Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Teaching

By Justin Dillon; Meg Maguire | Go to book overview

Classroom management

Jeremy Burke


Introduction

As she enters the classroom for the first time, music blaring, students
are sitting on desks, talking and rapping, oblivious to her entry.

Ellsmore (2005: 75)

In her book on teachers in film Susan Ellsmore describes the entry of Lou-Anne Johnson into her English class in Dangerous Minds (1995). Here the US Marine turned English teacher faces perhaps the toughest challenge of her life: to teach these kids. Now the emphasis on the tough element of this challenge is actually to teach the students. Gaining their attention might not be all that hard, although clearly a necessary precursor to any teaching. Keeping students' attention, sometimes proves more difficult. The title of this chapter is 'classroom management' and that is because the problem of gaining and retaining attention from an audience can be planned and managed. This is just as well, since the tricky part of teaching is actually teaching.

When people start teaching they bring a number of preconceptions with them from various sources. Films and media are interesting in their portrayal of teacher/student relations. Classrooms are often presented as riotous and dangerous places, with streetwise kids and the threat of aggressive and potentially violent incidents. The myth of school chaos is compounded with press articles such as the Mail on Sunday's 'Is this the worst school in Britain?' (Brace 1994) and reports of schools being 'out of control' (Education Guardian 2005). A recent Teachers' TV presentation. 'The Great Behaviour Debate' (Coleman 2005) looks again at whether school students can be 'controlled' in schools. This focus on 'behaviour' constructs an ideal of a school student as quiet, acquiescent and studious, a restatement of being 'seen' but not 'heard'. On the other hand, the recent Training and Development Agency for Schools advertisements to attract people into

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