Students:The good, the bad and the unteachable. Part 1


I generally don’t have behaviour problems in my classroom when I teach. I’ve worked in some tough schools and once students realised hat this is the way things happen, 99.9% of the time they start to behave.

So the question is what do I do to make this happen?

The Good

In the corridor

It’s best to start positive. My motto is ‘My first encounter with a student should always be positive’. To make sure that is the case when I’m out and about in school I say ‘hello’, I smile, I comment on something positive about a child and in some cases I tease them. I think they would call it ‘banter’. I call it ‘laying foundations’. If a child knows you can be friendly and positive, they then know that when you have to ‘tell them off’ it’s because of the situation, not because you’re a teacher who continuously tells students off.

Popping in classes

Whenever I pop into a class, for any reason, I smile at them. Depending on the situation I might comment on something. When going into MFL I try out my French with the teacher. Again, students find out that Miss Cox is generally easy going. This means I am establishing relationships with students I don’t even teach. Very important.


I chat with the students. About everything and anything. First lesson back after a holiday I ask ‘Who has something exciting to tell me?’ Often no-one tells me anything but it doesn’t matter. It means they know I’m interested in them and not everything is subject orientated.


Try this out. Set a class off on a piece of work. Do nothing other than walk around and say out loud nice things. Try ‘lovely handwriting’, ‘well done’, ‘great start’ etc You will ‘feel’ the room lift. Everyone likes being praised. Even grumpy Year 11.

The Bad


As a teacher you have to make instant initial assessment of what behaviours a child is displaying and then run through all the possibilities that could be the cause. Then choose the appropriate tactic to use to deal with the behaviour. All this in 2 seconds! I believe this is where people who are good at behaviour management have key skills. And most of these people do it naturally so wouldn’t be able to explain it to you. They can do this instantly.

If you’re struggling with behaviour management you are probably under developed in one of these elements.

To summarise:
* look at behaviour being displayed
* think of all possible cause/s
* if you know the student, use your knowledge to help decipher the cause
* select a tactic or technique that fits with the cause/s you’ve diagnosed

Traditionally behaviour management training focuses on the last point. Try following through the list when considering a particular child you teach.

So here are some techniques…..

The silent treatment

There is so much a teacher can do that deals with poor behaviour without saying a word. My favourites are…

* The Miss Cox ‘death stare’ or ‘The Look’- A child once joked that when I give a certain look, it is like my eyes burning into them. I particularly use this in assemblies when I don’t want to speak but I want the student to know that I am not impressed by them and I know what they’re up to. Without looking in the mirror I think it involves raised eyebrows and maybe a tilt of the head. Either way, it means’ pack that in’ and they know it!

* The hand gesture – Pointing at whatever it is that needs to be the focus in a direct manner. If a student isn’t focussing on a DVD it involves pointing to my eyes and then pointing to the screen. In assembly I point towards the front speaker etc

Tactical ignoring

It is difficult to explain to a trainee/NQT how this works. It’s not my favourite but in some cases it is necessary and can be effective. I think it should only be used where you have a volatile student where it is ‘touch and go’ whether they will last the lesson. Or it is effective with the student that is deliberately saying/doing things to attract your attention.

So how does it work? Well you ignore their attention seeking behaviour (as long as it doesn’t cause any H&S issues). If they are blatantly breaking school rules then they shouldnt be ignored i.e if a child starts to make a phone call!. However, smaller things can be ignored. A recent example is a student was using bad language deliberately to get my attention. Without looking at or naming the student I said out loud ‘mind the language please’. She knew it was for her. She then carried on swearing for a bit and I ignored it. She then got bored and stopped doing it.

The Unteachable

So out of the thousands of young people I’ve met in my career I think I’ve met a handful that are ‘unteachable’. Their past and their present is too much for them to overcome. Their upbringing to date means they probably won’t ever be able to engage fully in society.

Finally don’t ever think that children don’t want structure, rules and punishments. They DO. Some of the poorest behaved students I’ve taught have gone straight into the Army when they’re old enough. Why? They’re desperate for structure, rules and punishments in their lives. Keep strong and you will have well behaved students.

This blog was inspired from the #ukedchat on 18/4/2103.

One thought on “Students:The good, the bad and the unteachable. Part 1

  1. Pingback: Being a student | thejourneyofastudent

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