Written by Paul Dix
Every school has a Big Beast. In some schools they roam the corridors ready to pounce on straggling children who have become separated from the pack. In others they are kept caged in their offices, ready at a moments notice to savage badly behaved children who dare to challenge the status quo. You won’t find The Big Beast of Behaviour in any policy document or behaviour strategy. They lurk underneath the surface, renegade, untamed.
Is the Big Beast of Behaviour a relic of old school brutality to be ridiculed or are they an essential element of good order and discipline? Can a BB be useful if deployed carefully or are they too dangerous to be released onto modern children?
What type of Beast do you have?
Every child knows who the big beasts are. When I was at school, Chopper Harris was ours. Four fingers on one hand, the physical stature of a Yeti with the temperament of a battle hardened Sergeant. He was a man who loved violence and through the medium of the board rubber shared that love with us. Daily.
I’ve worked alongside some big beasts too. Diminutive deputy head attack dogs who would leave classes of gnarled year 11 girls whimpering and dead ‘ard boys with a 1000 yard stare; Year Heads whose own behaviour was brilliantly unpredictable it terrified and unnerved in equal measure; and Headteachers who could shout a cocky year-9 down to the floor from 100 yards.
In schools in chaos a Big Beast can be phenomenally useful. Where the status quo has changed and teachers are running scared of the students someone has to take control. They are magnificent at holding the line, re-establishing behavioural norms and leading “bollocking assemblies”. For crowd control they are second to none. They often have advanced skills in hard stares, quieting a raucous canteen and a boisterous corridor in the blink of an unblinking eye. In the jungle of teenage chaos when behaviour has really slipped you need a BB to pull you out of the shit. Children understand power and hierarchy well before they understand responsibility and restoration. A BB can take you from chaos to consistency.
In schools where there is less chaos and more calm, less pandemonium and more purpose the beasts are quieter but no less important. Regardless of how well ordered your school is there is a place for someone with a different role. Someone who draws the line firmly in the sand. Someone who is the unbending face of discipline. Someone who does not attempt last minute mentoring, coaching or cups of tea. A calmer, more considered BB can be more effective than a raging torrent of adult emotion. Their performance is more measured. Often cold, never aggressive.
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© Paul Dix