Ah, consistency, the Holy Grail of senior management. The notion's a great one, one that I agree with wholeheartedly - indeed one that I refer to in every book I've ever written about behaviour. The idea is that every member of staff should greet the same behaviour with the same response, whenever or wherever it happens in the school, and whoever the person is doing it. Clearly, it's a good idea in theory - it creates a sense of fairness, an ethos of equality, an atmosphere of respect. So why is it that the management can't get those pesky teachers to be consistent? What issues do we need to overcome as individual teachers, to help ourselves be that bit better at it? After many many hours of pondering this perennial question, here are some of my thoughts.
All of us are equal, it's just that some of us are more equal than others: Problem number one in ensuring consistency is that often the management don't expect it to apply to them. Swear at the class teacher? Quick ticking off, don't do it again, you naughty child. Swear at the head teacher? Ah, now you're talking. Instant suspension, horrified phone call to parents, much grovelling required before you get back into my school, sonny. If you want your staff to treat behaviour in a consistent way, make sure your policy protects them as well as you.
I am not Robo-Teacher, I am a human being: Here's a quick test for you. Think of the most irritating child you've ever worked with. One who really gets on your nerves. One whose absence from class makes your day. Next think of a lovely child. One who's hard working, always behaves well, you know the type. Okay, now imagine those two children in the same class, both of them chatting to their neighbour when they're meant to be working. You go over to lovely child and whisper 'C'mon sweetie, let's have a bit of hush and see you doing some work.' Now you stomp across to irritating child and scream, 'WHY AREN'T YOU WORKING, WHY ARE YOU TALKING, WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS TALKING, I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU EVEN BOTHER COMING TO MY LESSON!!!' Yep, me too, been there, done that, worn the hat, bought the t-shirt.
I need to prioritise. Or ... err why exactly do we have this rule?: In some schools it's easy to sort out uniform infringements, because pretty much everything else is sorted. The kids turn up on time, behave themselves, do the work, and are generally rather amenable. In other schools, when the hardest kid in the class turns up (yes, actually turns up, I know it's rare) fifteen minutes late, wearing trainers, a hoody, with a scowl on his face and a nasty cut on his cheek, storms into the room, slumps down in his chair and puts his feet up on the desk, perhaps getting him to sort his uniform is not top of your list? (A thought, though: funnily enough, it can sometimes be that focusing on something as simple as uniform can help you make headway in the toughest of teaching situations.)
Yes, I admit it, I'm just knackered: Monday first lesson, gum gets into bins, ties get re-tied. Friday last lesson, you know what, I CAN'T BE BOVVERED.
Elephants in the Classroom
You know that saying, about there being an 'elephant in the room': something everyone knows is there, but no one wants to mention? In teaching, there isn't just one elephant in the classroom, there's a whole herd of them, rampaging through the room. In this blog I plan to turn a spotlight on some of the unspoken and sometimes unpalatable truths about our noble profession (and the good stuff too). Because if we can't be honest about what makes a good learning experience, an effective school, or a good teacher, and equally what makes a bad one, then everyone loses.