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Leaving teaching?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by stressedoutnqt, Sep 10, 2016.

  1. stressedoutnqt

    stressedoutnqt New commenter

    Hi all!

    I'm 23, and a secondary MFL teacher. I did my NQT year last year and struggled a bit with behaviour. Towards the end of the year I clashed a little with my Head of Dept about the fact that I had been talking to my NQT mentor about problems I was having (I posted on here actually over summer) - as she took this as me complaining about her. Things have been really weird since going back; I haven't had any departmental support with behaviour at all (whereas I did last year - I used to be able to send kids out to work at the back of other people's classrooms), but my Head of Dept did make me have a meeting with the Deputy Head in charge of behaviour, who has said he will do an observation of me next week. Behaviour in my Y8 and 9 classes has been a real problem again since going back, and I can't bear the thought of having another year like last year, but this time without the support of a mentor. It's looking that way - it's no better, but now I have zero support. The thing is, sometimes I love teaching - when I have a well-behaved class I just can't believe they're paying me to do it!! But sometimes it just destroys me and I completely break down. Last year, with support with behaviour, I was fine, but now all my support has been taken away and it's a huge shock. I want to talk to my ex-mentor - she said last year that whenever I have a bad day I should go to her and talk things through - but I think I'll get in trouble with my HoD for doing so, and I think it'll make it all worse.

    I'm thinking about leaving teaching. The school I'm at is the best state school in the area, and behaviour is great compared to the other schools nearby, so moving schools probably wouldn't help. I'm just upset because obviously I do love teaching sometimes... I just don't know what to do and I can't talk to anyone at work about it because (a) I'm embarrassed that I need so much support and so much help and (b) I'm not allowed to talk to the person I want to talk to anyway (my ex-mentor) because my department don't like me talking to her.

    Any advice?
  2. wordsworth

    wordsworth Senior commenter

    First of all, it is normal to find behaviour management difficult at first - gosh it took me years to get the little blighters sorted and even now sometimes it's a struggle. So do not think that you're somehow failing in this.

    You did not mention a whole school behaviour policy - do you know if there is one? If there is, you need to follow it to the letter. And chase EVERYTHING up, e.g. phone calls home, behaviour report cards, the whole lot. It takes ages to do but it is worth it. Be totally consistent in applying sanctions and never make empty threats. Honestly, you do get used to doing this and it does get easier. You don't seem to have a very sympathetic HOD but if it states that you need to refer pupils to her, then show her the part where it says that. You say the Deputy Head is in charge of behaviour. You could email him/her and ask where to locate the policy. Make sure you implement it to the letter while being observed.

    Good luck. Don't throw the towel in yet. Honestly it is really tough at first and honestly it does get easier.

    best wishes xx
  3. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    They should be embarrassed for not supporting you when you need it. You may find that a school with more challenging behaviour has a better support network. The other option is to look at an independent school.

    I remember your last post. I think the issue was that your 'mentor' used what you said to complain to your HoD, which is what they didn't like. It would have been more useful to send you on behaviour management courses and given you time to observe other staff.
    hhhh, agathamorse, pepper5 and 2 others like this.
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi stressedoutnqt

    Excellent advice from wordsworth. Thousands of posts of what you describe have been written about this topic on this forum and elsewhere; it is well known that many teachers, both newly trained and ones working decades, have at times very real trouble with the behaviour of their classes. As wordworth says, the first point always is the behaviour policy and to follow it to the letter. As an NQT you may have also been given the most badly behaved students. I don't know if this is the case, but it often happens.

    I don't know if I replied to your earlier posts about the behaviour, but I will give you some things to try and forgive me if this is a repeat:

    1. You are a NQT. The students may pick up on this. They may see you as a pushover. I am not saying they do, but they might. What is the solution? You have to change your mentality. Before you set a foot back into the room with those classes, ensure that you know 100% in your mind that you are in charge. You are the adult, the trained teacher, the decision maker. Whatever reasonable instruction you give them, they follow. Immediately. It does not matter if you are 23 or 73. The teacher is the person in charge of the class.

    2. Act confidently even if you don't think you are. The feelings will follow the actions.

    3. As well as the school rules, whatever they may be, have 3 rules and have these very visible - like on a wall or on the whiteboard where you can easily point to them:

    1. Follow instructions fast
    2. Stay on Task
    3. Work without disturbing others

    These three rules are taken from Taking Care of Behaviour by Paul Dix and I use them in hundreds of supply classes - they are so simple 3 year olds can follow them.

    4. Also, in the book, Paul Dix gives some scripts you can use when you have to deal with misbehaviour. If you use and learn the scripts, this enables you to remain in control.

    5. Use the school's policy of "on call" or whatever your department's policy is of the students who are breaking the rules after giving them the fair warnings. Stay calm. Use the scripts. It is not your problem if the student chooses to work elsewhere after giving them the fair warning(s).

    6. Survey the classes and find out what rewards they would like ( not sweets): post cards home, free time on the computer, stickers, are some of the ideas. Try not to use material rewards. From what I have see by speaking to students, they like post cards home.

    7. Set ups some routines if you haven't done so already. I would have the students line up outside until you invite them in. Once they come in, they are to settle quickly by getting their equipment out and writing the date and title in their books. You could have some vocabulary or something up on the whiteboard for them to do while you take the register. Give some of the students jobs like handing out the books, putting the books away, whatever.

    8. Whatever you do, don't allow students to talk over you. Ensure you use eye contact and wait until you have everyone's attention before you proceed with instructions. Learning a language involves 100% focus.

    9. Read up on behaviour management strategies and study it like you would any other topic. I can recommend the book Taking Care of Behaviour by Paul Dix and the Pivotal Education web site for free resources. Anything by Bill Rogers is good or Andy Vass. Your SMT should help you all they can, but they may struggle with the behaviour themselves. You should, however, get support for the more serious issues. Once you start to phone parents and get them involved, the ring leaders may step back.

    10. Learning a MFL is difficult. Some of the students may be misbehaving because they are struggling; go back and think about what you are doing and see if it is at the right level for the classes you are teaching.

    11. Is the Deptuty Head in charge of behaviour approachable? If he/she is charge of behaviour, they must know something about dealing with behaviour. Were they of any help? DO NOT be embarrassed and not ask for help.

    12. Don't use the strategy of putting names up on the board of the ones misbehaving since it only gives them an audience. Quitely praise the ones who are doing what you have asked and are working hard.

    14. You can have a post it note in your hand and write down names and beside it put the number of warnings they have had and perhaps have a code for the misbhaviour: T/P is throwing pens, OT is off task, DO is disturbing others, TWIT is talking while I am talking. That way, when you warn them, you know what they have been constantly doing.

    All this is not easy, it takes a lot of time and commitment, and you will still always have the odd one or two who will try to avoid learning. However, just remaining calm will help and getting the majority working will be a relief.

    You haven't been back long - a mere 5 days. Take charge of your class, you have to speak and have and have an authoritative tone. Not nasty nor mean, but firm and assured. Once they see you are in charge and have a plan, they will start to understand they have to follow the instructions.

    Change the seating plans if they are not working. I have known teachers who change the seating plans every term. Change them weekly if you have to.

    Keep on good terms with your HoD. Ensure she knows you are not complaining about her, but that you need some support - just learning strategies that help with managing different situations. In the end running a school is a team effort.

    Some would say to you, leave the UK and teach abroad or in private schools here. That is also a choice for you.

    At least you are in a position to choose.

    Whatevever you do don't blame yourself.
    bevdex, agathamorse, s10327 and 7 others like this.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Can't top that superb advice from @pepper5 take especial note of points 10 and 11. Matching lessons to ability and 'opportunity for success' will definitely help and never feel asking for help means you are 'weak' or not a success.
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  6. Teacher1512

    Teacher1512 New commenter


    I don't know how old your HoD is but they may feel threatened by new staff? Try to get them on side. Put the bad stuff to the back of your mind as much as you can and gently ask them for advice in terms of 'what do you think about...?' Can you try to make small talk? Find some common ground? When I was an nqt I worked with someone who made me feel uncomfortable and like nothing I did was good enough/right. We built bridges and found common ground. She's one of my best friends now.
    Don't give up yet and if you want to talk to your mentor ask if you can do so in confidence or maybe off site?
    Good luck
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Sorry about the typing errors - should be quietly in point 12.
  8. ballerina

    ballerina New commenter

    Excellent advice here. I'd just add keep asking questions to other staff - when I was a new teacher I learnt so much from my colleagues. If there are any particularly tricky classes that you struggle with, make sure you go and observe them with other teachers- collect the hints and tricks from watching others.

    Good luck - remember you are not alone, we've all been there!
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Ballerina is correct: observe other teachers and see what strategies they use. Very good point.
  10. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    What you are describing is the role of a normal teacher. Behaviour isn't easy. There is no switch you ca n flick. You need to go through the stages mentioned by @pepper5

    I hope the observation is well intentioned as well.....

    I think you can do two things really

    1) look to leave. There may not be a better school, but relations here have broken down. I think there has been errors on both sides wing to your last post.

    2) look to build bridges and keep plugging away. It will get better in time, as I am sure your relationship will.

    Another observation is that the department have no right to tell you who you can and can't talk to? Who is the ex mentor? If you want to talk to them then do.
  11. stressedoutnqt

    stressedoutnqt New commenter

    Thank you all - the thing concerning me most is the fact that I feel unsupported by my department, and that upsets me a lot, but maybe I'm the one being out of order for expecting/needing so much support, I don't know! I want to talk things through with someone outside the department but because I've been told I have to think of the department's reputation and not go to other people with problems, I'm kind of stuck. I had a bit of breakdown on Thursday because of behaviour and someone outside the department saw me crying and spoke to my HoD saying that they were concerned about my welfare, but I just keep getting told that I'm lucky to be in a school like this and that most people have it worse.

    Thanks :) There is a whole school behaviour policy, it's displayed in my classroom and I try to follow it but it's quite complicated and so some more senior people I've spoken to have just told me to make up my own.

    The ex-mentor is one of the deputy heads :)

    Thank you all for your advice on behaviour management too - @pepper5 that all sounds brilliant!
    pepper5 likes this.
  12. Choclimey

    Choclimey New commenter

    Hi Stressedoutnqt.

    I read both of your posts, this is a reply to both of them together.

    First of all, congratulations on getting a job in the best school in the area! You clearly have a lot of potential and a good career ahead of you:)

    Now, I have to say, it's sink or swim time. Don't quit just yet! This next year will really give you the chance to stretch your wings as a teacher. But you have to be prepared to swim- hard!

    When you were a student teacher, you were told what to do. As an NQT you were given extra support. Now you are a fully qualified teacher you just have to get on with it. When you say all your support has been suddenly withdrawn, this does not surprise me, particularly because of the issue of you going to two different managers for advice and unintentionally becoming caught up in some friction between them. They are probably taking a step back to avoid stepping on each other's toes. And are you the sort of person who will share your difficulties (and get emotional- thinking of your last post) with the first friendly ear? If you have done this frequently or to many people, it can lead to them feeling that you are overly dependent on others. This withdrawal of support may be an attempt by the managers to get you to stand on your own two feet, toughen up, and a chance to see what you're made of.

    You no longer need mentoring. You may think you do, but you passed your NQT year so as far as the school is concerned you do not. Now it's time step up to the mark and convince yourself, the pupils, the parents, your colleagues and your managers that you can get the job done!! Trial and error. Learn from your mistakes. You won't be expected to get it right all the time, in fact no teacher ever does, but your are expected to show initiative, professionalism a healthy level of self-confidence and a can-do attitude.

    This process of battling though it and feeling lonely is scary but it is absolutely normal and what every recently qualified teacher goes through. This is why your need friends and family OUTSIDE of the workplace with whom you can air your insecurities and from whom you can seek reassurance. Continue posting on here, there's an abundance of help to be had. I'm not saying that you can never go to your colleagues from advice, just that the days of hand-holding are over.

    You have received some absolutely first-rate advice here about things to try regarding class behaviour. Good luck, it won't change overnight but persevere and be confident and consistent over the next term and I promise it will .
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  13. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I was reading a teaching magazine yesterday:

    Last academic year 10% of all teachers left the profession.

    That just staggers me.
  14. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Why can't you do that this year? Have you been told specifically that it is no longer allowed? Send them anyway.
    This seems a good thing. You have said there is a problem, so the person in charge is coming to see what the issue is. They can't help you without seeing what's going on.
    But this will improve because you have the DH coming to observe and your HOD noticing and putting things in place to help. The HOD obviously works well with this DH, so things should improve fairly soon.
    But you do have support. The DH is coming in to help, the HOD has listened to you and referred you to the appropriate person.
    It hasn't at all, you are just panicking and worrying that all will be a disaster. It won't, you will be just fine. Listen to your HOD and the DH and take their advice. You will be fine, stop getting in a tizz, it will be ok in the end.
    Because two of your classes are a pain at the moment? You aren't ever going to have a perfect year where every class is keen and enthusiastic and loves every minute of all your lessons. Teaching is mostly hard work with the odd bit of fabulousness here and there.
    Errrr why do you think the school has a DH in charge of behaviour? Because all staff need support sometimes. You are only in your second year, it is expected that you will need more than most. It's normal. And only two of your classes are a problem...hardly a disaster!
    You were given an awful lot of advice on this on your other thread. Your dept have no objection to you talking to anyone. They just object to you complaining about them when they are actually being supportive and doing the right thing.
    I imagine they would feel similarly now. They have supported you by getting you sorted with help from the appropriate person. Yet you are still complaining about them being unsupportive. What exactly do you want them to do?
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  15. kajalsengupta

    kajalsengupta New commenter

    You have got ample sane advice and there is anything to add. I have been through similar situation and would like to add my bit. Try to build up some alternative ways to supplement your work. For example online tutoring. It can always be done with your regular work. I am an freelance online teacher at WizIQ.
    pepper5 likes this.
  16. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    My first NQT year was no picnic. Had a good mentor.
    Second year bit better
    By third year knew what I was doing.

    Your are probably much better than you realise. You have no yardstick to measure it all by. The snag is that the DFE seem to want super beings from the word go. The DFE are very very stupid people. Your school is probably feeling the pressure too. In this situation, you could sort of aine in on key staff and ask for advice, compile tonnes of evidence of good practice, set up new initiatives, aggressively enthuse, observe the hod, kow tow, grovel, and do can to make this year go better. But from the post. ID cut your losses and apply for a post where you'll be better supported and valued. Sometimes the teachers and students are just a bad fit. No reflection of you at all.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  17. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi stressedoutnqt

    For a class to bring a teacher to tears is not uncommon. I must confess that when I first started on supply almost seven years ago, a class in a very tough school brought me to tears. Now, very little makes me blink. The point I am trying to make is there are some very hardened students who, if they are permitted to, will make a teacher's life hell. You, therefore, have to develop a thick skin and use some of the strategies in Paul Dix's book for remaining calm and using scripts.

    Go through the steps of warning them calmly. Use the three rules I posted earlier. Go through the warning system. Once they see you taking charge they will improve. Use the school's po!icy as far as on call and removing students are concerned. If you have warned them, then they don't have a defence.

    Your department should support you and be concerned about YOU instead of their reputation. If I were the HoD the misbehaving students would be enjoying some extra MFL on Friday afternoon at 4:00 with me.

    Hope things are improving.
    Lara mfl 05 and agathamorse like this.
  18. s10327

    s10327 Occasional commenter

    I used to think the second year is actually harder than the first - the first year is a bit "rabbit in the headlights"; during the second year you start to to be able to look critically at yourself and what you're doing. I remember feeling quite indignant as I was secret hoping it would get easier. You will continue looking critically at yourself, your teaching, and your colleagues. It is part of what makes a good teacher, provided you keep your feet on the ground! Stick to it, keep up to date and allow yourself to keep learning. There has been lots of good advice given earlier in the thread, best wishes.
  19. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Some of this advice is rather repetitive and none of it really goes to the roots of stressedoutnqt's problems, so I am going to say something rather different.

    If you really enjoy the actual teaching, stressedoutnqt, my advice would be to leave the UK as soon as possible. I have had so many messages and e-mails over the years, all from poor teachers who are telling me that they fed up with the ghastly reality that is teaching in the UK. Useless SLTs, rude and aggressive students and parents, a pathetic salary, insane transport costs, crazy house prices, OSTED, lousy weather, student debts, having to lose your "free" period yet again because you are covering for a teacher who has been off sick with stress-related illness for the last two months: it just goes on and on. Therefore my advice is quite simple: get a job teaching in an international school and stop trying to support the UK's pathetic excuse for an educational system.
  20. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Even when I was still teaching it was said 60% of NQTs will quit within 5 years.
    pepper5 and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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