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CME Unit 4D

Section D: Learning Outcome 4 (LO 4)

Be able to respond to challenging behaviour in children and young people

Second, the following case examples are drawn from teachers’ real experience. Take a moment to read them and reflect on how you might have reacted in similar circumstances.


It’s a lesson in an inner-city school where music lessons are in half-termly blocks and this is week three in which we have barely got our eight bar two chord shared melody, ‘London Bridge’, together. Mr Abhtar, an excellent support Teaching Assistant (TA), suddenly notices that Ibrahim has found ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ in another songbook and he is playing it quietly to himself on a glockenspiel.

We stopped the lesson, asked everyone to assume audience position and asked Ibrahim to play it. When he finished, I said, ‘That was played with lovely timing. Well done,’ and then turned to the class and praised them even more. ‘And can I tell you what a great audience you were for Ibrahim. I could feel you all willing him to get it right.’ Someone else wanted to do a solo and I said, ‘No time now’ and we resumed the whole class experience.


After weeks of enduring his challenging and anti-social behaviour, the TA and I suddenly noticed that Brandon was playing a little riff to himself. We smiled at each other and quietly left him to it.

These seemingly small incidences of focus and improvement are important steps on the learner’s musical, educational and social journey. It is easy to overlook them and dismiss them as being of little importance.


Nicolai was in his second language so it was not easy to tell how much he understood. For the first three weeks, he took part in the whole class tuition, then he didn’t play. He just moved from one section to another. In a noisy and difficult class, one person’s silent refusal to work had to be ignored and I left it to the TA, who would know him better, to get him playing again.

It was, however, well over a year before Nicolai played again. It was a difficult class and there were students whose behaviour was making teaching difficult whereas one silent ‘refusnik’ was not a problem, except maybe to himself.

In the second year, Nicolai became friends with two boys who loved their music lessons and he attached himself to them. And when the time came for specialisms, he also volunteered to play the same instrument as they did.

Inwardly, I was bursting with excitement; outwardly, I bade my time and then commented, as if casually, ‘That was a good choice, you always get the timing right.’ I made no mention of the past 18 months not playing.

It is possible that Nicolai was on the autistic spectrum. During the the course of the year, I had often discussed him with the teacher, but as a visitor, there’s only so much… And, all the time that Nicolai was present, he was silently learning his part. When he came to play, he was as good as anyone else in the class.


There were four boys and four girls, all in their late teens, and we were in an Arts Centre Hall. There were two Arts Co-ordinators and about four unit or transport workers and me and a set of percussion instruments.

To encourage good behaviour, I put seats all round and arranged the instruments so that they could sit to play. I waited till everyone was seated before beginning and identified the leader as quickly as I could and worked on developing a relationship with him.

Billy (not his real name) was sharing with a member of staff, taking turns playing, but Billy never picked up the beaters. The whole session was an exercise in behaviour management but in the end, everyone else played, played well and, after two easy classical pieces, was rewarded with a couple of pop songs. Billy never played.

The self-appointed leader tried to encourage him, ‘Go on mate, it’s ace etc’, and you could see that Billy was torn but we didn’t push or order him and he obviously enjoyed listening. In these music sessions, he gained a lot from being part of the group and he never spoilt the learning by poor behaviour.