using the word "Gypo" - it turned out she didn't know the words 'Gypsy' and 'Roma'.

Do you have a class contract? If you don't make one, get them to set the rules, you will be surprised how strict they can be, but language that offends anyone can be included. I don't like strawberries and I have a little David Mitchelesque rant about how evil they are - of course then students find every excuse to use that word, have strawberries on their clothes, pencil cases, bags. In the meantime they are not using offensive language because they get a reaction oot of me, which is what they are looking for.

On my last day in one job the entire class were wearing strawberry something, shoes, T-shirt, ring, it was there going away present for me.

Funky's reply is perfect. Use humour where you can and pick your battles. She felt as if you'd started a confrontation (however polite you were) so she then escalated it. I'd have tried judicious ignoring in the first place tbh.

HexBramble Wed 19-Nov-14 19:06:50

ok, this is great advice. Thank you all.
I think I've left months of dread get the better of me tbh - I've taught this class for 2years but since they've grown (and become an all girl class), the 'alpha' group are very, very overfamiliar.

I really like the suggestions made. Thanks loads.

HexBramble Wed 19-Nov-14 19:08:23

And I'm only 40! smile
I think I've just been fed up of their backchat, rudeness and dare I say defiance. They're doing a compulsory subject (non-core) and they HATE it.

ravenAK Wed 19-Nov-14 19:10:24

Stare wildly around the room going 'Jesus?! Shit, where?!' grin.

Failing that, I'd go with Funky's response.

CrimboHornedSnowflake Wed 19-Nov-14 19:18:22

I have been known to reply to "oh my God!" with "you called?" Tends to break the situation with a bit of humour.

I teach RE and don't really allow that language in my classroom (I'm of a different faith to Christianity) but working with teenagers means they slip up now and then, they're human and society doesn't make too a big deal with that language.

Mostlyjustaluker Thu 20-Nov-14 18:10:50

Hex, I am guessing you teach RE or psche? Is it an assessed course?

Are you have issues with the class generally which you need to address?

HexBramble Thu 20-Nov-14 18:54:06

Mostly, you'd be correct. It is an assesses course as well and Unhave serious concerns about the ability in the class. Some will have no problem at all, but others are struggling. We are covering exam revision at the moment and am trying my very best to differentiate and still they complain.

It's tiresome tbh. "We want to do something fun."

Mostlyjustaluker Thu 20-Nov-14 19:44:13

I am re teacher too but at ks4 the core re is non assessed but that has it own problems.

Trying to improve the behaviour and effort in difficult classes is hard work but it worth the effort. It it was me I would go back to basic with behaviour, new seating plan or even a new seating plan every lesson. Make sure their books/folder are on the tables and non challenging starter activity so they get used to working from the moment they enter the room. Let them your classroom rules again and make it clear what will happen if they break them, phone calls home ect. Get your head of department, head of year and slt on board. Send letters home both positive and negative and if you have a subject report system use it. Can you get slt to pop into your lessons? If the class are taught together in another subject can you watch the lesson to get some tips. I am sure you know all this but sometimes it is helpful to revisit techniques.

If all else fails remind them their results will appear on their gcse certificate next to their other results.

Integration14 Fri 21-Nov-14 21:17:35

In Spain whe we sneeze, we said Jesus, and we aré very catholic country.

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 22-Nov-14 09:01:30

"We want to do something fun."

That's interesting as I try and make all my sessions fun. Revision - can be done in the form of games where each person revises a fact or recalls a concept and explains it after each of their turns on the game. I create my own games with a reel of magnetic tape and a magnetic board to put the game on. you can do it with whiteboard markers or make your own and put magnets on the back to keep it attached. I use a cheap jenga set that I put numbers and letters on, and the revision questions are based around the numbers and letters they pull out. I make session related games based on popular games, hangman, top trumps etc - and it's all about revising key concepts.

Not being a meanie but if you are not engaging them, that is a reflection on you, not them. Make an effort, and make it fun for them. Get them to come up with games based on the revision they have to do. Get them to play out some of the key scenes in the curriculum. Make a set of letters cards [W, X, Y, Z] and use them to split them up into groups and change it each time [you control who is in what group to prevent fallouts] and give them challenges that involve one being team leader and organising activities. Split them into groups and get them to come up with 10 killer questions for the other groups. All revising is about recall so anything you can do to recall and make connections in their brain in any weird way helps them remember.

And mindmap about the key concepts - you put the key concept in the middle and each person comes and writes a word or sub-concept and draws where it fits in and explains it. Can be done on the board, or better on the wall in the form of a set of large posters. Keep adding to it and keep going back to the Killer Question quiz and relate where each fits into the key concept posters. Give the groups A3 paper and get them to mindmap a concept each and then present the paper to the rest of the class.

I don't have backchat in my classroom to be honest, I make it fun and if someone does start I turn it into a gag of some description. If someone is really not wanting to join in they get one chance and then have to go explain themselves to some scarey person [there is always one in each school].

One of the easiest ways of differentiating is using task cards - if you haven't heard of them then google and do some research. Create a set of activity based task cards and you may never have to break a sweat again.

One way of quick de-escalation is if gobby chatty sweary person just won't shut up * - say very sternly 'hang on a minute class...X has something really important to tell us. Lets all be quiet, right X - we are all ears'. It usually shuts them up pretty quick. If not, let them start and then interrupt with 'Er, has this got anything to do with the topic today? Well, if that's the case, you need to go see scarey person and ask them if it is ok for me to not teach X today, but to sit and listen to you. Off you go, Penny, can you take so and so to see scarey person please'. They usually slink back down and start to join in.

You know your students, use that knowledge to your advantage and get them busy doing their own revision with a range of activities. At this stage it should be facilitating not teaching.

* Note this doesn't work if the person has Tourette's. If you have that in class and I have, you need a whole other set of skills.

Lovelydiscusfish Sat 22-Nov-14 16:55:48

I have been in a (very) similar situation and have allowed the girls to discuss whether or not it's offensive. We've got people of different faiths in the group, so we had some discussion of whether or not there were equivalent uses within their faith, whether or not it would offend etc. We also looked at secular equivalents, changes in context over time etc (my word my girls know how to derail me when they want to!).
I'm open with the girls about the fact I'm a Christian, though. Not that I go on about it all the time, but they know because I've mentioned it in assemblies, and if any of them ask I also do say.

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