What are you afraid of?
Get a system for easily recording warnings, visible to all students.
Imagine it’s your second week, day one, period 4. You’ve just had a horrendous Period 2 lesson with Year 10, and now it’s time for Year 11. One lad refuses to enter the classroom, before later barrelling in with another boy draped over his shoulders. They run around, completely ignoring you… before heading off out the classroom again! You chase after them to recover the pupil supposed to be in your room, only to find yourself confronting a tall student who looks like he’s getting ready to hit you, prevented only by another teacher intervening. By the time you get back to your room, another male pupil who, up til now has spent your lessons sleeping, has suddenly awoken, taken your chair and proceeded to wheel himself around the classroom! You ignore it for a time… because you’ve no idea what to do. Eventually you pluck up the courage and tell him to get off the chair. Ah yes, he’s ignoring you. Then he’s telling you he won’t get off the chair. You put your foot on the base to prevent him wheeling any further, and his response is to sulkily get off and inform you that you’re gay. With that, you send him out the room, and lo, he actually goes (maybe you can get them to do what you say after all…). You take him a textbook to work from, and by the time you get back the whole class are giggling because one of the girls (you suspect… but can’t prove) has written ‘faget’ [sic] up on the board. You rub it off, and try to continue with the lesson.
Day two, what do you do?
1) Get people to help out.
They think they can do what they like, because they can. They think they can bully you because you’re soft, and you’re alone, and there’s 30 of them. The second they start to realise you’re talking to their tutors, their heads of year, their pastoral assistants, their head of maths, and the moment they see some of those people standing with you in the classroom, suddenly they realise you’re not soft, and you’re not alone. You still do most the talking, you don’t hide behind them; they’re just there to remind the kids that you’ve got your gang too.
2) Get a system to lean on.
I adapted Joe’s behaviour system – all names pre-printed on paper, blue tacked each lesson to the board. Strikes by the left of their name, ticks by the right; the rewards and sanctions don’t matter, make them up (and then you’ll change them when it doesn’t work). What matters is when faced a belligerent child kicking their feet up at the back, munching Pringles, with a “What are you gonna do about it?” attitude, is your response going to be a meek nothing, or a shouting match you’ve already lost, or are you going to calmly walk to the board and add a strike by their name, and continue to do so until the Pringles are away, or the student finds themself either placed in detention or removed from your room (or both). It’s about having some kind of action you can take, any action, without having to go straight to sanctions or losing your cool.