Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Lunatics are taking over the Asylum



I am a great fan of Catherine Tate: she is a very gifted comedian and her Donna was a great companion for Dr. Who. I am less keen on the schoolgirl Lauren. This grotesque is so well observed she is only just a caricature and a hair's breadth away from reality.

Every class has its Lauren: in training if not yet fully formed. I can laugh at her on screen - and, indeed, I use her in my work with student teachers - but it is slightly uncomfortable laughter because I deal with her acolytes on a daily basis. I wonder, too, to what extent Lauren has set a standard and made her own unique contribution to classroom management issues up and down the land.

British comedy doesn't (yet) have its male Lauren: Harry Enfield's Kevin is far too gauche to be taken seriously, but I have my male Laurens too. Consider this Yr 10 incident:

Chris, come and sit here please.

Why?

Because you don't sit there.

I've always sat here.

And every lesson I move you to here.

But I haven't done anything wrong.

But you will if you stay there.

What have I done wrong?

You talk when you sit there.

I don't.

You already have. Come and sit here.

But I didn't do anything wrong.

Just come and sit here.

You can't move me.

Yes I can. I'm in charge.

I'm not moving.

Come and sit here please.

And so it went on from bad to worse. Remember too, that while this little floor show was going on, twenty other kids were waiting for their lesson to start.

I'm not moving. I haven't done anything wrong.

Well, you're disobeying my instructions for a starter.

I'm not moving.

Do as you're told.

(The outcome becomes inevitable.)

O.K. Chris you have to leave.

You haven't given me three strikes!

When a student is sent to another room he must take a form with him which he must complete and which invites him to reflect on the incident and on his behaviour. The first question asks: What happened? Chris's answer was: I was sent out for no reason.

Later that day I had a Yr 9 class. We are studying Revelation - as in the phenomenon, not the book. It is a killer topic and we do well to stay on task. Beckie, who needs no encouragement to be off task, is staring at the door. There is a face framed in its window. There should be no one there: everyone should be in lessons. I move towards the door and the face disappears. When I open the door a Yr 10 boy called Mark is standing there.

Move away from the door.

He ostentatiously moves one step away.

No, right away. Back to your class. What lesson should you be in?

None of your business.

(This is going well then. Behind me twenty seven fourteen year olds are getting restless.)

You need to go back to your class.

No.

I change tack.

Come into my room then, off the corridor.

No.

So you won't come in or go away.

No.

So, let's be clear what's happening here: you are choosing to disobey the direct instructions of a member of staff.

Yes.

(Oh good. I resist the temptation to slug him one.)

Then you have a problem.

Who are you to tell me what to do?

A behaviour support worker arrives. Come away Mark before you get into trouble.

It's too late for that.

I return to my class having achieved the last word and I leave Mark to the tender care of the BSW. There are raised voices outside the room.

It transpired that Mark should have been in Art but had been sent out. This is a regular occurrence. The only problem is that he refuses to go to where he has been sent and ends up on the wander. One wonders how this state of affairs has been allowed to continue without some appropriate resolution - ie, one where Mark is told in no uncertain terms what to do, no options. Having an unpredictable and provocative boy like Mark on the wander unsupervised puts others like me in a potentially vulnerable position.