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Gaslighting

(71 Posts)
PersecutionComplex Tue 14-May-19 23:26:30

I'm having some trouble with a class and I don't know how to deal with it.
For context, I am an experienced teacher and my behaviour management is generally good. I have to work hard at it as I'm not naturally stern.
But this class is all boys, very much a hooliganism type mentality. They back each other up which makes it quite intimidating at times. I know I'm in charge and work hard at keeping them under control most of the time. But they are quite sneaky and underhanded so I can never quite catch them red handed. If I do issue a sanction, they will deny their behaviour, often with others backing them up, or try techniques to accuse me of always picking on them. They might take things from my desk and pass it around. Make noises and someone will echo the noise so I don't know which direction it is coming from. It feels like they're all in on a joke but I don't know what it is. I start doubting myself and lose confidence in my sanction. I follow through with it but the perp will convince the class that I was wrong, thus making me seem unfair.
I try to stand firm in my decisions, but they can be very convincing in their denial which is why I think they're gaslighting me.
I've never experienced this sort of psychological misbehaviour before. I sort feel like an abused victim. I feel silly to let a bunch of teens affect my confidence. I know I am in charge but I think they can sense my seed of doubt.
How can I take control again?
At the moment, the tasks in class are things like copying from the board, do a test, or worksheets so I can monitor them and watch them like a hawk. But this makes the lessons so boring. Which again, they use against me.
It's like a catch 22, line manage thinks I need to make the lessons more engaging and the behaviour will get better. When I try any activity, it gives them a chance to be silly.
I would really appreciate some advice or even just someone who can empathise!
Thanks

OP’s posts: |
Flippedout Tue 14-May-19 23:33:12

Don’t lose you confidence because if one class of naughty kids . It’s them , not you .

You have a great insight into what’s going on , are there any ring leaders ?

EatsFartsAndLeaves Tue 14-May-19 23:35:35

I can empathise, lots of my lessons were like this when I was at school myself, it was brutal. I'm not a teacher so don't have any very insightful advice, but I guess I want to say that I know what you mean, I believe you.

Is there any way you could get someone else to sit at the back of the room and not intervene but make observations or maybe subtly signal to you who the perpetrators are so you can give them a proper bollocking and hopefully break it up for good?

Flippedout Tue 14-May-19 23:42:43

Give the ring leader a position of responsibility ?

EatsFartsAndLeaves Tue 14-May-19 23:44:20

Would collective punishment work? I know it's not usually a great idea, but if say you start doing something interesting and immediately switch to board copying as soon as anyone starts messing around then there's less room for the denials and you can start watching them again more closely.

PersecutionComplex Tue 14-May-19 23:50:57

Thank you for your responses. At the moment, I have to collectively keep the whole class behind when there are lots of students involved but I don't specifically know who they are. There are some ring leaders, I do give them a bit of a bollocking, call parents and it's better for a couple of lessons. After the bollocking, they "punish" me by not answering questions in discussions. Every single one will just say "don't know".
I'm not sure giving them responsibility would work. They're quite facetious so will take the piss I think.
I think tomorrow I will just have to make a note of everything so when I tell the individual off, I have a list!

OP’s posts: |
bookishtartlet Tue 14-May-19 23:52:09

Paul Dix has a great book called "when adults change everything changes" which is giving me some low effort high impact ideas for classes like this.

In.my experience, just being consistent with them, building a relationship and continuing to use the school protocol is really all you can do. I would say they are preying on the fact you are not quite sure who is doing what. Follow through with consequences, even if you're not entirely sure. Unless the behaviour is dangerous, I would not let another staff member in as it undermines the authority that it is YOUR classroom and your boundaries. I've had many a class like this, it's not an easy shift!

PersecutionComplex Tue 14-May-19 23:57:01

Oooh I have that book too! I must admit, I've only read about 2 chapters. I must give it another try.
I just don't know why I can't catch them!

OP’s posts: |
PersecutionComplex Tue 14-May-19 23:58:41

And no you're right. I don't want to transfer my authority to someone else. I can handle them but I feel like I am fighting for my sanity.
I also think it's an element of sexism.

OP’s posts: |
Flippedout Wed 15-May-19 00:23:20

Make examples of the ring leaders . Ask the ring leaders mum to come to school and observe the class , take each ringleader in turn and ask their parent to come and observe the class . The others will soon get the message and the ring leaders will be shocked etc . BUT after that the ring leaders must be given a chance to act as mature adults and should be treated as such .....ideally don’t tell the ring leader the parent is coming to watch today .

Haggisfish Wed 15-May-19 00:31:59

Mmm. I could not be arsed to do that. I would ask for another member of staff to come in and be quite open with the class-you’re messing me about and I’ve called for back up. It will undoubtedly be one or two twat ringleaders that the others sheepishly follow.

millimat Wed 15-May-19 06:56:22

How old are they?

noblegiraffe Wed 15-May-19 08:30:07

Don’t fall for Paul Dix’s ‘calling for back-up is weakness’, Paul Dix is a man for a start.

I actually said to a Y10 boy the other day ‘stop gaslighting me’ because that’s exactly what he was doing. It’s so annoying, and designed to wind you up. As a PP said, be open with them that you know what they’re up to and you will call for back-up. I said to the kid ‘you have 5 minutes and if after 5 minutes X item has not reappeared, I am calling for someone to remove you and they can get it off you. If one of your mates now has it, I suggest you get it back from them before you get in trouble’.

There will definitely be an element of sexism to this, btw.

noblegiraffe Wed 15-May-19 08:38:20

And when they try the ‘I wasn’t talking/messing around’ and someone else chimes in with ‘they weren’t’ I go for the withering look and ‘I’m not stupid, you know, I know exactly what you’re doing’.

You need to be in absolute charge of your classroom. Tell the other kids you’re not interested in their opinions when they butt in. Don’t let them think they can make you doubt yourself, and if they argue with you ‘now you’re arguing with a teacher and wasting lesson time, that’s a detention’. Above all, act like you’re bored by their behaviour, not wound up by it.

QueenofCBA Wed 15-May-19 16:57:24

Can you be really tough and immediately remove the first person who dares mess about? I had a few super tough months weeks with a class where, with SLT backing, I quickly sent the first 3 or 4 tough guys into isolation and then had really good lessons with lots of rewards with the rest. Once they realised that I was not going to back down they eventually settled.
You have my sympathy, it was absolute hell for a long time.

teachingiswank Wed 15-May-19 17:16:35

It's weird you posted this as I was thinking of the phrase gaslighting the other day - it's exactly what my year 8s do. And we can't send them out either!

PersecutionComplex Wed 15-May-19 18:56:23

Hi all, so today went well, using some of the above advice. I made an example of one guy. They're year 10. I sent him to work with HOD. I reminded about expectations, and why that person was sent away. But during my talk, one guy interrupted/shouted out, asking a question he knew the answer to ("who broke that thing?" - it was him, we all knew it), I kicked him out of the room straight away, ignored argument, repeated my instruction calmly. Then the gaslighting started when I spoke to him outside. His comments: "I was just asking, someone else was shouting out, I didn't know you were talking to me, you were looking at someone else. It's just me isn't is? You didn't see ALL of the other people talking"
My mistake was I argued with him a bit. I needed to shut it down quickly next time.
After that, no calling out, no phones out today. Mostly they were silent. But the down side was any questioning on the topics was met with silence. No hands up at all.

OP’s posts: |
PlatypusLeague Wed 15-May-19 18:58:17

You're not the first and definitely won't be the last! It must be frustrating and annoying for you.

Perhaps cut back on the copying from the board etc. Replace it with attention-grabbing stuff to start the next few lessons, but first warn them that if anyone messes around you'll be back to the "watching like a hawk" style. Or you could say "we will be making volcanic skateboards in 20 minutes but only if you complete this first task quietly."

Separate out any particularly troublesome pairs and sit them away from each other until they can show you they aren't going to be disruptive.

Don't get drawn into too many conversations which go off on a tangent. Say it isn't relevant to the lesson and must be left until later.

Praise and reinforce good behaviour every time you see it. Young people usually like to get the approval of teachers although they may not admit it. Try to find something positive to say to as many of them as you can in the lesson. They may not know how to break out of negative patterns but you can lead the way.

If they argue and "gang up" against you about a sanction, maybe tell them it's not up for discussion now because you need to complete the lesson, but they can tell you at break time if they wish.

How often do you talk with them individually? Who are they apart from "the nightmare class"? Could you call a few forward for a chat about how they feel they're getting on, one at a time, during each lesson?

Artykitty666 Wed 15-May-19 19:00:51

I'm not sure I agree with the sexism aspect. I could have written this post two years ago. It broke me, and if I hadn't been dealing with a relationship breakdown so, bigger fish to fry as it were, I would have crumbled. They were like that with everyone. No advice. I literally toughed it out till summer.

LolaSmiles Wed 15-May-19 19:08:52

I also wouldn t go near Paul Dix for behaviour on many things. He spends too much time blaming teachers for teenagers' deliberately rude and defiant behaviour.
E.g. they're being rude and ruining the lesson = you need to engage them and bud some relationships
E.g. There's blatant ignoring instructions = don't challenge them on It, remind them how much you like them and then maybe in 5 weeks time they might behave for you in future.

Use the school system. Get back up. Show them you are backed by the school. Schools are teams of people who support each other, not individual superheroes who pander to be adored and mates with their students.

In discussions about behaviour, focus on what you want.
E.g.
Timmy - but I didn't even speak. Adam said... so I... oh my god they started it.
You- ok. Except we aren't discussing Adam. We are discussing that you've not met expectations.
Timmy - yeah but Sam did... and David... and it wasn't even me who...
You - I'm not interested in specifics of who did what. I'm interested in you meeting basic expectations. I expect you to get on with your work. If you fail to meet expectations then there will be sanctions.

Move away from descriptive who did what. Anyone who doesn't meet expectations is fair for sanctions.

WombatChocolate Wed 15-May-19 19:11:22

You are right that you need to stop engaging in discussion and argument. They enjoy seeing you do that. If they say you aren't being fair or whatever, simply reply quietly and firmly with 'it is not open for discussion amdnindont want to hear another word about it'. ANd if anyone tries make clear that anyone continuing to argue or discuss will be punished too.

Consistency is key because they will soon get used to the fact that this is the way it is in your classroom and stop trying the behaviour that gets no response that they want.

And yes to having really tightly planned lessons. Have activities ready on the desks as they come in that they immediately have to start and keep things moving with a decent pace so there isn't too much teacher talk. You might need to keep Q and A and discussion very brief to break a cycle of them using that time to be bad and irritating. It's about little steps to take control. Tricky I know and I feel for you. It's awful when you dread the thought of a particular class.

truthisarevolutionaryact Wed 15-May-19 19:14:17

OP,
Well done for the progress - it's always small steps when 'turning a class round'.

In addition to the excellent advice above, don't forget to use targets and marking. Maybe start with some of the hangers on (not the ring leaders) and take a good look at their books / targets and think about what behaviour you see that's good. Catch them off guard (in the corridor etc) and quietly praise something - 'really liked how you answered that...' 'take a look at my marking in your book - that essay showed real promise' etc. Maybe 2 or 3 each week. If they know that you're interested in their progress and that you're interested in their work, they're less likely follow those causing trouble. They'll be quietly on your side. Strategically build the 'on your side' group via your interest in their progress and marking. Make sure your planning is really tight - challenging classes can make us teach defensively and that doesn't motivate them.
Finally, ... if you can.. stop the whole class sanctions. It means that the 'on your side' pupils get exasperated if they know they're not to blame - and end up blaming you for not knowing this.
Good luck.

Piggywaspushed Wed 15-May-19 19:18:42

I cannot abide all boy classes. I suggest any leader who thinks this is a good idea read 'Boys Don't Try' rather than wasting time on Paul Dix

I have a thread running on sexual intimidation and I absolutely agree they are potentially behaving this way as a mob because you are a 'lowly' female.

userabcname Wed 15-May-19 19:37:38

I'd recommend asking another member of staff to observe a lesson or two - often someone impartial can pinpoint ringleaders and the more underhanded key players who are hard to catch.

Never argue. As soon as pupils start arguing with me, I escalate. If it continues, I follow the behaviour policy and have them relocated and issue after school detentions. Even if the initial offence wasn't them, rudeness / defiance / gaslighting is unacceptable. I often reinforce that if they do feel they have been unfairly told off, they keep their head down and speak to me at the end of the lesson.

Mix up the seating plan. See if you can weed out the perpetrators in this way. A different seating plan every couple of lessons keeps them on their toes.

Reward contributions / positive behaviour. Are they all in on it? You might find many are actually on your side. Start trying to get these boys on board.

There is a huge issue with sexism in our current cohort of y10 boys. I was running a detention and one told me not to "interrupt a man" when I told him off for talking. They frequently make rape jokes and one of their favourite phrases is "feminists deserve to be raped". It is widely acknowledged in the school that sexism and misogyny is a big problem in that year group and steps are being taken to try to address it. I don't think sexism on their part can be discounted as a factor.

Piggywaspushed Wed 15-May-19 19:50:25

OK, again that fits with my thread : the lad culture is a widespread problem.

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