It has taken the P.E. department a number of weeks to gain a grip on the ever-exciting sport of Year 10 tennis. Exciting not only in the sense of close matches and excellent play, but also in the challenge of managing a class of 50 with one quarter of that class intent (at least initially) on mischievous, ‘extraneous’ activities shall we say! There is always going to be a small group of students in P.E. lessons of any kind who are more interested in having a muck around (and some time off) than engaging in the exercises and drills. However this year, Year 10 took ‘muck around’ up a notch to a level where we just weren’t satisfied. Put a tennis racket in one of these Year 10s’ hands and far from delivering a flawless serve, it often sent balls flying into the roof, outside of our lovely new barn, and at each other. But we were not deterred, and with a combined effort from both the students involved and staff from across the P.E. department, by half term we managed some remarkably decent tennis.
How? Out of our disenchanted group of Year 10s we managed to bring out an inner competitiveness which led to them playing an acceptable level of tennis against each other. We had to get them caring about whether they won or lost. We also realised that if there was a slight dip in energy brought by the staff, the students reverted back to smacking balls into the rafters and having a laugh (who wouldn’t? Head shots are hilarious). When the students didn’t feel challenged, that’s when low-level disruptive behaviours started to emerge. Therefore it was imperative that if we wanted the lesson to go as planned, this group needed to be playing a competitive game of tennis (or variation) continuously from the moment they entered the court.
So that is exactly what we did. Instead of separating the group, we kept them together, kept them moving and kept them competing. And the end result was a group of around 10 previously fairly disinterested students who really stepped up to the challenge, managing to keep rallies going of up to eight or nine shots (an excellent achievement considering starting level and attitude). Competition and focus was the key to that, and whilst the P.E. team led by example it is really the resilience of our Year 10 students that deserves acknowledgment here. Their willingness to embrace challenge turned apathy into tangible success.
The need for challenge doesn’t stop; if we don’t keep the energy and the vigilance at 100%, the students will revert back to their old ways (as is human nature). That’s the thing with behaviour management; often it goes hand in hand with engagement, and it’s easy to get discouraged with one if the other isn’t playing ball (pardon the pun). We now have our Year 10s playing some decent tennis that includes minimal body shots, and we consider that a big win for the PE department, and Head of Year 10.