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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds I once worked with a physics teacher, a stickler for the rules. Mr Brennan was his name. We had a rule in our school. And the rule was you wear a plain, black jumper, no Nike ticks, Adidas, Dolce & Gabbana. We just wanted children to have plain, black jumpers. So the word went out to the student body and to the parents. And some of the students went to the uniform shop to buy a plain, black jumper. A lot of students went to Asda to buy a plain, black jumper. Well, it was plain, but it did have a tiny, tiny little logo on it, a Fruit of the Loom emblem, not a badge of honor in youth culture, Fruit of the Loom.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds But Mr. Brennan was from a slightly different generation. And he stood at the school gates on a Monday morning in September at the start of the year checking the children coming in. And he sees plain, black jumpers. They make him smile. And he sees these little Fruit of the Loom logos. He says, you, boy, Fruit of the Loom. He says, oh, me, sir? No. Its from Asda, sir. He says, take it off. He’s taking jumpers off the children at the gates. He’s got them lined up against the fence. He says Fruit of the Loom, Fruit of the Loom. He’s one of those. You know one of those, right?

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds I’m hoping you’re not one of those, one of those teachers who tries to manage behavior on the edge of their temper. And there’s nothing more like nectar to the average 14-year-old than seeing a fully grown man about to blow his top. If you get that little bulging vein at the side of the head, it’s double bubble, right? So the children are quick.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds They’re goading him. They’re walking past him in the corridor shouting Fruit of the Loom. He’s like that. By second lesson they’re missing their lesson so they can go up to his little window in his science room and stick their jumper up against it and scream Fruit of the Loom, and leg it down the corridor. He’s out the door. Fruit of the Loom. Fruit of the Loom. The man’s in crisis all week. And his store cupboard is filling up with confiscated Fruit of the Loom jumpers. And the school is wobbly. Parents are calling up, complaining the children are freezing cold. And he will not give the jumpers back.

Skip to 2 minutes and 44 seconds Each time he sticks them in his store cupboard at the back of the science room and locks the door and searches the score for more Fruit of the Loom jumpers. He’s obsessed. Now, you may work in the best school. You may work somewhere that’s a bit wobbly. But we all have bad weeks. Every school has tricky weeks. And we were in a really wobbly situation. We were keen to get to Friday because we thought Monday would be a new week, a clean sheet. Mr. Brennan would have calmed down, the goading would have stopped, the chaos will have quelled. And we got to Friday. And on Friday Mr. Brennan popped out to get his sandwiches.

Skip to 3 minutes and 32 seconds And so we went to the headteacher, and we got the skeleton key, and we opened up the store cupboard, and release the jumpers. Of course, we’re in a secondary school. Nothing’s labeled. I’ve got some of my younger children going home with very long arms, jumpers, some of the older children in quite a tight fit. But no matter. It’s done. We’re at the weekend. We can relax. We think Monday morning will be better. So I’m standing on the school gates on Monday morning. And I swear to you there are more Fruit of the Loom jumpers coming in on the Monday morning than they were leaving on the Friday night.

Skip to 4 minutes and 10 seconds The children had gone to Asda with their own money, bless them, to buy a Fruit of the Loom jumper just to wind him up. Of course, he walks into the staff room Monday morning, and there are six of us there with Fruit of the Loom jumpers as well. And finally he gets it. He spent 30 years doing the same thing. He says to his students, your behavior filters through my emotion, and I grab the biggest stick. Because if I can find the biggest stick, I can smash your behavior and it will never happen again. What nonsense. If only life were that simple. Students misbehave, you punish them, they change, and we will move on. But life isn’t that simple.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 seconds And behavior management is not that linear. The correct approach has always been your behavior, your choice, your consequence. Because the relationship between me and my students is something too important to throw down every time I feel frustrated. I have to protect the relationship, I have to protect my students, and I have to protect myself. And for me, that little Fruit of the Loom echo rings around my head every time I feel like I’m about to show some lack of control, every time I feel my frustration bubbling over. I wonder what your little reminder is just to keep your calm and keep that intelligent approach to behavior, your behavior, your choice, your consequence.

Fruit of the Loom!

Watch the video of Paul talking about what can happen when a teacher loses control.

Then consider Paul’s seven reasons for stopping short of your full range.

Video Summary

We’ve all met ‘The Stickler’ haven’t we? You know, the teacher who lives constantly on the edge of their temper, never deviating from the rule. When the behaviour of students becomes your focus, you know you’re in trouble. The story about the Fruit of The Loom jumper is a typical example: students goading a teacher about a black jumper to test the fragile ill-tempered reaction. Students are creative when scratching the teacher itch:

‘Fruit of The Loom sir, Fruit of The Loom!’, rings around the corridor from invisible voices and the staff begin to scratch the itch too with a silent snigger cloaked in a black jumper with a logo. The Stickler finally gets it; the logo isn’t the problem.

The Stickler filters student behaviours through their own emotions and what gets through is whacked with the big stick like Bat the Rat at a fairground. Both you and I know, behaviour management is not that straightforward. It’s messy and complicated in the lesson’s emotional moment.

Are you The Stickler?

So are you The Stickler or do you know how to interrupt your own behaviour patterns? Do you protect the integrity of yourself, your students and the learning relationships? For both you and the student, it’s your behaviour, your choice, your consequence.

Something to Think About

Seven reasons to stop short of your full range:

  1. Students see shouty adults as adults who are out of control. It either makes them feel anxious or they find it funny.
  2. You would never shout at a student in front of their parents.
  3. If your model of behaviour is poor, this will affect the way students choose to deal with each other.
  4. Over-emotional responses to inappropriate behaviour will frighten many. It will also encourage others to push your buttons.
  5. Colleagues hear your voice echoing down the corridor and begin to question your ability to manage behaviour.
  6. Managing behaviour through fear is unsophisticated, unsustainable and unfair.
  7. Disproportionate responses to inappropriate behaviour encourage unfair punishment, ‘Right, that’s it, you are NEVER DOING PRACTICAL WORK EVER AGAIN !!!!!’

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre