Killing your own snakes

Much discussion on the blogosphere regarding Centralised Detentions.

Should we have them?

Tom Bennett says yes.

Micheala says yes.

The questions revolve around how much we support staff in dealing with student management issues and how much we deal with student management issues for the staff member.

Here is an email I sent to staff in 2014 on behalf of my Student management team.

To: DL Secondary College
Subject: Some feedback to staff re Learning Group Leader’s role in Student Management

The learning group leader role is to support staff in dealing with student management issues. It is not to “manage students for staff”.


Part of the culture of our College is the notion of “killing your own snakes”.

A long, long time ago a Year Level Co-ordinator, who shall remain nameless, made a passionate speech at a staff meeting about staff sending kids out of class and expecting the Year Level Co-ordinator to discipline them on behalf of the teacher.  He expressed his dismay at people wanting him to “fix” their discipline problems for them. He explained his role was not to “kill other people’s snakes”. His role was to support them in “killing your own snakes”.

Examples of Killing your own snakes:

  • Contacting home when students are not completing work or behaving poorly in class.
  • Organising a lunchtime catch up class for students who have not mastered the essential learning
  • Making a misbehaviour note on Sentral but marking follow-up action “Completed by Teacher”
  • Asking the LG teacher to facilitate a restorative chat between you and the student if your relationship is damaged
  • Organising a VCE class for the student to go to if you exit them, and then following up so they are back in your class ASAP

Examples of not killing your own snakes:

  • Expecting the LG teacher to contact home when students are not completing work or behaving poorly in class.
  • Expecting the LG teacher to organise a lunchtime catchup class for students who have not mastered the essential learning.
  • Placing students on after-school detention or uniform detention and expecting someone else to supervise them.
  • Regularly sending the student to the LCC expecting them to babysit, or find a VCE class for them to sit in

While on the topic of lunchtime and after school detention can I remind staff that these are for out of uniform, late to class and for Year Level Leaders to place a student in.

The classroom teacher should arrange their own detentions not drop their lunchtime detention students off in the Detention room for someone else to supervise.

My views have now changed and I think we should have centralised detentions but how do we ensure staff are, where possible, killing their own snakes?

2 thoughts on “Killing your own snakes

  1. Whilst I appreciate the message about taking responsibility, I can’t help but be offended by the wanton exploitation of snakes in education. Won’t somebody think of the snakes!?


  2. I left teaching in the UK and now teach in Denmark. I haven’t done a detention in something like nine years because they’re not part of the culture here. There are behaviour issues but we have to use other means.

    Killing your own snakes/breathing your own smoke is a fine philosophy for established teachers and those with management responsibility but it is death to the new, or new to the school teacher. Just because students are finding the boundaries, these teachers will have to spend a lot of valuable time just following up on behaviour. This means they don’t have time to do their other duties, unless they sacrifice their time at home.

    Eventually they often burn out on behaviour, and either let things go or make what turn out to be empty threats. This destroys their credibility and can be a vicious circle.

    If they survive this phase, students start to behave for them and they have fewer snakes to kill and it becomes manageable… and then they forget what it was like.

    If you have enough teachers who are being tested in a school, staff room grumbles start about “Why am I the ONLY teacher who follows up on uniform/misbehaviour in the corridors?!” because overwhelmed teachers turn blind eyes to what is going on outside their classroom.


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