I am now half way through my first 6 week teaching practice. It’s going pretty well all things considered. I’ve still got a lot to learn of course but I’ve not made a bad start. I really need to work on remembering my French too – although I did it to degree level, a lot of my knowledge came from living and working there for 6 years on and off. Unfortunately, learning your French from potty-mouthed, middle-aged French ladies who clean mobile homes for a living isn’t the best starting point when trying to teach reflexive verbs to bored thirteen year olds in the last period of a Friday afternoon! Luckily, I had been left on my own and the class teacher wasn’t there to see me slowly lose the attention of each pupil one by one. In the grand scheme of things though that is by no means the worst that can happen.
Now, I know there were naughty kids when I was at school; one boy in my year got expelled and came back into school armed with a cricket bat to seek his revenge on the head teacher, but I think being in the top set for every subject probably shielded me from the worst of the behaviour in school. There are, of course, still some lovely, hardworking, well behaved children in school, but the bad behaviour just seems to be getting worse. Just today, a twelve year old boy in one of my classes told the teacher she was a ‘fucking twat’ and when told he would be getting lines as a punishment shouted at the top of his voice ‘do I give two shits?’. When given the lines he screwed them up saying there was ‘no fucking chance’ he’d be doing them, then proceeded to go outside and set fire to the piece of paper in full view of the French classroom windows. This pupil is so badly behaved that he goes to the dedicated ‘Behaviour Support Unit’ for some classes where he cannot behave in the mainstream classroom. He also has a ‘flexible timetable’ which means he doesn’t have to come to school in until period 2 because he is basically too tired/grumpy/lazy to get into school for the first period of the day. In an other class, an 11 year old boy refused point blank to take his coat off. When asked to go outside he refused some more and eventually the head of department had to come and (almost forcibly) remove him from the classroom at which point he just disappeared for the rest of the period.
The school I am currently doing my teaching practice in has, as I mentioned, a dedicated ‘Behaviour Support Unit’ because education these days is all about inclusion. Which means instead of excluding pupils for persistent or serious bad behaviour there is provision for them in a mainstream school, either by taking them out of classes and into the support centre where they receive one on one attention, or by having behaviour support assistants in the classroom. In a lot of ways I agree with this and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to deal with some of these kids with out the presence of the behaviour support assistants. However, I also have a bit of a lingering doubt that by giving these kids flexible timetables where they either start later, or finish earlier (or sometimes both) than the other pupils we are almost rewarding their bad behaviour.
It’s certainly a tricky area, and one that I know even experienced teachers struggle with. It’s certainly an area in which I still have an awful lot to learn. It seems one of the big keys to this is providing lessons and activities that are interesting and engaging for the pupils, and pitched at the right level. If something is too hard, or too easy then the kids will just switch off and start messing around. On the plus side, I did have some success today with the bottom set of second years that I teach. I invented a sort of noughts and crosses game with pictures of different activities to match up to the written French on a grid. The kids seem to really enjoy it and I even heard lots of French being spoken. So, sometimes it does work. And it’s those moments that make you perservere and carry on, and try and think of more activities that will have the same effect.
Anyway, I’m enjoying the teaching so far. I have a lot of work to do, what with lesson planning, creating resources and I’ve barely looked at all the stuff I have to do for university and the 3,500 word assignment due in just after Christmas (gulp!). So it’s looking like I did make the right decision after all, despite my early pre-show nerves.