Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Taking the Sting out of Classroom Fights

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Taking the Sting out of Classroom Fights

Article excerpt

When violence breaks out it can be terrifying for pupils and staff, so keep a clear head and follow this guide to regain control

The spectre of physical violence in the classroom is an extremely ugly one. So ugly, in fact, that just thinking about it is enough to make my heart rate increase and my stomach lurch.

No teacher wants to see their students fighting. It's stark, visceral evidence that something has gone very wrong. We like to think we can prevent things from escalating to the point of violence, but we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a fight breaking out, no matter where we work. That's not to say you should expect it every day, but rather that it's worth taking some time to consider what you would do in that situation. Panicking will only exacerbate the problem.

But can we ever really prepare? After all, every situation is different: the students, the context and your own confidence on that particular day will vary enormously. I have been involved in stopping a fair number of fights during my career and I know there is no master plan to follow. That said, although a point-by-point strategy is out of the question, it is possible to offer a rough guide to tackling these situations. And it looks like this.

Do your homework

You should know your school behaviour policy and the actions that are expected of staff when a fight occurs. Whether you work in a pupil referral unit or a quiet suburban grammar school, you need to be familiar with the institution's systems, such as the accepted methods of contact - for example, should you attempt to restrain students? If there is any ambiguity, check with a member of the team responsible for safety and pin them down (pun intended) on the dos and don'ts and all the details. Don't accept any vagueness. It could trip you up in the post-fight fallout.

Send for help

Armed with the above knowledge, advance towards the fight. At the same time, you need to send for help. Let's assume your establishment doesn't use radio contact. You can't leave the area, so send a student who can be relied upon to keep it together. It's a good idea to preselect not just one student but three for this task. Why so many? Because there's a chance that the first or second choices will be involved in the fight; life's funny like that.

Try to break it up with words

As you move towards the students who are fighting, use strong verbal commands to try to calm the situation. …

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