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I'm on 'special measures' - help!

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by musiclover1, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I'm new in my school, I have some difficult
    classes and I've been trying to be as consistent as I can. I've set
    loads of detentions, I feel like on the whole things are getting better
    rather than worse, but now the school has escalated the situation and
    initiated some sort of 'capability procedure' or whatever it's called - I
    have to have a formal meeting with the Headteacher where my 'support'
    is going to be discussed. Basically, I'm going to be on 'special
    measures' for a month after some parents complained about noise levels in two of my classes.
    I'm wondering how that is supposed to help me and
    what sort of 'support' to request. I'm worried that this 'support' is
    going to be a euphemism for extra stress and extra work that I won't be
    able to fit into my schedule - such as observations.
  2. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    You need to take a union rep into the meeting.
    Best wishes,
  3. anon8315

    anon8315 Established commenter

    I would start looking for another job straight away, I'm so sorry to say this but I think that this is disagraceful.
    For starters, you can exercise perfect classroom control in one school, move to another and be challenged repeatedly - it's establishing yourself and it takes time. In some schools it can take as long as two years!
    I also can't believe noise in a classroom is justification for capability. I have always had a couple of classes that just are noisy - it is annoying but it happens. You can work on strategies to reduce noise level of course but classes with a tendency that way can be nigh on impossible to completely shut up! I had a top set year 9 last year who were an absolute delight but with thirty-three of them and being confident and opinionated they loved to share their views - and yes, it was a hard slog with them! (They'd be quiet as mice in an observed lesson though!)
    In any case, did the Head even bother to ask you or did he take the word of the children, via the parents, as gospel?
    Take a union rep into the meeting and look for another post, really - you are worth so much more than this! x
  4. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    I wouldn't make too much of a habit of being openly self-critical in this situation. you may find that you end up make life difficult for yourself. I was like that when I first started teaching and I found that some people use your honesty to gain ammunition that is used against you further down the line.
    My advice is to ask questions more and actually say as little as possible. They have a problem with you and your teaching so let them do the talking. Let them explain what the problem is, what they propose you do about it and what they propose to do about it. Don't just accept what they have to say, question it, challenge it.
    Ask for guidance on what specific problems they have with your practice with respect to behaviour management and how they suggest those problems be addressed. Ask where you can see examples of good MFL practice wrt behaviour management. Find out what additional support they intend to put in place to allow you to improve the situation.
    Has your behaviour management ever been specifically mentioned as a problem during observation feedback? If not then that should be raised.
    Having your union rep present is critical in my opinion. Failing that have someone present other than yourself and the SLT members.
  5. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Thank you, bigkid, that's the opposite of what I was going to do, so it has given me food for thought! I think you may be right. I was going to go in there all guns blazing and tell them why I think they've done a poor job supporting me. It might, however, be better to keep quiet.
    - they employed me knowing that I'd been out of teaching for 10 years and I raised this at the interview stage and was promised 'training', although it wasn't stated when this training was going to be or what shape it was going to take. However, I was given no induction - when I asked to come in to school last June (before starting the job in September) I contacted the 'maternity cover HoD' as the normal HOD who had interviewed me was on maternity leave, and he only allowed me to come in one day after school for an hour as he was too busy teaching during the day. I was expecting lesson observations, an opportunity to see some of the classes that I would be teaching. Instead he talked to me a little bit about all the amazing things you can do with a Smartboard (telling me that if I didn't use it the pupils would think it wasn't a proper lesson), gave me a few textbooks, and that was it. When it came to September I was just thrown in at the deep end, without even any idea of how to take a register on SIMS.
    - there is no Head of German at my school, so there was nobody to guide me when I arrived, nobody to ask for help. I had to turn to the school website to find out what I was meant to be teaching, because the previous teacher had left no indication of what she had covered.
    - nobody even told me whether the pupils had textbooks or not as the previous teacher hadn't taken all the textbooks in, so I was running around like a headless chicken trying to find textbooks, only to find out that some (but not all) of the pupils already had them. One class had the wrong textbook. The previous teacher hadn't stuck to the schemes of work, so the pupils got the impression that I didn't know what I was doing whilst I was trying to work out what they'd covered.
    - there are hardly any resources for German, and even the few resources are in a mess, with tapes missing from the assessment files, pages missing from the resource files etc. Yet the classes are more mixed ability than any that I've ever taught before. So for every lesson I'm expected to create differentiated resources from scratch. In one year 9 class I have a complete beginner (recently joined from another school) together with two or three pupils who are virtually ready to take their GCSE. The pupils have had a variety of teachers before me, so their teaching hasn't been continuous. Is it surprising that they challenge yet another new teacher?
    - At no stage has anyone ever sat down with me and asked me what the problem is with my difficult classes, offered advice, offered help. When my HoD (she's the one who looks after French and Spanish, so I'm under her even though she doesn't teach my subject) came back from maternity leave after Christmas she sat me down and told me that my behaviour management was unsatisfactory and gave me 'targets' to work on and a 2-week deadline by which I needed to improve. So I did what I was told and after two weeks she said I'd 'improved' and that I was off my targets. She does, to be fair, follow up pupils who don't turn up to my detentions, and she takes pupils out if I exclude them from the lesson, but she arrives just as the bell goes (as she has a small baby) and leaves straightaway after school, so I can't easily ask her questions.
    So, should I mention all this?
  6. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Say as little as possible. Ask questions
    <ol>[*]When is the training I was offered when I took the job going to happen?[*]There doesn't appear to be much in the way of resources available in German. Is there any funding available to rectify the situation?</ol>
    Did your HOD say your behaviour management was unsatisfactory after a formal observation?
    If you were given targets and you have improved then what is their issue exactly? That's what you need to find out.
    If you go in all guns blazing then you are setting yourself up for a beating.
    Make them say what their problem is. Then make them justify and evidence every bit of it.
    Take your union rep.
    The more you say the more they can put you on the defensive or present you as being "emotional" if you go in all guns blazing. This allows them to dismiss what you say out of hand.
    It is absolutely vital to appear to be calm, reasonable, measured, thoughtful, strong and determined. Let them do the talking. Thoughtfully question and challenge anything you don't agree with (preferably through questions such as "Do you have any evidence to support that assertion?", "What, specifically are your issues with my practice?" and some other questions I suggested earlier)
    In my experience when asked what their problem with your practice is they will avoid specifics (particularly if they have no evidence to support a specific accusation) and will try to fob you off with some woolly, waffly nonsense. Don't accept that. Question it until you get something specific. Then challenge it if you don't agree with it.
    Make a really big deal of the lack of evidence.

  7. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Makes sense, bigkid! I've got my union rep organised!
  8. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Unfortunately there is a wide variety of qualities of union rep so you need to make sure that you have an agreed plan that you are happy with well before the meeting.
    I would also recommend that you have someone who is broadly supportive (or at least neutral) observe you. Someone whose feedback you would value.
    Remember that unevidenced assertions are meaningless unless you accept them as valid.

  9. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I did post yesterday, but the message didn't send. The meeting went really well - the union rep was brilliant, and I managed to stay calm and to get my points across by challenging their assertions. The meeting split into two halves, in the first half they told me their view of what had gone on previously, which I challenged, and the union rep was pushing for the whole case to be thrown out due to being based on hearsay (i.e. what parents had told the school). They still wanted to go ahead with the 4 weeks of support and targets, so the second half of the meeting was spent discussing the shape of this extra support and targets. So I left the meeting feeling that I'd really been listened to and that everything was going to get better.
    Then today I felt so utterly shattered that I just didn't know how I was going to get through my 5 lesson day. I managed it somehow but didn't feel I'd done a good job. And on top of all that I managed to forget my little boy's parents' evening. This whole thing has really taken it out of me because I haven't been sleeping properly.
    5 lessons and 3 hours of year 8 parents' evening tomorrow, then it'll be nearly the week-end......
  10. Keep believing in yourself. Recognise the injustice of the situation and try and rise above it. Fantastic that the meeting went well and you managed to put your points across. I'm sure you're doing a great job - we can all improve but these cases rarely seem to reflect genuine issues with teaching, rather some hidden agenda.
  11. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I've had the write-up of the meeting through and one of my targets is 'for behaviour in all the lessons to be good or better'. That does seem like a tall order bearing in mind the kind of fallible person that I am. I had a good lesson with one of my year 8's today (one away, 7 on monitoring), but year 9 last lesson in the afternoon were just not interested and took every opportunity to laugh and be silly. I can do it sometimes, but just not all the time.
    One of the German people in the reading test that we did was called 'Wang' (just to be PC), and every time I said 'Wang' they all started laughing. (It was a multiple choice exercise where most of the answers were 'wang'). I had to laugh myself in the end because it's such a silly name. How can I have the force to get cross with them for that on a Friday afternoon?? :) And then they think I'm weak and silly.
    Thank you for your words of encouragement.
  12. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    What does that mean? Has it been made clear? Sounds like the waffly nonsense I predicted to me. Too subjective and unspecific. Insist on clarity.
  13. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    That target is not acceptable imo. It should be a target based around whether...
    a) you can be seen to have anticipated areas of the lesson where there may be poor behaviour and taken reasonable preventative measures (e.g. when I'm giving out drums and sticks I have a serious word about how to behave and consequences first and I don't give them all out at once)
    b) you are following the school's behaviour policy as written.

    A teacher can do no more than the above afaics.
  14. kittylion

    kittylion Established commenter

    How would they measure this to say whether or not you have achieved it?
  15. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I think they're looking above all for improvement. And in order to find evidence of that they're going to walk PAST my lessons to see if all the pupils seem quiet and engaged (I've asked for feedback on this, and for the opportunity to then give feedback myself on what was happening in my classroom, e.g. if the room was noisy this may have been due to an intentional group work activity). Also, they're going to interview 3 students from each class and ask them if things are going well and if there have been improvements over the last month. The union rep asked for the names given to me beforehand, and for me to have the right to refuse certain choices.
    To be honest, I kind of don't care anymore what they think of me. They're not Modern Languages Teachers and have no idea of my strengths and of the difficulties I face. I'm going to do my best to achieve quiet, disciplined lessons (as though I wasn't trying before), and I doubt they'll put me on 'formal capability' procedures if I do everything they ask me to do. They'll either keep me on this informal monitoring or, if a miracle happens and everyone starts behaving themselves, they'll take me off the monitoring. And at the beginning of June I'm losing the 2 year 9 classes and gaining other classes that are unlikely to cause me problems (such as year 10 option groups), and half the problem will go away.
  16. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    This is utterly ridiculous
    your union rep will rip them to shreds if they try to hassle you based on this weak evidence

  17. kittylion

    kittylion Established commenter

    I am amazed your union rep has agreed to this - I never heard of anything so ridiculous. Is this your regional rep? Maybe Ofsted should walk past the school to see if it "seems" to be good or outstanding.

    As for asking pupils if things have improved, well if that isn't a sure-fire way to undermine you and put all the power into their hands.
    They seem to have no idea of a lot of things. Please check again with your union rep.
  18. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    These are strong words, guys! I can kind of see their point that if they actually observe my lessons nobody is going to step out of line, so the whole process would be pointless. And I can't help but admit to the fact that some of those kids are acting up (thereby making it hard for other kids to concentrate), whereas they do behave quietly and sensibly with my colleagues. I do want to learn to be stricter. I just wish they could be kinder and more supportive in the way they're teaching me. Oh how I long for some praise for my hard work - like a little kid!:) I want a few merits for all the lessons I've conducted successfully since September!!! :)
    And now that half of my year 9s know that they're not taking German to GCSE, how much chance have I really got to transform them into model pupils!?
    I'm hoping for some positive feedback from that AST who is coming in to support me. Maybe she'll tell them that I'm better than they think.
    I'm going to log everything that happens in an exercise book that I keep on my desk, and I'll also note how I deal with it. And I'll read that Behaviour Policy again and make sure I follow it exactly.
    I'll let you know how it all goes!
  19. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I don't really mind them asking the pupils. At least they are the ones who know what's going on, and the majority are on my side (they just wish I were stricter I suppose...). I had some very revealing conversations at parents' evening. Some of the parents had no idea there was anything amiss, some actually said that their son was really enjoying German - more than last year, some said. Others had been told exactly by their kids what's been going on and then told me their kids' versions of events. One mum said: I'm appalled that my own son is involved in this. He's told me that they vie with eachother about who's going to get their name on the board, get a detention, go on monitoring. He also told me that he realises that you would be a really good teacher if they actually let you teach'. One quiet Indian boy told me himself, with his mum sitting next to him, how upset he was about his education being disrupted. However, he told me that this was not just happening in German but in other subjects as well. So, yes, very subjective pictures.
    Then there were the parents of my nice beginner class who were all utterly thrilled with their kids' progress - one said their son was actually listening and singing along to German pop songs as a result of my teaching.
  20. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    These kids will think they are helping you by telling the management how badly the others are behaving and how it's not your fault.

    The management will hear "We are not learning because our teacher is not managing behaviour in the class".

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