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The Independent published an article yesterday claiming that male teachers are more likely to be subjected to aggressive student behaviour than their female colleagues. This generalisation is based on the findings of a report released by the University of Warwick, which was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers (NUT):

The university poll of 1,500 teachers revealed that 80 per cent of male teachers face pupils answering them back every week compared with 70.8 per cent of female teachers.

More pupils are likely to answer male teachers back in the classroom and disrupt their lessons. Female teachers report a drop in rowdy behaviour, though they are more likely to be harangued by aggressive parents.

The picture painted by the research shows similar overall levels of disruption in the two years (2001 and 2008) – although the trend is towards more aggression against male teachers.

What seems to have been neglected during the analysis of these results is an appreciation of the different ways in which male and female teachers manage their classes. What I can remember from my schoolgirl days is that the aggressive teachers elicited an aggressive response from pupils, and those who took a more placid yet firm stance bore the brunt of bad teenage attitudes, but nothing particularly threatening. Male teachers (at my school) were more inclined towards the former method of chastisement. Female teachers the later.

What I can recall also is that (generally) it was the male teachers who were the most confident in the classroom, often using humilation tactics (one maths teacher in particular was downright cruel to a lot of the boys) and thus they precipitated a more impassioned response from students. These, as I say, are generalisations constructed from my personal memories, but I believe that a survey of this nature cannot be fully appreciated unless all factors are considered. Student behaviour towards teachers cannot be understood without also assessing the attitudes of teachers towards students.