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Can you become a bad teacher in the space of a few months?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by pepsi_kda, Feb 26, 2016.

  1. pepsi_kda

    pepsi_kda New commenter

    After 11 years teaching I think I am about to receive my first ever non-outstanding observation grade and, if I watched my current lessons I think I would award an inadequate.
    I have recently returned from maternity leave. Until now I have been job sharing in a year 5 class and things have been fine. My observations have been outstanding and I've felt reasonably confident, despite my head teacher telling me she'd like to dispose of job shares if possible as she thinks they are too disruptive for children (this makes me feel under extra scrutiny and as if she might be waiting to say 'I told you so'! I know I am being over sensitive).

    However, a last minute change to staffing means that I have just spent my first week job sharing with a member of the SLT in a different class. I have taught these children before and it was great. However, over the last few years they have become extremely challenging. I covered them a few times on Keeping In Touch days and they were very difficult to keep in line - very angry and attention seeking behaviour for the most part (to put it crudely, in order to keep this post as short as possible). I had to send children to the head teacher and separate physical fights, especially in the afternoons. I thought, perhaps, it was because I was a change to their normal routine, however they were only slightly better for their class teacher (who is fantastic) so I didn't feel too demoralised and concerned about it. So, when I was asked to teach them on a job share basis, I was quite worried as our most recent experiences together had not been particularly positive. So I put in a lot of planning and prep and went in positive and with a plan of action!
    This week was challenging: they tested me more than any class ever has before and (in 3 days) I had 4 fights, 2 children leaving the room upset because they'd been sanctioned for fighting and 'battles' to get children sitting on the carpet. I feel we made great progress, e.g. a boy who'd refused to work, sit down or stop shouting abuse at others spent the third day joining in, working and being rewarded for lovely behaviour. However, I wasn't surprised that 2/3 children were still testing boundaries (to extremes) and that the afternoons were a bit like teaching EYFS in that they could have done with some continuous provision as they seemed exhausted from being closely directed all morning. There's still a very long way to go before I've got them 'tamed' and I expected that. I left feeling tired but positive.
    But I was told today that they were beautifully behaved for my teaching partner's 2 days (she'd SLT and has never taught them before) ...and that I'm going to be observed at least once in the next couple of weeks.
    I'm miserable. And terrified. And gutted that they're so good for another teacher after my experiences with them.
    In past jobs I've been called in to work with children with behavioural needs as it's always been a strength of mine. And I've always had outstanding feedback form lesson observations. Can I have 'lost it' on maternity leave?
    Perhaps I should ask to observe my teaching partner so I can learn from her success?
    Any advice would be gratefully received.
  2. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    It must be difficult to find yourself being put into a challenging situation, with the heads opinion on job shares in the back of your mind. You have my sympathy.

    You may be being over sensitive about the situation. But it is good practice to keep a record of any pertinent information or communications. Keep copies of emails on your own non school email at home. The old saying " I may be paranoid but that doesn't mean they're not out to get me" comes to mind.

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
    Flere-Imsaho likes this.
  3. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    No, you can't.
    But you can be put in difficult situations.
    By this age, the children should AUTOMATICALLY know how to behave-3 year olds used to be able to sit quietly and know not to fight (for the most part at least). My gran lived in one of the roughest, most deprived areas of the country, but NO children in her primary classes ever fought in the class room. Outside it, yes. You're a teacher, not a zoo manager.
    baitranger, phlogiston and sabrinakat like this.
  4. loodle1

    loodle1 Occasional commenter

    Who said they were beautifully behaved with the other teacher? Do you know for a fact this is actually true? I've heard it said so often, the likes of "they never misbehave with me..." etc and I just find it extremely unhelpful. It would be so much more beneficial for the kids if colleagues supported each other instead of turning things into a competition.

    In answer to your question, the only thing you lose when you're just returning from maternity leave is a bit of confidence, which will come back. You don't lose your skills as a teacher. Btw, I think asking to observe your teaching partner is a great idea. Hope all goes well :)
  5. wrldtrvlr123

    wrldtrvlr123 Occasional commenter

    I would agree with what others have posted already. As they say in football, "Form is temporary but class is permanent". It does sound as though you have been put into a challenging situation which you have already begun to turn around.

    As for the "they are fine with me/him/her" comments, I would treat them with the skepticism and bemusement they deserve. On the other hand, observing the class with the miracle worker is an excellent idea. Whatever the truth of the matter it is likely to be interesting and enlightening.

    Take the situation seriously but try not to over-react or over-think it. Take care and hang in there.
    grumpydogwoman and phlogiston like this.
  6. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I often hear how well behaved children are for other people. I used to feel bad about it and wonder what I was doing wrong until I realised that these apparently well behaved children seemed to spend a lot of time outside other people's classrooms waiting to be disciplined or that what some other people described as a well behaved was one step below what I would term a riot!

    It sounds as though you are implementing strategies for the long term with some success. Stick at it.

    And remember that children are often angels with unfamiliar teachers until they get the measure of them. Your teaching partner is new to the class. They might yet turn!
    grumpydogwoman and josienig like this.
  7. pepsi_kda

    pepsi_kda New commenter

    Thank you all so much for your replies. You've helped me gain a little more perspective - always good to hear words of wisdom from experienced people outside the situation.

    Flere-Imsaho, perhaps the fact that she's new to them (and SLT?) is giving them a 'honeymoon period'. I'm going to email and ask her if she'd mind me observing her informally next week (she does frequent drop-ins as part of her job so it's fair really ;) )
    I agree, hhhh. I think they've got into terrible habits over the last couple of years and, from the things the children say, they don't trust adults so sort out issues like unkind comments so they immediately resort to aggression themselves. I'm working on getting them to see&trust that neither unkind words nor actions are acceptable and that I'll 'sort out' both - they don't need to take things into their own hands. I'm trying to keep the atmosphere calm and positive - for myself and the children! - so that all those children who are working&behaving well receive the praise they deserve and have a nice time in a safe environment... all sounds good in theory. I'm going to try and cling to my original theory that this will take time to have the full desired effect and that that's OK.

    Would you advise speaking to the head about all this before my observation/s or would that sound like excuses in advance? I'd love any advice and constructive criticism from observers but would also like a little time for my own strategies to take effect before being asked to try new ones

    Thank you again for your wise and encouraging words
  8. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

  9. Calamity54321

    Calamity54321 New commenter


    My class were EXACTLY as you've described in EVERY WAY! A positive thing for you to hear - they are now my favourite class so far. It's like we've been on a massive journey together already in such a short space of time. I can now do regular lessons in the afternoons rather than keeping certain characters away from each other and sanctioning, they come to me when there's a conflict rather than swearing, abuse and fights and they willingly work independently. You are right - this will take time - but I think you've got the right approach, so try to stay positive and keep it up.

    There is absolutely a honeymoon period. They were awful for me, but angels for my supply teacher for the first term.

    Totally up to you regarding speaking to the head. In my experience, they actually behaved a lot better in observations - again, the 'new teachers' in the room probably caused that to happen.
    pepper5 likes this.
  10. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    What you write in your original post is interesting in that you note that the children's behaviour has become challenging over the course of some years. What has happened gradually, you will not be able to remedy overnight. What you must not do is let this situation make you miserable and take over your life as it simply is not worth it; especially, now that you have a new baby and also yourself to consider.

    I have worked in many secondary schools for almost seven years and what I witness on my job would probably shock you. A lot of the behaviour is simply chaotic with students calling me things not repeatable on this forum and also calling each other hateful and hurtful names.

    Some primary schools are not better with chaotic classes as well. The teachers are not to blame, so please do not blame yourself and be miserable or terrified. All the things posted above are true: the statements that the children behaved for Miss X may not be what you think. Maybe they behaved only marginally better or maybe the tasks set were not as challenging. Whatever you the case, you are not a bad teacher. There are no bad teachers apart from the ones who deliberately hurt children and the ones who don't try at all.

    Lastly, as far as strategies go, we are all learning all the time and try to look at this stage of your career positively as a learning opportunity. I can highly recommend a book called Taking Care of Behaviour by Paul Dix which is extremely interesting and has many practical easy to use strategies you can implement straight away. If you google Pivotal Education you will find it together with other information about online courses and so forth.

    Remember, what you are experiencing is quite common: classes with one or more children with extreme behaviour which drains the energy and the resources from the rest of the class then people saying "oh....but Mr Z is able to control them and they work so beautifully for him..." Don't believe it.

    Enjoy your weekend with your new baby...

    P.S. The post right above this one has some sound wisdom in it : you will probably be able to turn this around but it will just take a little time.
  11. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    'After 11 years teaching I think I am about to receive my first ever non-outstanding observation grade and, if I watched my current lessons I think I would award an inadequate. '

    TBH - this line speaks volumes in itself! You should accept that no teacher can be 'outstanding' every time they are observed! You clearly have very high standards and expectations of yourself but with that comes the classic lack of confidence - the 'I've failed that exam' A* student syndrome that actually still gets an A*!

    Even experienced teachers will come across children that redefine what the 'worst' behaviour actually looks like and feels like to control. A certain badly behaved individual or unfortunate grouping of them can challenge the best behaviour management strategies and practitioners!

    As bonkers as it sounds, I almost hope you DON'T get an Outstanding in your next observation - for your own sake so you realise no-one is perfect and it is OK to have an 'off day.'
  12. Luke66

    Luke66 New commenter

    Being rated outstanding in lessons doesn't mean your a good teacher and the children you teach are making progress.
    Being rated inadequate doesn't mean you are a poor teacher and the children are not making progress.

    Schools know who the strong teachers are on a school and lesson obs are all a game and simply a tool for management to use if and when required. This can be both a positive or negative for the teacher involved.
    baitranger likes this.
  13. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Evidence and research show clearly that if an outstanding lesson were observed by another observer, it would be more likely to not be found outstanding. To get some degree of reliability in observations requires proper training, quality assurance and at least six observations by at least two observers. Staff in schools and Ofsted observers are not properly trained.

    Teachers need to realise that observations are opinions, and more than that, they are opinions that are more often wrong than right, and the evidence shows this. Seeing learning happen is an extremely difficult thing to do.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    1 Yes, observe the partner
    2 Honeymoon period sounds right - mind you, why doesn't that also apply to you?
    3 2 or 3 are holding out? I'd expect that too
    4 Behaved beautifully, did they? That sounds extremely unlikely
    5 HT doesn't want job-shares? You think this might be a factor? Hmm?
    6 Why are YR5 on the carpet?
    7 Always outstanding? Good days, bad days. Don't get hung up on that adjective for all the reasons given in posts 11, 12 and 13
    8 Do your job as best you can
    9 You know you're making progress
    10 Don't believe everything you hear
    11 Don't discount the HT's 'agenda'
    12 You haven't suddenly lost your touch
    install likes this.
  15. pepsi_kda

    pepsi_kda New commenter

    Thank you all for your responses.
    Calamity54321 - that's incredibly encouraging. Thank you. And well done for that achievement too! I had a similar experience in a previous school but the circumstances were quite different (e.g. I was full time and had them from the start of the year and didn't feel such pressure for immediate results...)
    Pepper5 - thank you!
    Re: observations, I think it's more that I know I'm not able to implement all the teaching & learning strategies I would like to / I need to so feel judgement/feedback on that would not be as productive as support with the behaviour management side of things at the moment. It's a distraction and worry I could do without, especially when I feel my position in the school is a little precarious as a part time member of staff. Scienceteachasghost, I am definitely that 'A*' student you describe and agree with your comments but am not sure my confidence can take the "realising no-one is perfect and it is OK to have an 'off day.'" just at the moment... maybe after a month of settling in with this class rather than 5 days!

    Grumpydogwoman -
    2 I think the 'honeymoon period' doesn't apply to me because I taught the class for a full year a few years ago and taught them for a day/half day most weeks in the summer term 2015. I'm hoping that's the main reason it, anyway.
    6 The class I taught until half term was Year 5 - this is a Year 3 class. My new teaching partner said the first thing she wanted to bring in for this class was a carpet area and carpet spaces. Until now there was no carpet area so they are not used to moving to & from the carpet during lessons in this room.

    Again, thank you all for your advice and wisdom. Very grounding and lots of food for thought.
  16. pepsi_kda

    pepsi_kda New commenter

    Scintillant - I love that video clip. I'd love to do the 'broker' job he mentions.
    Are you a teacher interested in the research or one of the researchers?
  17. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Sorry about the carpet thing. I didn't read sufficiently closely.

    If you don't want to use the carpet then don't. We all know the potential for aggravation when moving is involved.

    Or have a modified carpet-time. Some stay in seats. If they're a fractious bunch then I don't see them being happy together on the carpet. Far too many opportunities for sly kicks and pinches.

    Do ask your colleague to show you how SHE does it! I am frankly sceptical.
  18. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Wow - a new baby, a new-sized family at home, a new class, and then this!

    It's not surprising that you feel down - you cannot be Superwoman all round.

    (the missing thumbs-up emoticon)

    (the missing thumbs-up emoticon)

    It seems to me that you and your job-share partner are working collaboratively here to solve this issue - why bring the Head in directly?

    Best wishes

  19. baitranger

    baitranger Senior commenter

    [QUOTE="hhhh, post: 11599312, member: 223941"
    You're a teacher, not a zoo manager.[/QUOTE]
    Excellent point.
  20. pepsi_kda

    pepsi_kda New commenter

    Thanks, TheoGriff.
    (I was considering speaking to the head as she's the one who'll be carrying out the observations).
    I know I can always trust your advice. Thank you.

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