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The Fight Against Fidgeting

Does ‘low level’ fidgeting in class constitute bad behaviour and are teachers to blame?

Behaviour in the classroom has once again hit the headlines and regardless of your political leanings, it seems the issue is destined to forever be a highly emotive one.

For now, headteachers are in the firing line for, some say, allowing a ‘culture of casual acceptance’ in regards to bad behaviour, but just a few months ago it was energy drinks that were stirring up parental anger.

Allegedly inducing hyperactivity followed by debilitating crashes (the science behind the ‘sugar rush’ is at best a little sketchy), you’d be forgiven for thinking most breakfasts now only came in a can carrying a bolt of lightning.

Skip back even further and it was the parents themselves that the media spotlight was shining on, with union leaders urging parents to take a more active role ‘beyond the school gates’.

To be fair, the concerns may be legitimate and teachers everywhere know the potential impact of poor behaviour, but this is not a new phenomenon, nor a uniquely British one. If any evidence to this was needed, let’s not forget that Sue Cowley’s “Getting the Buggers to Behave” has sold over 120,000 copies and has been translated into several languages.

‘Blurring the lines between friendliness and familiarity’ is something that Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw is clearly against, whilst some might think the definitions are somewhat subjective. At this point it may also be worth pointing out that this report concerned ‘low level disruptive behaviour’ such as phone use, humming, fidgeting, making silly comments, swinging on chairs and passing notes. It was also based in part on comments volunteered by teachers, which it is probably safe to say they did not expect to be used out of context by tabloid journalists.

In any case, acceptance of changing times is not acceptance of developing poor habits, and just a few weeks after examination results which may not have been the best ever but were superb by anyone’s standards, the attempts to portray a classroom crisis serves no one, except perhaps to say to NQTs, ‘you may as well get used to this’.

So what can you do?
Setting boundaries, using silence, raising expectation and being clear about what you want, are all proven ways to improve attention and encourage teacher control. Not panicking, not getting discouraged and sticking to what works is definitely a start. Not reading the paper might also help! For one thing, waiting for silence is not something we should expect from the media.