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I can resist anything except temptation

TheRulesOfPenClickingAnother supply day. This time in Leeds.  On arrival I’m told the good news, that I have no lesson period four. The bad news is that I should report to reception at that time and they’ll ‘find me something’. This sounds ominous and indeed proves to be so. At 11.15 I’m collected by a ‘behaviour manager’, a tall open- shirted gent of around sixty, whose white hair descends to extravagant side burns and an ear ring. He leads me to the ‘referral room’. Two sullen children sit at desks and a young head of department is at the teachers’ desk. “You can get off if you like Glynn, this gentleman will be staying here this hour” says my tall companion. Glynn is delighted; in fact he seems so overwhelmed with his good fortune that for a moment I think he’s going to hug me. Thankfully he doesn’t but overjoyed at his unexpected freedom, he grabs his books, pen, sandwiches, diary and practically dances out of the room.

The inmates register his leaving with barely a flicker of interest and remain motionless, as studiedly unoccupied as two lions on a hot day in Regents Park.

“These people must stay here all day” I’m told. “Kirsten has to go for her jab at twenty past. At twenty two they have a toilet visit. If either of them want to go, you’ve all go to go and just wait in the corridor. Any problems ring reception. Number’s on the wall behind you.”

Of the two the girl, Y9 at a guess, is nearest. Skinny and peroxide dyed, she shows only intermittent interest in a worksheet that has been placed under her nose.

Facing the wall opposite, a boy in Y10 sits ignoring the work that I’m told he MUST do. He is wearing one black and one white sock, although general appearance discourages the notion that this is for effect.

Two Y7 runners appear to take lunch orders. My inmates may have lost their liberty for the day but not, it seems, the choice between chips and pasta.

Then Kirsten leaves for her jab and I have just my male miscreant for company. My nature is to engage him in conversation, to ask him why he’s here and whether he regrets whatever he did, to connect in some way that might just help. But I’m not a senior leader here, I’m not even, as Y7 will later remind me, ‘a proper teacher’. I’m just a body that’s been hired to hold the line in this room. So, somewhat frustrated, I sit and bide my time.

Minutes pass in stony silence. My prisoner decides to ignore the work and fix me with a stare. I raise my eyebrows in acknowledgement. More time passes. He begins clicking his pen.

Click, click, click-ick, click.

Determined to ignore this transparent ploy to wind me up, I open the scrabble app on my phone and start a new game. My contemplation of what to do with A-A-I-I-O-R-U is disturbed once more:

Click-ick ick, click-ick, click.

A pause.

More clicking.

“You are far too experienced to fall for this” I say to myself. “Just let it go. The one thing you must not do it rise to it. It’s a silly schoolboy trick to rile an adult with something so innocuous. Remember what you tell staff in your training? You are the adult here and you must not let yourself be provoked!”

Click, ick-click, click-ick, click.

I must not rise to this. I will not rise to this. I exchange four vowels and get another three in as replacement s.

Click. Click. Ick – click.

Like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation: “You need to be doing your work” I hear myself say “and knock it off with the pen, thanks!”

Damn.

Oh no. I’ve gone and done it now.

I’ve given this malcontent exactly what he craves.

Suddenly there’s a hail of clicks. Click-ick-ick-ick click click, click, -ick –ick-ick ick kick.

It’s twice as fast as before and utterly relentless. I’m amazed his pen doesn’t explode. Of course, he’s going to win this confrontation that I’ve stupidly invited.. What am I going to do? Ring reception in tears, screaming “He won’t stop clicking his pen”? I can’t envisage Bruce Willis and a SWAT team smashing feet first through the windows to rescue me from a boy who can’t decide whether his ballpoint should be in the ‘on’ or ‘off’ position…

How to rescue the situation? 

I feel a need to be seen to allow the clicking.

“Ok” I say in tones that are as kindly, measured and sarcasm-free as I can manage. “Click away if you like. Feel free.”

Which he does. With relish.

Not an episode to be proud of but a timely reminder of how easy it is to fall prey to the traps that unhappy young people can set for us.  I next time I’m talking to staff about low level disruption I’ll be even more keenly aware of the realities of the job and the fact that discipline in the classroom begins with our self discipline as adults.

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Here are some of the issues that I can help you sort: If the answers to any of the issues to the right is yes then get in touch – you have found the man you are looking for!

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If you have:

  • Some of your staff keep getting into unnecessary confrontations with pupils?
  • Some staff struggle to deal with social chatter?
  • Subject leaders who don’t take the lead on behaviour for learning
  • Head of house/year who are buried in the reactive and want to be proactive?

If you want to:

  • Improve attendance?
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  • Get help with the behaviour and safety SEF?
  • Have better behaviour and attendance data?
  • Get PLTS embedded?
  • Get pupil voice working?

And also:

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