And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Yesterday I had the dubious honour of returning to a school I taught in for a few days last term.

I say honour because the school asked my agency for me specifically, and the head repeated this a number of times when I went in, saying a number of times that he thought I was a good teacher.

I say dubious, because, in terms of behaviour management, the school is a mess.

Last term I had an afternoon cover for a teacher who had to go to a meeting. As the meeting did not begin until after the lesson had started, the teacher stayed in the room for the first fifteen minutes, introduced me to the class, and made sure they were settled and ready to begin learning before he left.

Or rather, that’s what he told me would happen as he showed me from reception to his classroom.

Once inside the classroom, Mr Soames, showed me the (thankfully brief!) lesson plan and outlined his main aims for the lesson, as well as telling me about the class rules and the importance of the seating plan. I was informed that this must be adhered to rigidly as a new boy, Jez, had recently joined and he was trying to assert his position within the class.

The bell went, and the class trooped into the room. Jez, Greg, Joe, Adam and Ebal sat down. The desks were arranged in a three-sides-of-a-rectangle arrangement. Greg and Joe sat on one of the ‘arms’ of this shape, Adam on the opposite, Ebal on the long middle row. Jez then took a seat next to Greg. Within seconds Jez was on his feet yelling at Adam, “What the **** are you doing? Looking at me? You looking at me?

Adam shook his head and protested his innocence to Mr Soames, who then asked Jez to sit down. Jez, however, wasn’t prepared to do this, and started playing to his audience. He encouraged Joe and Greg to stare at Adam, asking if they agreed that he had a weird face. Joe and Greg joined in laughing, and Adam looked close to tears.

Mr Soames asked Jez to sit down again, and after repeating this a few times, he finally did, but only after having stuck his tongue out at Adam.

At this point, Ebal pointed out that Jez should be sitting next to him, not next to Greg. Mr Soames then consulted the seating plan, and asked Jez to move.

Jez refused.

Mr Soames asked again.

Jez again refused.

Mr Soames asked again.

Jez refused once more.

At this point I assumed that Mr Soames would impose a sanction on Jez, in fact I was surprised he hadn’t done so before, and that Jez had been able to get away with so much.  I was frankly astounded at Mr Soames’s manner of calm acceptance that such a ‘discussion’ with a pupil was inevitable.

Mr Soames put down the seating plan, and walked into the middle of the room. He turned to Jez and said “Well, if you won’t sit next to Ebal, you can either sit next to Nadia or Afrosa.

Jez replied, “I’m not moving. I don’t want to sit next to them!

Mr Soames repeated his request for Jez to move to either of the alternative positions.

Jez refused.

Mr Soames asked again.

Jez refused again.

Mr Soames asked yet again.

Jez refused, yet again.

Mr Soames then tried again, “Jez, you have to move. You cannot stay there.

Jez refused.

Mr Soames asked again.

Jez refused and gave his opinions as to why he thought Mr Soames was being unreasonable by asking him to move.

The clock was ticking and Mr Soames had only a few seconds before he had to leave for his meeting. He walked back to his desk, picked up the seating plan, looked at it and turned to Jez. “I have to go to a meeting now. I’ll be back at the end of the day. When I come back I want you to tell me where you want to move to. You can’t stay where you are.

And then Mr Soames walked out.

*    *    *

Yesterday, I covered the same class for the same teacher.

In the intervening six months, little had changed. The class, now in the next year group, still had the same seating plan, Jez was still sitting next to Greg.

What was noticeably different was the quick conversation Mr Soames and I had before he left the room. I was told not to ask Jez to do anything that he didn’t want to do, “In case he kicks off.” I was also advised to make sure the other pupils didn’t annoy him, and to ensure that Adam kept a safe distance away from him. I was told that he was very difficult to control and that he would become violent to pupils during break times if he was annoyed for any reason. If Jez wanted to do something else during the lesson, I should turn a blind eye to his activities providing they didn’t disturb the rest of the class, placation was the main aim.

When I left at the end of the day, the Head asked if I had enjoyed my time there. He asked if I would be happy returning, saying that they were always looking for good supply teachers, and was I interested in a long-term post? I politely declined, and said that I had other commitments that meant I was unable to take up such a position.

In fact, that wasn’t strictly true. I could have easily accepted the offer, and if I come across a school where I feel I would be able to teach without it being a battle, I may well accept a long-term position if I am offered it.

But not at that school.

Sitting in the staffroom at lunchtime, I had sat next to two NQTs who were discussing their recent twilight CPD session. It had been led by Mr Soames (now a member of SMT) on the topic of behaviour management…

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

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3 Responses to And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

  1. anon says:

    And you wonder why people will sell a kidney to get their children out of state schools.

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