Diary of an NQT: Behaviour – A team effort

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Faced with his first incidents of really challenging behaviour, our NQT diarist seeks the support of his colleagues to find a solution...

I have recently experienced my first truly challenging behaviour since beginning my NQT year.

Although I have dealt with minor behavioural incidents, this is the first time that I have struggled to maintain authority over a group of students.

However, by discussing my concerns with colleagues, the issues have been solved. This has not been an easy process, yet the experience has made me a better teacher.

The class in question is one of my two year 10 GCSE history classes. We got off to a strong start and I had established a good working relationship with the group. The first half-term went smoothly and the students were engaged in my lessons.
There are five very strong-willed female students in the group, all of whom display challenging behaviour both in and out of lessons.

By approaching them without preconceptions, I was able to build positive relationships with these students and the rest of the class. However, as the Christmas holidays approached, their behaviour in my lessons began to deteriorate, having a negative impact upon our working relationship.

I confess that I initially struggled to deal with this behaviour; a punitive approach had very little impact and their attitudes deteriorated further. Individually, I still had a good relationship with all five students, but found that they would encourage each other to mess around in lessons. To make matters worse, a falling out between the five students created two factions, making it impossible for them to work harmoniously with each other.

I felt like I was fighting a losing battle; every time I managed to get one of the girls working well, another would decide to act up. Several times, I felt that my lessons were being ruined due to my difficulties in getting these five students to engage and behave.

The rest of the class were supportive and continued to work hard, but I sensed that they were becoming frustrated with the situation.

By seeking advice from their other teachers, I realised that I was not alone. Each of them was experiencing difficulties in other lessons and all five were frequently in trouble. Things came to a head when four of the five students arrived at my lesson half an hour late due to an incident in the playground. This completely derailed the lesson, wasting the valuable curriculum time of their fellow students.

I spoke to both my head of department and the pastoral support officer for year 10. Both were supportive, and it was agreed that the mix of personalities in the group was not conducive to a good working environment. As a result, two of the girls have been moved into different groups.

The change in atmosphere within the class has been tangible. The three of the girls who remain are working well and our relationship has improved. Likewise, the other students seem much more engaged as I am not wasting time trying to manage the girls’ behaviour.

The two students who were taken out of the groups initially expressed displeasure at the move; apparently, they were enjoying my lessons despite their behaviour indicating otherwise. I have sat down with both students to clear the air, and both now understand the reasons for them moving groups.

I worried about this situation for a few weeks before seeking advice from colleagues. This has taught me that it is okay to admit that you are struggling with a class. Indeed, it is only by being honest about my difficulties that the situation has been resolved, and my students and I are much better off as a result.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


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