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Group of students complaining about teacher

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Doncaster17, Dec 15, 2018.

  1. Doncaster17

    Doncaster17 New commenter

    Good morning everyone!

    Science Teacher here. I am seen as a NQT in England, but with scientific research experience in four countries, bits and pieces of professional experience in different industries, and three years of part time teaching experience in two different countries. I am in Education because I want to inspire the new generations, in a context when working for science doesn´t look very promising, and to share my experience, passion and enthusiasm. Long story short...Since September this year, I work at a relatively small boys school (of around 550 students), where most teachers have been hanging out for a few years already. This year, as my first year I have been given a few bottom sets (years 7 to 10), and one triple science year 10. My situation with the bottom sets is frustrating, as I am mostly a "teenager babysitter" and behaviour manager, and the kids won´t do any homework on a weekly basis, or any revision before their exams. That´s not my fault (I keep being told), but the socio-cultural context of the area where this school is located. The only "good" group of students I have is a triple science with better students, but they are used to their previous science teachers, who gave them everything done, while I use more of an "active learning" approach, mixed with the usual passive learning they seem to enjoy more. These kids have complained about me several times, stating that I can´t teach, and using any excuse that they can find, always behind my back to other teachers, and never directly to me. My feeling is that they just want to get rid of the new teacher, but the school is very supportive. Other teachers like my approach, and they are very happy for me to make students think and to take them out of their "comfort zone" at times. The Head Teacher, HoD, SLT and other teachers seem to like me, and 99% of the feedback about my teaching I get is outstanding. How would you deal with that in terms of emotions and how to face the situation from now on? It just feels so draining. Nothing new for you all, I know, but I don´t really know if this is worth it, or I should just quit all this? I would like to hear different opinions and would really appreciate your time to give me any "psycological" advice.

    Have a great day everyone!
  2. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    It sounds like you're doing everything right, especially if SLT rate you as outstanding.
    It takes at least a full year before you start to feel accepted in a new school, and the kids take delight in pushing your buttons and boundaries. It's normal. And they always say they miss their old teacher: they don't like change, and they don't like moving out of their comfort zone.
    Keep on doing what you're doing, smile, use your sense of humour, chat to them about their sporting activities, and by the end of the year, you'll probably be their favourite teacher!
  3. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    You fell into the trap. Everything looked so paradisal in the DfE adverts, didn't they, selling the teaching profession on the unconditional positive regard of pupils. In a way it is true, you can have all the peer plaudits you like, genuine or not, but it is your working relationships with your classes which determine whether you want to stand in front of them several times a week for the rest of your career.

    The efficacy of your teaching style in other countries if no guarantee of its success in the UK. You are here to teach our pupils appropriate to their context & abilities, they are not here that you can fulfil your missionary dreams.

    All you can do now is bear up or bug out. Previous experience aside, an NQT is not an accomplished teacher. If you stay then you must change your assumptions, expectations & behaviour, listen to your professional superiors, the old lags, get more training and adapt your practice to your classes. Ultimately you might find that work outside of teaching is more rewarding for you, not only monetarily, and more beneficial for the pupils you leave behind. Stay or go but plan and work hard. Success is not the necessary, spontaneous outcome of passion.
    xtra, lanokia and les25paul like this.
  4. silkywave

    silkywave Lead commenter

    Spoon feed is always student’s preferred choice of learning. “Just tell me what the answers are”. They expect there to be a right and wrong answers, not to speculate or god forbid hypothesise No that means synthesising and using a higher thinking order. Far too tiring. It will take time to for them to exercise their brains and enjoy the experience. Persist. They are but children and you are the adult.
    emerald52 and les25paul like this.
  5. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    You need to remember that teenagers know everything and in particular the inverse rule of being a smartar** dictates the the lower the ability set set they are in the more they are an expert on everything.

    Of course you cannot teach them anything because that would mean they need to learn something. Learning is not on their agenda because they want instant results.

    Give up and go back to real science, the teaching profession doesn't deserve you.
    henrypm0 likes this.
  6. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Rightly so - despite previous, probably quite relevant, experience you are still the new kid on the block to teaching here and still have much to learn and prove. SLT will be supportive if you are competent in the classroom and have some industrial/research background. Science and other technical/technological subject teachers like you are hard to come by.

    You're coming (presumably) to the end of your first term in this post, the longest and most tiring term. By next term you'll be more like part of the fixtures and fittings, and the term after that, and so on. Of course they're going to test your limits - they think it's their God-given right. I had exactly the same from pupils when I was on long-term supply despite many years' teaching experience. I was new to them and that's all that mattered to them - never mind I knew their misbehaviour script back to front and could spot the trouble makers within seconds of entering a room.

    Another thing - some staff aren't much different. I went into my second post with 6 years' experience in quite a demanding school under my belt, but was treated like a NQT because at a mere 28 I was the youngest member of staff and I'd moved up from the poncey south so what did I know? So it goes. :)

    Don't lose your idealism - just learn when and how to apply it, and when to be more pragmatic. I don't necessarily mean that one automatically applies to brighter kids and one applies to slower learners either. Sometimes you can dupe them into independent and creative learning without them realising it. Maybe that's the true craft of teaching. I believe it was General William Westmorland who once said "Command is the art of getting people to do what you want to do - with enthusiasm." Any hard **** can do the first bit - achieving the last bit is the real test.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018
    xtra, nomad and agathamorse like this.
  7. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    It always takes time to establish yourself in a new school, whether you are a NQT or have been teaching for decades. I have heard tales of highly experienced teachers having a really hard time when going somewhere else. Things do get better the longer you are in a particular school.

    Also, as someone new to the UK system they will sense this, they complain because you are different to what they expect and kids are incredibly conservative in their expectations. You have just arrived and therefore you might just leave as quickly too, so they moan and think they may have some power.

    In my first year of teaching about 30 years ago now, an older teacher said to me "your real job is keep them out of prison you know" when I'd been lamenting my progress with a bottom set year 10 group. Things are somewhat different now and you will be measured on whether they get their E instead of F or D instead of E, but you aren't developing scientists, you are helping them to get something-anything, that might help them progress in life even if some or many think it's a game where they have to avoid your offerings.

    We used to talk about "teaching the whole child", where subjects were in part the means to teach processes and basic stuff like civility and decency, but those things can't be measured on spreadsheets.

    If you are to stay and succeed, you do need to accept that teaching lower sets isn't about making them expert in your subject, because they won't get there. If that isn't what you're there for and it's all about science, then a different kind of school is the answer. I was a science teacher for 25 years, I was a teacher, not a scientist.
  8. install

    install Star commenter

    Whoever they are complaining to should be telling them to speak to you first. Then if necessary your hod. Otherwise you are being undermined, and students encouraged to think they can behave regularly in this way as a group. :cool:
    Doncaster17 likes this.
  9. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Carry on exactly as you are.

    You are new to the school and new to teaching. Students are territorial, you are a new body on their turf and they want you to play by their rules. You are probably being complained about because you make them do the work or insist on civilised standards of behaviour.

    They want to undermine you, they want you to be the 'muck about' teacher, the one in whose lessons they just do as they like. Don't go down that route because the new classes you have next year will know of your reputation and the same cycle of behaviour will continue and may stick with you for the remainder of your time at the school.

    Carry on teaching professionally, set your high standards and stick to them. It is not for you to bend to their will but for them to step up to yours. You have the support of your SLT so that's good. It may be a long battle and you may never get the better of these classes but if you're sticking with teaching for a few more years, a consistent tough and fair approach may well pay off in future years.
    Doncaster17 likes this.
  10. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    Resistant-to-learning adolescents are pretty much the majority of the cohort in the low soc-ec schools I've taught in.
    You decide how to teach them, not the kids. The line of least resistance or SLT "my way or the highway" doom you to an unhappy professional life.
    Stay with the way you've come up with because it's what you think will benefit the kids long-term. If management are supporting you in this, you're 70% there already. The whining little sloths will get used to it eventually.
    Doncaster17 likes this.
  11. jomaimai

    jomaimai Established commenter

    I also had previous experience teaching in two countries and was considered a highly successful teacher for many years. I started teaching in the Uk more than 5 years ago and I still consider myself an NQT (don't tell anyone). Previous experience in other school systems do not count, it does not help you to understand what it means to be a teacher in an English school.

    and you are also here to fulfil the missionary dreams of schools' interpretation of Ofsted.

    Anyway, persevere, adapt and plan to your cohort needs. Change a bit, do not try to be the Messiah.
    Remember, the first year in a school is always the hardest, Autumn term next year it will be much easier.
    Doncaster17 likes this.
  12. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    Are they correct?
    nomad likes this.
  13. Ginglygangly

    Ginglygangly New commenter

    it can be really heart-breaking, hearing that students have criticized you, expecially when you are tired (and we all are!) but it sounds like you know what you are doing. They want to hurt you and win control. Don't let them. Smile winningly at the nastiest ones - it drives them nuts!
  14. Toomuchtooyoung

    Toomuchtooyoung Occasional commenter

    Have the triple science group made progress ? and if so are they aware of this ? If they are used to being spoon fed it is tough for them to adapt to a different way, especially if they have an expectation of being able to do something, or acquire a certain amount of knowledge by a certain time. It's great taking people out of their comfort zone, but how far and for how long. Sounds to me like you feel you're doing a great job, it's the children who need to know they're doing a great job too.
  15. Doncaster17

    Doncaster17 New commenter

    Thanks for your reply. I found your second paragraph a bit rude, but that´s your opinion.
  16. Doncaster17

    Doncaster17 New commenter

    Fantastic advice! Thanks a lot!! I am printing it off and keeping in my planner
    Shedman likes this.
  17. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    My problem with you OP is that you have very little relevant teaching experience. I have a similar background to you but I had a lot more teaching experience than you did when I started.

    The other thing that rings a few alarm bells is your devotion to "active learning" - it's a laudable aim but you need some experience to know how to do it effectively.

    I may sound a little harsh here - but do you know what you are doing and do you understand how to take your students along the journey.

    In order to make independent learning work a certain amount of training is needed for your students and they need to buy into it. I have a colleague who is a real devotee of this technique - but it's not working for her and the kids are struggling.

    You may not be as amazing as you think you are - go and observe other teachers - consider what you can do to keep your students on board.
  18. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    Carry on if you believe what you are doing is right. Remember they are the inmates we are the keepers! Harsh way of saying it but it’s true. You are bound to get knocks, ups and downs. Get on with it and stop moaning! Sounds like you are doing the right things ... so believe in yourself!
    Doncaster17 and Shedman like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    I think you’ve fallen into a very common trap in teaching - your own expertise in the subject is irrelevant.

    You are a teacher, and your job is to get your students through their exams. Shelve your subject knowledge and start applying your pedagogical knowledge.

    ‘If they aren’t learning from the way you teach, teach the way they learn.’

    So you have low ability students who won’t do homework. How do you get them to do homework?

    You have a higher set that miss their old teacher and like being spoon fed. How do you wean them off that way of working? You are trying but maybe expecting too much too soon?

    And don’t think about quitting. It’s rare to see a teacher wondering if the problem is them, not the school/government/salt/Gove.

    God, but I still hate Gove...
    Doncaster17, MrMedia and jomaimai like this.
  20. jomaimai

    jomaimai Established commenter

    Go and observe, and reflect on your practice.

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