Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reflections on – ‘No hands up nonsense’

I came across this post at 

I think it encapsulates my feeling precisely.

I have used the technique on and off for a while and have decided to stick with ‘off’.

Sometimes I might get children to discuss and feedback – but I say who feeds back and they have to show a degree of understanding rather than ‘parrot’ a more able child’s response.

As teachers and educators, sometimes beware the policy shift from on high!

A good and outstanding teacher knows very well how to direct and differentiate questioning at a variety of levels to support pupils understanding. To blindly say “No hands up, means a) those who do have to find an alternative and b) those who don’t continue.

A teacher who doesn’t ever ask a child whose hand is down, is doing something wrong. In my opinion, I value seeing the force of hand raising to gauge confidence. I like to ask a child, “Is that half a hand up?” or “You’re really sure aren’t you?” or even “Why did you put your hand up, then take it down?….No, go on, what were you going to say?”.

Those are the questions which show children it is fine to be wrong sometimes and that a wrong answer is really valuable.

‘NO HANDS UP!’ Oh Please?!


Over the last few years, I’ve become aware of schools that have policies of ‘no hands up’.

To be clear, these are policies. Hence teachers are to some extent effectively banned from allowing pupils to put their hands up in lessons.

Pupils can’t put their hands up:

  • because they are indicating know an answer
  • because they want to answer a question
  • because they agree/ disagree with another answer

I presume pupils are still allowed to put their hands up to ask a question or to ask for help, but I’d hazard a guess that this is somewhat confusing.

This is the kind of nonsense that comes out of a healthy instinct to try to stop pupils from opting out, then it gets taken on by management and suddenly, ludicrously, turned into a policy. The idea is that if a teacher asks a question, pupils will ‘think/pair/square/share’. They are supposed…

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I know WWI was 100 years ago but…

I said that I would only knock out a blog post if something really felt worth it… well I have come up with something.


I like behaviour management, I am a teacher of course I do, but I am not a dictator.

I am not a rager or a shouter (I have been, I confess that, but it isn’t my default setting.)

Yet, as I have used Twitter more and more over the past 2 months (@WatsEd), I have found what I consider a trend that makes me slightly uncomfortable.

It is the fact that behaviour management seems to be shared as a battleground. I don’t like that. I have taught some children from very tough and unforgiving backgrounds, as well as some ‘privileged’ children so I speak from experience of the full range. My classroom isn’t and never has been a war zone, even at it’s worst.


My classroom is not like this!

I have watched my Twitter feed deliver statements on Behaviour Management like:

“Lay down the law with this guide to how your classroom should work.” – Judge Dredd anyone?

“Get them thinking about why they are in the cooler with this sheet.” – I have no pupils played by Steve McQueen

“Talk Tough if you want to win hearts and minds” – Is this not the US Army policy?

Can those sharing consider the implications of the vocabulary?

Behaviour management is not about power and control.

Behaviour advice should not be about drawing up battle lines. Children are not an enemy to be conquered and made to submit to the teachers will. We all know that there will be children who try us, often, and we learn how to deal with it. We are consistent, we are clear, we share with the children what we want, and what we expect and then we ask them the same question. We create set of guidelines that are drawn up together, so that they are enforced by everyone not just the teacher.

We negotiate (to a point) and make it clear to them what are the ‘non-negotiables’.

Whatever they might be in the context: No Put downs or Be honest – then no matter what, no matter how tired we have become, or how busy we might be, we stick to it. Children very quickly learn that negative actions have consequences, they learn even quicker when those actions don’t have any.

I believe that children are a partners in a learning journey – just not all of them realize it yet! It is our responsibility to let them develop the understanding of respect. That thing which is earned and not handed out for free. Not just respect for their peers or authority, but self respect and how it lets them become more than they might’ve thought possible.

What we shouldn’t do are the two extremes:

i) Be a dictator and allow no opportunity for the children to have a say – all challenge and no praise.


ii) Be a marshmallow and try to be everyone best friend – all praise and no challenge.

I know from experience that the way to resolve behaviour issues is to find out why.

Now if you expect me to get all psychological now and quote Vygotsky, Piaget and Bruner – I’m not going to. Ever. Nor will I talk about children’s pyramid hierarchy of need. We as teachers and educators try to help.

Don’t we?

Hands up those who have ‘dealt’ with behaviour and made it worse? **Puts hand up**

Behaviour is the child’s way of telling us what’s inside. We need to work out if it is a cry for help, a way of hiding another feeling or if it is just that they didn’t have breakfast or that someone was unkind to them on the bus that morning.

To quote a tweet from Steve Russell @BeyondBehaviour:

“Take a step back and see student behaviour as a form of communication. What’s the message? How can I best respond?”

That’s how to make you class work – not ‘Lay down the Law’, like Judge Dredd, not use a ‘cooler’, our schools are not Prison Camps, and we will win hearts and minds, not by talking tough, but by showing children the way. If we help them deal with what is causing the behaviour, then there is a better chance of resolving recurrent issues. Having a good shout and pointing at the class rules poster probably won’t help. There are some children who seem to do it, ‘just because’, they are often the ones who need help most. How does that Motivational Quote go again? “The child who is hardest to love, is the one who needs it most.”

I am no expert, I profess no great specialism, but I do know that if we frog march the unruly child to the ‘cooler’, then we best give them a tennis ball to bounce off the wall because they are going to be there for a very long time.

Is this the message?

Is this the message?

Forgive the rambling nature, but rather than draft and redraft, I have composed on screen.

You might consider this post along the lines of: In Other News ‘Fire is Hot!’ – but when the same messages come across my Twitter feed, I worry that if a new teacher, someone in ITT or a struggling teacher was looking for help with a problem, they might decide that those messages are right, good or helpful.

They aren’t.


Welcome to the Blog from the Chalk-face…

I’ll keep this simple.

I am a teacher. I like to think that I am a good one at that – not spectacular – effective.

There was a time when this was enough… Ah, those days…


I have started this blog really as a record, a communication, a sharing of my thoughts, ideas and general musings on Education Today. If you believe the news and the general spin, we teachers are a lazy bunch who really should try harder and we do, everyday, every night and every weekend and pretty much every one of those awful long holidays too.

I will try very very hard not to whinge on! No-one needs that, there is plenty of it already.

Nor will I prattle on if there is nothing worth saying, if you want to read this then it is worth reading.


So… let’s see what occurs…