Thursday, 26 November 2009

Adrian Elliott - debunking myths

In the series of TES articles 'De-bunking education myths' Adrian Elliott claims that behaviour now is no worse than it ever has been; really? Well, that all depends on what you mean by bad behaviour.

When I was at school, many years ago now, yes there was some very bad behaviour. I remember the music teacher staggering out of his room with blood pouring from his nose having been thumped by a local tough. Teacher being thumped was not a particularly remarkable event. And, yes, we did get up to some pretty awful stuff that I, as a teacher, don't see these days... BUT! - and as buts go, this is big! (no, really, it's big!) - we could all sit quietly and work when required to do so. We could, and would, be quiet when told to be so. These days, I personally don't see the more extreme extreme behaviour like the teacher thumping of my youth. However, this has been replaced by the drip, drip, drip of constant, low-level off-task behaviour; constant chatting, turning round, can't stay in seat, inability to concentrate for more than three or four minutes at time. Dealing with this 5 periods per day, 5 days a week is draining. As soon as you stop speaking, they start chatting. They deem it unreasonable and against their human rights to be required to sit still for 10 minutes. Just the simple, everyday lack of cooperation, having to constantly repeat requests, having kids argue and answer back, even to the most simple and reasonable of requests, is exasperating.

It is this constant low-level misbehaviour that gradually wears you down, wastes time in lessons and which lower the quality of the teaching and learning experience.

So, Mr Elliott, in one way I would agree with you; certain aspects of pupil behaviour are no worse than they have been in the past and indeed have probably improved; certainly violence against teachers has reduced since the abolition of the cane. But what has got worse, much worse, is the constant arguing, chatting, answering back, failure to follow instructions and general lack of respect and lack of discipline of today's pupils. Add to this the pressure of written lesson plans, Ofsted, etc etc etc and it all adds up to an intolerable level of stress for classroom teachers.

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