Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Misbehaviour and Disengagement

I read this tweet from Joe Bower, a Canadian teacher and it struck a cord with me.

I recall the start of my second year of teaching and the introduction of a new deputy head. I was working at an inner city school with very low GCSE results, lots of behaviour problems and poor leadership and management. During my first year the management had made it clear that any bad behaviour from students was because our lessons were not engaging enough. I had passed my NQT year and everyone was telling me good things, but I wasn't very confident that my teaching skills were good enough to "engage" the worst behaved students. On top of that ofsted were constantly being mentioned and I didn't feel that I could teach anything other than an unsatisfactory lesson due to the afore mentioned poor behaviour. Our school would go into special measures, which would be hell, and it would be my fault.

Up stepped our new deputy who used his first address to the staff to tell us all that the state of the school was because the teachers were not putting in the effort and he was appointed to sort us out! Not really a confidence booster.

The school was turned around. Not by this deputy head, but by a new building, new management team focusing in on student attainment in year 10 and 11 and a suitable curriculum that included vocational courses. An appropriate curriculum.

While I was working at this school there were members of staff who tried to put in place an appropriate curriculum. It was obvious to them that GCSEs were "failing" the students and they needed different courses and forms of assessment.

It was plain to us that the students were disengaged and badly behaved often because they couldn't access the curriculum and didn't have the skills to be successful. But our students were anything but stupid. They knew that they weren't doing very well, so didn't want to try for fear of failure.

I have a brilliant partner who is a teacher and has spent the last twelve years working in this school through difficult times for the school and difficult times for him. Through it all he has made it his mission to ensure that his students feel confident to learn and make progress. In recent years he has used APP as a tool to help students. I watched him during one difficult year where his timetable was made up of maths - a subject he doesn't have an O-level in - struggle to support two very challenging groups and improve their behaviour by increasing their confidence and therefore improving their engagement with their learning. He didn't do this by making lessons exciting or performing to them, but by helping them overcome academic difficulties.

If a student has behaviour problems it isn't always possible to solve all the problems they have. It is important to remember that there is no magic bullet. Just small steps.

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