Raymond Soltysek's Blog

“New Writing Scotland 30”

Posted in Behaviour Management, fiction, Publications by raymondsoltysek on April 25, 2012

Just had the good news today that my short story, “Spree Killer”, has been accepted for the forthcoming edition of “New Writing Scotland”, published every year by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies.  In the past, I never seemed to have anything suitable at the time of submission, and if I did it was always rejected.  I was unsure about this one – I had doubts about a blue collar / redneck Texan tale fitting a Scottish anthology –  so I’m really pleased at this being my first time in the annual anthology of all that is great and good about Scottish writing.  My thanks go to Carl McDougall and Zoe Strachan who are editing the book.

All in all, it’s proving to be a busy  year in writing terms for me without me really trying.  With lots of management work on the PGDE course along with teaching, I haven’t really approached it in any strategic way – and yet, I have ended up with so much to do.  Quite apart from my not-so-ongoing novel (I’m tempted to ditch it for now), I’ve had stories in NWS, 1000 Cranes (the Scottish Writers for Japan anthology) and Front & Centre, and have high hopes for a story I’ve sent to a LGBT anthology.  I’m quite proud of the stories I have been writing lately: few and far between, they have been goodies.  Perhaps short story writing is my true love…

On top of that, I’ve just finished my chapter on ethos and behaviour in Scottish secondary schools for the latest edition of the seminal work on Scottish Education, which I was truly honoured to be invited to join.  Then I’ve just finished my part – ruthless editing – of a research article written by a lovely team of colleagues which is just being resubmitted to a notable academic journal.

Biggest of all, though, is the behaviour management book I’m writing for a major academic publisher.  It’s due for delivery next Spring, and although it’s already quite bit behind, I’m confident that I’ll get it all done in time.  That’s very exciting, and it was a huge surprise to be asked to submit a proposal.  It’s nice when people put their faith in you, even if it is a lot of hard work to ensure you don’t let them down.

Common Sense Included: “Understanding Challenging Behaviour in Inclusive Classrooms”

Posted in Behaviour Management, Education by raymondsoltysek on September 16, 2011

Colin Lever @ amazon

I have a review of Colin Lever’s highly recommended book “Understanding Challenging Behaviour in Inclusive Classrooms” published in today’s Times Educational Supplement Scotland.

It’s a really good, practical work that offers advice on how to identify issues and strategies to deal with them.  Find the review here:

Common sense included

For pity’s sake, don’t call me an “expert”!

Posted in Behaviour Management, Publications by raymondsoltysek on June 10, 2011

The Times Educational Supplement have been asking me lately for my pearls of wisdom on various behaviour management issues sent in by worried readers through the Forums.  Here are two so far:

“The problem: I’m struggling with noisy classes. I can’t shout over the pupils and when I try my voice goes wobbly, which some children find funny. Taking the register is a nightmare. What can I do?”

“The problem: I have a group of Year 2s who are always in trouble – outside the head’s office, on report or in the naughty corner. They don’t seem to care, and see being sent to the head as exciting. How do I get them to care about being punished?”

My only concern is that TES introduces my opinion with the words, “The expert view”.  Given previous problems I’ve had with some classroom teachers objecting to anyone who isn’t teaching all day every day saying anything  about classroom management, I’m surprised I haven’t been subjected to a barrage of abuse already!

Confident application is key to behaviour management

Posted in Behaviour Management, Education, Publications by raymondsoltysek on April 8, 2011

I have just had an article published in the Times Education Supplement Scotland on behaviour management in schools, in particular the relationship between limit setting strategies and restorative practices.

Here’s the link:

Confident application is key to behaviour management

All comments welcome, but any punctuation errors have been inserted by TESS (grrr!).

Behaviour management: the worst of teaching, the best of teaching.

Posted in Behaviour Management, Education by raymondsoltysek on December 5, 2009

I’ve been involved in an increasingly nasty debate in the letters page of the Times Educational Supplement (Scotland) over behaviour management. It all began with an anonymous critic trashing the new Curriculum for Excellence, claiming that the only problem with Scottish education is that disruptive pupils can’t be suspended as easily as previously. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when, according to the latest independent survey for the Scottish government, teachers are far more positive about the behaviour they encounter in classrooms

 Quite apart from any reference to CfE – and while I generally support it, I know there are huge problems with its implementation – I refuse to believe that the only way to improve education is to punish children more severely. Most teachers of this opinion – cynics to a man and woman – claim that their concerns are for the majority of children whose education is disrupted: I don’t buy that. My experience over eighteen years in schools is that these teachers prefer classes which are quiet, undemanding, biddable: in other words, they want an easy life with children who never cause them any problems.

Central to this belief is that teachers are disempowered in the classroom: bad behaviour is the fault of bad parenting skills, of “feral” children who lack any respect for authority, of senior managers who aren’t tough enough, of local authorities who pressurise schools to keep miscreants in class, of teaching unions who don’t support classroom teachers. The pattern is obvious: never, ever need such teachers look at their own practice, because it is just never, ever their responsibility.

My crime? I dared to suggest that teachers are better equipped than ever to deal with misbehaviour, and that I have seen many teachers employing a vast range of fantastic strategies to build relationships with their pupils, from assertive discipline techniques all the way through to restorative practices. I am heavily involved in behaviour management training on our own course, the PGDE(S), at the University of Strathclyde, and I see every year the fruits of the work we do. New teachers go out into the profession with a level of skill in managing behaviour that  took me years to develop during  my service in schools. 

The response was predictable . First, there was the “who the fuck does he think he is” attitude, with correspondents claiming that “self-styled experts” like me are to blame for the faults of the system. When I pointed out that I would never be so arrogant as to claim “expertise” over others, and that I wanted to congratulate “expert” teachers, the response was, “well, if he’s not an expert, what is he doing training teachers?” It’s culminated in one writer suggesting that I have no right to earn a living, and that the money spent on my salary would better be spent lowering class sizes. Such is the incoherence of the true cynic.

Of course, I can stand up for myself, and I refuse to bow to vitriolic bullying like this. But, unfortunately, it’s always been the case that such people drive debate. Bunkered behind their illiberal, lazy refusal to accept their need to develop professionally, they shout down the vast majority of terrific teachers who happen to think that the education of every child is a job worth doing and strive to find ways of doing it. The cynics’  attitude was summed up succinctly and eloquently by Alan McLean as long ago as 2002, but still they hold sway, and are rarely called out for what they are.

During a behaviour management training session, a teacher once said to me that there was no way he/she would ever thank pupils  for doing something he/she expected them to do. Gobsmacked, I calmly tried to relate it to life outside the classroom: we thank people for opening doors for us, even though we expect that they won’t slam it in our faces; we thank waiters for delivering our food, even though we expect it of them. In other words, I tried to reason with the unreasonable. Perhaps I should have said what I really thought: if you can’t treat the children you work with every day with the same level of basic respect with which you treat total strangers, then just get the fuck out of teaching. But of course, now that I work outside the classroom, I don’t have a right to say that, do I?

The views expressed above are, of course, entirely personal reflections, and should not be associated with The University of Strathclyde or with the work I or my colleagues do there.