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I need help

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by mh3, Dec 10, 2011.

  1. mh3

    mh3

    Apologies if this sounds like lots of other teachers who don't feel they are coping well with behaviour but I need to vent somewhere!
    At the start of this academic year I moved from a school where behaviour is not a problem to one where it can be very challenging. This is part of the reason for the move, a sort of personal challenge to myself to see whether I could cope with it. I don't know why I always feel I have something to prove, but here I am anyway.
    Most of my classes are lovely and I really enjoy teaching them. I teach year 7 up to year 13 and the only year groups causing me major problems are year 9 and 10. Their behaviour is the usual low-level constant disruption which grinds you down, with the occasional flare-up of someone majorly kicking off. So each lesson we have shouting out, swearing, questioning of my teaching strategies, behaviour management sanctions etc. I can justify each one of these with external reasons - they shout out because they're rude, they swear because they have no respect for adults in general, they question me because I'm new. But I'm starting to think maybe it is me, maybe I'm just not cut out for teaching. I had 5 years of successful, "Outstanding" teaching under my belt at my previous school, and as I said most other classes are fine, but I'm starting to feel I am not performing as the school expected of me.
    I look around my year 10 classes and about 20% of students just can't be bothered to do any work. I have tried fun activities, practical activities, textbook, old-fashioned work, puzzles, etc etc, but none of the styles seem to suit all students. While this is always the case, normally classes just get on with things which aren't their favourite but these classes need to have fun activities 100% of the time, and I just can't cope with that. It's also not fair on students who do like traditional methods too.
    I have been advised to get support of senior managers, but this has proven unsuccesful so far. They either don't show up when they're called, or when they do, they bargain with the student instead of dealing with them more harshly, which leads me to suspect they believe me to be at fault rather than the child. Maybe I am. It's true that I don't have a lot of confidence which they can probably pick up on, but the worse they are the less confidence I have, so it's a vicious circle. My head of dept is completely ineffective - she has more behaviour management problems than anyone in the department, and she also finds it difficult to manage staff. I sympathise with her because she's a nice woman but just not a very good head of dept. Deputy heads have acknowledged that these classes are challenging but they often threaten punishments without following them through, so this intervention becomes ineffective.
    I have tried following the school's behaviour policy but thus far it has been utterly ineffective. Detentions don't work. I have tried ringing home with one class, no effect. I find phoning home VERY difficult, because I find talking on the phone difficult in general anyway. It's hard phoning parents not knowing them because you don't know what line to take and you can't read their reactions on the phone. I always feel if I am ringing home to complain about their child's behaviour, a lot of parents feel that if their child isn't behaving, it's because the teacher isn't strict enough, and then I just end up questioning myself and getting into even worse a state about the whole thing.
    I am overeating as a way of coping with the stress and I feel on edge whenever I teach these classes. I have a few times felt teary in front of them and have on several occasions come home crying because of how the situations have made me feel. This makes me angry with myself because I know I shouldn't let it get to me. I feel I have let the school down because I think they expected me to be a really fun teacher, which I don't think I am being at the moment. I am really questioning my career at the moment. Do I stick with it for the long haul and carry on working on these classes, despite what it's doing to me, or do I try and find a job in an easier school? Or do I leave teaching altogether? I've put everything into this job which, when it goes right, I love doing. Maybe it's just that time of year. Sorry for rambling for so long, thanks to anyone who has read this far or who replies.
     
  2. mh3

    mh3

    Apologies if this sounds like lots of other teachers who don't feel they are coping well with behaviour but I need to vent somewhere!
    At the start of this academic year I moved from a school where behaviour is not a problem to one where it can be very challenging. This is part of the reason for the move, a sort of personal challenge to myself to see whether I could cope with it. I don't know why I always feel I have something to prove, but here I am anyway.
    Most of my classes are lovely and I really enjoy teaching them. I teach year 7 up to year 13 and the only year groups causing me major problems are year 9 and 10. Their behaviour is the usual low-level constant disruption which grinds you down, with the occasional flare-up of someone majorly kicking off. So each lesson we have shouting out, swearing, questioning of my teaching strategies, behaviour management sanctions etc. I can justify each one of these with external reasons - they shout out because they're rude, they swear because they have no respect for adults in general, they question me because I'm new. But I'm starting to think maybe it is me, maybe I'm just not cut out for teaching. I had 5 years of successful, "Outstanding" teaching under my belt at my previous school, and as I said most other classes are fine, but I'm starting to feel I am not performing as the school expected of me.
    I look around my year 10 classes and about 20% of students just can't be bothered to do any work. I have tried fun activities, practical activities, textbook, old-fashioned work, puzzles, etc etc, but none of the styles seem to suit all students. While this is always the case, normally classes just get on with things which aren't their favourite but these classes need to have fun activities 100% of the time, and I just can't cope with that. It's also not fair on students who do like traditional methods too.
    I have been advised to get support of senior managers, but this has proven unsuccesful so far. They either don't show up when they're called, or when they do, they bargain with the student instead of dealing with them more harshly, which leads me to suspect they believe me to be at fault rather than the child. Maybe I am. It's true that I don't have a lot of confidence which they can probably pick up on, but the worse they are the less confidence I have, so it's a vicious circle. My head of dept is completely ineffective - she has more behaviour management problems than anyone in the department, and she also finds it difficult to manage staff. I sympathise with her because she's a nice woman but just not a very good head of dept. Deputy heads have acknowledged that these classes are challenging but they often threaten punishments without following them through, so this intervention becomes ineffective.
    I have tried following the school's behaviour policy but thus far it has been utterly ineffective. Detentions don't work. I have tried ringing home with one class, no effect. I find phoning home VERY difficult, because I find talking on the phone difficult in general anyway. It's hard phoning parents not knowing them because you don't know what line to take and you can't read their reactions on the phone. I always feel if I am ringing home to complain about their child's behaviour, a lot of parents feel that if their child isn't behaving, it's because the teacher isn't strict enough, and then I just end up questioning myself and getting into even worse a state about the whole thing.
    I am overeating as a way of coping with the stress and I feel on edge whenever I teach these classes. I have a few times felt teary in front of them and have on several occasions come home crying because of how the situations have made me feel. This makes me angry with myself because I know I shouldn't let it get to me. I feel I have let the school down because I think they expected me to be a really fun teacher, which I don't think I am being at the moment. I am really questioning my career at the moment. Do I stick with it for the long haul and carry on working on these classes, despite what it's doing to me, or do I try and find a job in an easier school? Or do I leave teaching altogether? I've put everything into this job which, when it goes right, I love doing. Maybe it's just that time of year. Sorry for rambling for so long, thanks to anyone who has read this far or who replies.
     
  3. bacardibreezer

    bacardibreezer New commenter

    mh3
    this post could have been written by me (except my problems are with years 9 and 11). I ended up being signed off with stress and depression.
    I am in my second year at the same school, but a lot of my classes this year are new to me. I have spent hours of my own time filling in behaviour sheets, phoning parents, meeting parents, taking detentions ... but still feel that I am getting nowhere. I also feel that SLT are more interested in the students' points-of-view rather than tackling the real problems, and although some parents are supportive, many see to think it is my fault that their offspring are misbehaving - that is if they even accept the fact that their child is not perfect!
    In the end, I flipped. Sick of being promised help but with none forthcoming, I went off sick. I spoke to my HoD on the phone and explained that what was happening on a daily basis at the school was affecting my health and that I was not prepared to let it take over like that.
    Now, I have more support than I can possibly deal with. Every one of the trouble makers in my Y11 class has been removed. I have students begging me to let them return - those same students who questioned and argued with everything I did, made me look stupid and caused me hate coming in. I actually feel guilty about the amount of support I am getting and have asked to have some of these students returned. SLT have refused thsi request, saying that these students deserve to be removed from the class - some are sitting at the back of sixth form lessons doing work from exercise books. they have been told that if they can't appreciate their teachers, they will have to get on with it themselves.
    I'm not suggesting you go off sick- although you do need to recognise how much this school has caused a lowering of your self-esteem, and this is obvious in the way you are blaming yourself and your feelings that you are letting the school down. But I would find a sympathetic member of SLT and tell them honestly how you are feeling. They have a duty of care towards you and you deserve their support. And so do those students who want to learn.
    Sorry for waffling, but I wish you luck with this.
     
  4. They either don't show up when they're called, or when they do, they bargain with the student instead of dealing with them more harshly
    Students know when they can get away with things - as you have pointed out in your post. Another way round is to make an arrangement with another teacher (s) who will take the worst troublemakers in the back of their class - preferably a younger class. You can then tell the class that if they behave badly they willl be sat with 'the babies'. SLT are obviously not supporting you.
    Another strategy is that you hold the youngsters back in break or lunch if they happend straight after the lesson. Instant consequences. If they say that it is not fair - tell them - nor is wrecking the lesson.
    The alternative is to find an exit strategy. Life is too short to live with this level of stress.
    I'd also suggest 'Dear Tom'ing this thread for additonal guidance.
     
  5. mh3

    mh3

    Many thanks to both for the responses.
    I will try some of the strategies you've suggested.
    One problem with keeping them in for time at break/lunch/after school is that the pupils just walk off - I'm obviously not going to physically restrain them. Then I pass it up but no consequence comes of it, so the kids know they can do what they like and I've got little else I can do.
    Thanks again.
     
  6. Further to megerton's post: the senior managers are at fault - your pupils have learned that senior managers allow them to behave badly.
     
  7. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Dear Mh3
    Your message is a template for the sort of problems faced by teachers in too many schools. Be reassured that this is not your fault; you are not the problem here. You are an excellent teacher, working hard, giving a damn and doing their impressive best. What more could anyone ask of you? You should be proud of yourself, not beating yourself up.
    EVERY teacher that goes to a new, strange school (and my God, but you picked a mission there- I salute your enthusiasm and commitment to CPD) goes through the trial by fire. Many children resent change. Also, many change resent new sources of authority- or any sources. Put those together and you have a conclusion: they resent you, at least initially.
    Or rather, they don't resent you- they resent what you represent; someone entering their territory, someone with big ideas about learning and such. How very dare you?
    They might like fun lessons- don't we all?- but this isn't what you;re here for.They need you to be a teacher, which is what you are, and a fine one too.
    1. This experience shows you that well planned lessons will not, by themselves, provoke angelic behaviour- the great behaviour myth #324. If the kids don't want to behave then they bloody well won't. If they don't like you pushing them harder than they're used to, expecting things of them like working, then they'll express it through the medium of insolence.
    2. The school has fundamentally let you down, and this probably explains why the school is seen as challenging. What that really means is that the leadership are spineless, and devoid of cojones to the tune of two, each. If a senior member of staff has to be called out to deal with a behaviour problem, it's awfully easy for them to arrive as the mediator, the balm. It;s easier because it's not useful. The kids need to know that when the big guns arrive then everyone should hide under the tables like the bartender in a Western saloon when someone cusses the Duke. That's not happening here. No wonder you feel undermined. You are.
    3. Did I mention that this isn't your fault? The profession absolutely needs people like you. WHat YOU don't need is the feeling that it's your fault that others misbehave. If you think about it, how crazy is that? They;re responsible for their own behaviour, and you for yours. Of course, you;re responsible for what you do next. So what are you going to do? I have a few thoughts:
    Manage upwards. It takes patience and grit. Here's what you do:
    If you call a senior staff member, call them out on it if they don't show- politely. Ask them what they think should happen now, and imply that you want some back up.
    What does the behaviour policy say? If you follow it to the letter, and people above you (and I use that in the loosest possible sense) are dropping the ball, then you need to ask them what happened, and what they'll do next, pointing out that you have exactly followed policy. If this doesn't get satisfaction, then you need to go up a level. There must be SOMEONE in the school who cares and is professional.
    If there isn't, abandon ship. Don't abandon profession- just the ship. There are plenty of other ships, and captains that don't support their crew members, don;t deserve to have any (if I can stretch the metaphor tighter than is normally pleasant). Jump ship at the next port and set sail with a gang of hearties who sing the same song as you.
    Good luck, shipmate
    Read more from Tom here on his personal blog, or follow him on Twitter here.

     
  8. mh3

    mh3

    Thank you Tom for your response. You have no idea how much I have appreciated your vote of confidence and advice.
    I will do exactly as you have suggested re: chasing up SMT, and I am going to stop feeling that poor behaviour is my fault. I will hopefully get the chance over Christmas to have a proper rest and so attack the issues with more vigour in the new year. I will give it until Easter to decide if I will stay or not or start looking elsewhere.
    I was feeling very low on Friday when I wrote my first post. Since reflecting on this, I have rationalised the situation more and now don't feel as much of a failure as I did then. I also think part of the problem is that I have very high expectations of students, which I have seen with my own eyes that some other teachers do not. When I say high expectations, I mean I expect them to do some work and not just doss about on their phones. What I always have in the back of my mind is the Ofsted framework that my lesson would be given 'unsatisfactory' or 'poor' if every child isn't focused, on-task and engaged. I don't want to be a poor teacher so this really stresses me out.
    Well anyway thank you very much for taking the time to reply, it has really given me some confidence.
     
  9. msmuse

    msmuse New commenter

    Hi mh3
    I am going to be absolutely no use to you here, but I just want to be an empathetic ear. I too have spent may years in a great school and am now in a 'challenging' one with many issues to deal with - I am primary though. You would think that the little ones would be easier, but they're not! I have taught yrs 7-9 and this yr4 class would give them a run for their money (see my 'Class From Hell' post). Everyone on here is so supportive.
    Let's hope the New Year brings you some renewed energy to cope! Good luck x

     
  10. mh3

    mh3

    Thanks for posting this - it really helps to know I'm not alone!
    I have felt more positive today as I have followed Tom's advice. I'm not going to accept this lack of support any more and if I'm not going to get the support I need, I will try to find a school where I am more appreciated.
     
  11. mh3

    mh3

    Well I'm sat here reflecting on what I'm going to do with my life!
    I spoke to SMT about the problems I'm having and they have offered no solutions. The systems are just not robust enough to deal with the behaviour problems experienced by me and colleagues, and SMT do not appear to have the inclination or ability to tackle the issues we are telling them exist, instead brushing it under the carpet and hinting that poor behaviour is a result of lessons lacking in excitement.
    So I have made the decision - I will be looking for a new job, let's hope lots appear in the coming months. I'm not restricting myself to education, and so I'm open to any suggestions for an alternative career with the skills teaching has given me?!
     
  12. GrahamLawler

    GrahamLawler New commenter

    apologies NOT needed, many of us have been there and the quality of these responses show you are not alone. Check out Lou Thompson's Understanding Self esteem a manual for mentors. Has some good stuff for you to understand your own self esteem needs, isbn is 9781842851777
     
  13. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    What you will probably find is that many of the worst behaved pupils have no more respect for SMT than they do for you. That being the case a weak senior manager will invariably use a variety of different ways of deflecting the problem back to you or on to someone else rather than try to deal with the situation.
    Given the option of attempting to do something that is time consuming, difficult and quite possibly beyond their capabilities it is unsurprising that many decline to do so. It is very easy for a senior leader/manager to discourage teachers from requesting support using the following method:
    <ol>[*]Bounce the problem to someone else (HOD, HOY or SENCO usually in my experience) [*]Respond to all requests for help by doing something that is either unhelpful, time consuming, counter-productive, undermining or in some other way annoying.[*]Offer to observe the struggling teacher to "get to the bottom of the problem"[*]Strongly hint that the teacher is at fault (usually lessons not engaging/interactive enough, too teacher led or poor class dynamic or lack of good 1-2-1 relationships with the pupils) without offering any useful advice, meaningful solutions or training.[*]Monitor the teacher to check they are "improving" their behaviour management (often co-opting the HOD if they are willing). This normally means pressurising them into dealing with the problem themselves and not moaning.</ol>It is often inadequacy rather than an callousness that causes the unhelpful responses in my opinion.
    Ultimately it is the headteacher that allows this state of affairs to continue. It is probably the head teacher that was responsible for putting that person into the role that they are not capable of fulfilling in the first place.
    I would make sure you have your Head of Department and the respective Heads of Year on board and that the problems with behaviour and the strategies you have employed are well documented. That will make it more difficult to ignore your concerns.
    If someone is hinting that your lessons lacking excitement is causing the poor behaviour then ask whoever is hinting that to do some joint planning with you or ask them to demonstrate how you might make your lesson more exciting/engaging
     
  14. Totally agree with bigkid except I'm a little less generous than he:
    "Given the option of attempting to ..." - they're paid to! It's their (chosen) job! It's not an "option".
    "Inadequacy v. callousness" - reacting in the 5 ways listed is, in context, callous. A non-callous person who was just inadequate could just sympathize and admit they couldn't help, and pass it up to the headteacher, as they're presumably supposed to do.
    Obviously bigkid and I aren't talking about the many good SLT members. However, there are shockingly many bad ones, in my view/experience.
     
  15. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Picture a headteacher of the "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions" mindset. A bully who singles out anyone that creates problems for them and relentlessly hounds them out. A nepotist who promotes yes people rather than competent ones who say "How high?" when told to jump.
    Now imagine you are a middle/senior leader working under such a headteacher. The systems in place for managing behaviour are inadequte as are your skills for dealing with behaviour. You have no intention of sticking your head above the parapet and getting bullied. That rules out pointing out the inadequacy of the system. It also rules out trying and failing to deal with poor behaviour as that would either expose your inadequacy in such matters for staff and pupils alike to see if you don't go to the head with it or result in you creating work/problems for the head if you do. this would be career suicide at that particular school and result in marginalisation and bullying. You would also be unable to leave without taking a step down as you have already been promoted well beyond your level of ability.
    Sometimes what appears callous is about survival.
    In such a situation I witnessed the few good members of SLT who tried to support colleagues on behaviour issues get sidelined, marginalised and pushed into thankless, time consuming, difficult but ultimately low profile and not hugely important roles while the useless were promoted above them. I always hoped that for their own sake they would leave and find a job where their principles wouldn't get in their way.
     
  16. "You would also be unable to leave without taking a step down as you have already been promoted well beyond your level of ability" - if you have really been promoted beyond your level of ability then stepping down is the only ethically right, non-callous thing to do. Who said doing the right thing always coincides with self-interest?
    And, if you stay, then "sticking your head above the parapet ... pointing out the inadequacy of the system" - in the scenario given, is, likewise, what you have to do. Continuing to take the salary otherwise is immoral.
    It's not, sadly, remotely unusual in life for doing the right thing to carry a price tag.
    (Otherwise, the bad head in your example could probably come up with excuses too.)
     

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