When it’s not your turn to be the teacher: Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour #3

I have written before about changing friendships and those moments where I forget to turn off the teacher voice, but the problem of teaching becoming who you are rather than what you do encroaches further into my life than that. Every time I interact with a person who is unreasonable, overly officious or obdurate, it is me who takes the role of pandering to their needs in order to calm them. When I meet a person whom I find disagreeable, I make myself more agreeable to accommodate them. I even do this when that other person is in a position of authority or if they have been employed to cater to my needs. I automatically try to avoid conflict where I might have sought it in the past. I notice in the staff room at school that we all do this for each other as well. When somebody comes in with their temper in fragments, they are not often blamed for it. Instead, everyone else tries to keep out of their way or make them feel better, or simply avoid loading any further responsibility onto them. I definitely appreciate this when it is my temper that has erupted and I think it’s one of the major strengths of our faculty.

The power of placating service people is a useful skill and can win me extra consideration and bargaining powers. It’s also nice to have someone else think that I am a lovely customer. However, there are situations where managing people is a drawback.

When the habit of dispersing tension leaks into your personal life, it costs you meaningful relationships. Managing another person’s behaviour categorises them into a new box in your head. Instead of being equal to you, that person is now lesser. They become equivalent to a student and they also take mental effort to deal with. They will never be a person whose company you seek for pleasure and you will never be able to turn to that person for advice or comfort when you are having a rough time. It also ties you to someone whom you would normally meet and then forget about or refuse to see again. The problem is that you’ve gone to effort to make them feel good at the expense of an opportunity for you to feel good. They leave the interaction liking you, and you leave the interaction pitying them. You end up with a superficial friendship that becomes an obligation. It’s never comfortable and it’s frequently awkward. You end up either making all of the plans  because part of your role in their life is to organise things, OR you get no say because your role is to accompany them when they’ve got nobody. When I began to find relationships like this creeping into my life, I began to question those relationships I had pre-teaching that were a little awkward. It turns out that some of my relationships were less than ideal and I’ve begun to make more efforts with people I actually like. It’s comforting that other people just past my age have said they went through the same thing in their twenties.

Additionally, being a behaviour manager makes it difficult to behave graciously when being taught by someone else.

I got a remote first aid certification recently. It was a two-day course with a mixture of practical and theory, with a very experienced first-aider as a teacher. He had a few tics that it was difficult to ignore though. He had a habit of saying only half of a sentence and ending it as a question, as though waiting for one of the adult pupils to finish the sentence on a subject we had not been taught about yet. He was also patronising and he threw us into practical situations that we could not solve because we did not have the knowledge. I was there with a colleague from school and although the teacher’s first-aid experience and knowledge could not be questioned, we harshly critiqued his teaching methods and laughed helplessly at his manner. Our behaviour was unbecoming and something we would never tolerate from students of our own.

Teachers, like all professionals, have a multi-faceted life with many priorities and responsibilities, but I am finding that I’m turning into a person who approaches all of my priorities with my single-faceted personality. If I continue to do this, I will continue to struggle with making meaning of the place in my life that each person I know holds. In my future, I would like to keep the behaviour management at school and relax when I go home and when I go out to socialise.


Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour #2

behave 2

I do not profess to be an amazing behaviour manager. The hardest thing about being a new teacher is that it is difficult to know how to respond when students do the wrong thing. There are also those moments when a more experienced teacher would have seen the trouble coming, but new ones can’t.

In my first year, I had two classes who could find my patience threshold within fifteen minutes and they expressed views that I found so appalling that I did not want to stay in their presence. The students in question were in year nine and year ten and most of them were larger than me, including the girls. The boys used this to their advantage, never missing an opportunity to physically intimidate me. They were loud, shouting obscenities and vocalising their tobacco cravings. Many of the boys preferred to rub their nipples at me to completing work and there was also plenty of hands-down-pants action. Some of the girls had difficulty selecting school skirts that could cover their underwear when seated. Call me judgemental, but I despaired of the adults these kids would become after day one.

I stood in front of both of those classes in turn on my first day, dressed like a teacher, with a freshly-broken right arm in a sling. I am right-handed so I wrote my name sloppily on the board with my left hand. The year nines laughed at me. The boys were particularly loud and plenty of animal noises accompanied their hoots of laughter. One of them asked me “are you a new student? You are NOT a teacher!” Most of them were convinced that I was a casual and I could not convince them that it was my name on their timetable. I stuck to my policy of not talking over the students and I used my best death stares. In the fifty-minute lesson, it took me forty minutes to mark the roll. Part of that time was spent trying to get them to sit down. They invaded my personal space, circling me like predators and sticking their mean faces close to mine. I stood my ground and made no reply except for “sit in your seats”. In the last ten minutes, I tried to get them to put away their mobile phones and to impose on them my expectations for the year. When the bell rang, the students shoved themselves back from their tables, knocking over their chairs and they ran for the door, punching and shoving each other and shouting explicit things. When I called loudly for them to stand behind their chairs, they pretended I had not spoken and kept going.

I used every strategy I had during that lesson. I had planned a lesson, I had tried to talk about class rules so that expectations were transparent, and I tried to get to know the students. I made a point of learning to pronounce their names properly, because I know I used to hate teachers who couldn’t even bother to learn our names properly and get them right. I refused to allow them to speak over me. The kids knew more than me though. If they do not allow you to even get the lesson started and if they present a united front of hostility, you can’t win. I have learned this year that the only thing allowing you to get a lesson started at my school is your credibility from past years. Out of all of the things they did to me that day, their laughter undermined my confidence the most. By the end of that lesson, I was afraid of them, and with good reason. Many of the students in that year nine class were involved in criminal behaviours at that time and some have become involved in criminal activity since.

The response from the year tens was not very different, and the lesson went the same way. However, they were less aggressive than the year nines. They hurled insults and threats at me, but did not make good on any of them that day. The boys emitted guttural and high-pitched noises at frequent intervals and they spoke to each other and me as though they would like nothing better than to rip everyone in the room apart. But they did sit down, even if they didn’t listen.

I struggled with those two classes throughout year. They bullied me relentlessly for terms one and two, but by terms three and four, some of the more menacing children had been farmed out to work experience, part time work, TAFE or other programs for the disengaged. Some simply left and many began to truant when they realised that they couldn’t break me and I wouldn’t back down. I only ever showed them the bitch in me. It worked as far as restoring an ordered classroom and they did learn to wait until dismissal at the end of class. Those that began to pay attention did very well for themselves. The year nines went into higher year ten classes and some of the year tens chose Science for year eleven. The ones who vehemently refused to attempt any work did not improve their rankings or their scientific literacy. In fact, they regressed, beginning the subsequent year with a lower ability to apply knowledge than when they came to me.


The most important thing about behaviour management is that you have to make an attempt. You have to do SOMETHING. Better a failed attempt than none at all, because a failed attempt still sets the standard that something unacceptable has taken place. I eventually learned the school systems and began to develop strategies to punish the kids. However, I must admit that often, to punish you must first entrap. If you confiscate a drawing or something similar that is being used to distract the class, always promise to give it back at the end and remind the student to put their name on it so that you know it’s theirs.  Take it to someone higher up instead of returning it. The kid cannot deny ownership if their name is on it in their own handwriting. This actually works numerous times on the same kid.

Follow up with things that you say you’ll do. A late punishment, accompanied by dated records is better than no punishment at all. FYI-giving them detention means you have detention too. Find a better thing to do to them. If you call a parent and they appeal to you for help with managing their child, suggest the confiscation of electronic devices. Parents might also like to turn their wifi off at bedtime. It makes it more likely that the children will actually sleep.

Lastly, don’t let the kids see your emotions unless you trust them. It unnerves them to deal with robotic people, so give them a robot if need be. I have also found that sometimes you have to be unconventional for the kids to take any notice of you.

The uni lecturers are convinced that I will continue to develop in the area of behaviour management……



Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour? #1

behave 2

better bart








Behaviour management is the

proverbial ElephantInSchool during university education degrees. The lecturers are confident that you’ll figure it out for yourself when you’re on prac. On prac, the supervisors handle all of the obstinate learners for you, while you die of shame in front of them. The Teacher Instruction literature guilts you into believing that if the students are misbehaving, then your educational practice is unsound. The Inspirational Teacher literature is not worth consulting when it comes to student discipline. It contains more verbose imagery and orchestrated catharses than poorly-written erotica.The maxim referenced by most of them is: “The only behaviour you can manage in the classroom is your own”.


My Behaviour

I do manage my own behaviour. I enact coping mechanisms to prevent myself from physically harming the students or other staff members. This behaviour management approach protects my career, and prevents episodes from being exacerbated, but it does not improve the behaviour of my students in that instant. When I go home, I have to enact further strategies to ensure that I can still interact with other humans.


Excuse me while I disembowel this orc to release my frustration and carnal rage. 




When it’s your turn to manage behaviour for the first time in first year, you have to decide where you’ll draw the line, and you have to make constant judgements about when a kid is playing you and when they’re being sincere. Sometimes, you will be wrong, and most of the time, you will be accused of favouring a student who you like more.

News flash: I tend to dislike students who lie to me, swear at me, physically threaten me and refuse to participate in my classes. Students who wait for instructions to be given so that they know how to do the wrong thing incur my wrath. It is therefore nonsensical for a student being disciplined for any of the above behaviours to complain that students doing the right thing are not being given punishments.

Nonsensical is what teenagers do best.

If anybody wants to talk to me, or ask me to do something: tough. I’ll be sitting at my desk plugged into a musical paradise working by myself. 

There are also  instances when the students are very clearly managing your behaviour, and you don’t have the emotional energy to stop it from happening.

“We’re not going outside, we’re too tired. If you take us out there, we will run away from you and make you chase us. Go back to your staffroom and get us a DVD!” 

Seniors are the professionals when it comes to manipulating me. Homework extensions can be easily granted and excursions can also be wheedled out of me for the price of smiles and consolations and the promise of ‘a posse’ during playground duty.

bodyguards-entourageTo be honest, those moments where someone else is making suggestions  and caring about you are rare and very sweet.


I don’t care what we eat for dinner, in fact, I think I might be too tired to chew. I change my vote to soup or coffee. 


I find it most difficult to manage my own behaviour when there are spiders in the classroom and when I am undertaking playground duty. During Winter, a huntsman spider took up residence above the doorframe of my lab. The first group of students to come through that door after the huntsman moved in were Year 12 Biologists coming to school for a study day. When they noticed him, they screamed and ran to the opposite corner of the room. They all tried to stand on tables and chairs and there were shouts of “Miss! Miss! Kill it now!” I REALLY wanted to be among those standing on chairs. There were no other staff members around because they were at home for the holidays, so I looked for my male biologists. They were cringing behind the girls, covering their heads. I found some adrenaline  somewhere and by standing on a lab bench, I was able to sweep the offending creature into a beaker with a dustpan and brush. This did not curb the bloodlust of my class, so I had to spray the beaker full of insecticide and watch the spider jerking as though subjected to the cruciatus curse.


Student/teacher interactions during class:



Student/Teacher interactions during playground duty:


During recess and lunch, you again have to decide what level of behaviour you will demand from the students and then enforce it. The most frustrating part of playground duty is when the executive members of staff do not support your decisions or follow up the reports you give to them.


Irritated and enraged to the point of tears after dealing with students, I have no wish to engage in an argument with you, my colleague. If you provoke one, you will not get sane or stable answers. My sarcasm and flippancy is designed to evoke the same feelings inside of you as the feelings that are inside of me. I will also retaliate at a later date by pulling a prank on you. 


You have to carefully balance managing your behaviour and de-stressing. Too much either way will undermine your professionalism or cause your teacher identity to absorb your everyday alter-ego.


Resources: Brain-food for you and your students, courtesy of YouTube and the Net

MAN-Steve Cutts 


The above is my favourite piece of propaganda: a hyperbole of the damage we are doing to our environment. It is biased and confronting, so it is best used for an older/more mature class and should be followed up with some sustainable behaviours that the students can enact. Otherwise, it can be quite depressing. I have to admit that it’s something I often share with adults as well. 

Wild Sex-Sexy Dance Offs


I used this for my senior Biology class when I wanted to teach them about mate choice and sexual selection. It is not necessarily part of the curriculum, but it helps kids to understand that “survival of the fittest” is about organisms surviving long enough to produce offspring rather than just surviving. You can also use it to explain the reasons why some characteristics become more prevalent than others in a population. 

Positive and negative feedback loops


Perfect because it’s simple, but still detailed and it uses subject specific terminology. Senior biologists love this one! 

The Science of Cats


This is a great video, answering interesting questions using simple, applied Science. It’s a great treat for the end of a lesson of hard thinking. 


This website is useful for communicating with students outside of school. It gives you administrative privileges so that you can control what they are posting to one another, but they can ask questions of you or each other. If I use a resource in class, I post it to the wall for future reference, either for them to study or for me to find again. They can share photos, videos and websites too. If I am absent from school and my class has laptops, I can leave them a copy of the work to refer to. Some classes respond to it better than others, but it’s still a useful resource, and the layout resembles Facebook, making it easy to use.

Dog Cloning


This is a cute little interactive explaining the process of cloning. It uses a hypothetical scenario of cloning  imaginary dogs and I LOVE it because it removes some of those common misconceptions. For best effect, get each kid to do it individually on a computer. Takes about 10 mins at the most. 

Mantis Shrimp-The Oatmeal


Educational for all involved, fun facts with an accessible perspective on the Science. I use it when I’m teaching about light waves, and also in senior Biology when we’re learning about how eyes work. 

Nikola Tesla-The Oatmeal


Same as above, plus the excellent ‘human element’ that can be missing from Science sometimes. It is essential for teaching kids about how to actually BE a scientist and it also makes them think about where our acquired knowledge has come from. From memory, it has offensive language, so I save it for seniors or I tell students to look it up at home on their own. They can be enticed to do this with the promise of offensive language.

My biggest goal when teaching is making my students think. I like to give them information, perspectives and opinions so that they can come to their own conclusions and make carefully-weighed decisions. The best way for me to do that is to continually collect information, perspectives and conclusions for myself. I also spend a fair amount of time finding new representations of scientific issues and concepts. The resources above are great, so please check them out and make sure that you pass them on. Teacher or not, this knowledge is useful and accessible for people of all ages and educational backgrounds. 

Healthy faculty relationships can often be built around shared resources. We are good at passing on resources in our faculty when someone asks for them, but we are working towards building an electronic repository that everyone can access at their own leisure. This is a positive and progressive step forward for us, and I recommend it. 

Happy Learning! 




Taken down the barrel of a monocular microscope, with an iPhone, by a year 11 student! She was very pleased with this photo, and I was very pleased that she thought celery interesting enough to photograph. The darker stained spot is a vascular bundle, comprised of xylem and phloem vessels separated by vascular cambium (a section of cells whose job is to produce more phloem and xylem cells). The two lighter spots toward the top left hand side of the picture are tears in the section.

(TS of celery stem;stained with methylene blue)

Some basic plant knowledge:

Phloem and xylem vessels are a little bit like blood vessels in humans because they are the transport system inside a plant. Xylem vessels carry water from the roots of a plant up to the leaves where that water evaporates through the pores on leaves (stomata). The process of water moving through a plant is called transpiration and it is driven by the evaporation at the leaf. Water molecules cohere to one another and adhere to the walls of the xylem vessels, so as water is evaporated at the stomata, the thin stream of water molecules is drawn up through the xylem. Xylem vessels are composed of dead cells that link together to form long tubules stretching through the plant. They are heavily lignified, or woody and water can only go up, not down. Dissolved in that water are also some minerals from the soil.

Phloem vessels transport organic nutrients (sugars) around the plant. These cells are living tubules that have lost their cell contents to allow the phloem sap to pass through. Companion cells can be found next to phloem cells to feed the cell and to load it with sugar. Phloem sap can flow upwards and downwards using a mechanism known as ‘source to sink’. The source of the sugar is any cell of the plant that is photosynthesising. The sink is any part that needs sugar for respiration. The sugar moves from where it is made, at the source, to where it is required, at the sink.