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Made to feel incompetent by pupils

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by shortypie89, May 5, 2017.

  1. shortypie89

    shortypie89 New commenter

    Looking for advice/feedback - I started a new job in September as the only teacher of my subject in a small school. It all started out fine, good morale and I got on well with pupils. Come the 2nd half term things started to change. Pupils no longer responded to me, talking over me and not completing work. (Mostly KS4). It turned out that a series of complaints had been made about me and my style of teaching. Lo and behold I expect them to do independent learning. I changed methods, tried to re building relationships and still no response. Then comes the lead up to easter and the looming exams. I set up a pupil voice, only 3 bothered to answer it. I set up revision sessions - at their request - only 2 turned up (including the easter holidays) I have printed off past papers, only 3 have taken them away. I can't do anything with them and dread having to teach them, having spent hours preparing lessons, exam questions and resources. It is now happening with year 10. Their pupil voice was incredibly negative accusing me of 'copying random powerpoints, not teaching them very well and not knowing what I am doing' they requested more interactive activities, which I have tried but they just sit and talk or play on their phones. When I speak to my HOD about the issues or higher up I don't get much support and any complaints made to them are passed on to me 'to sort out and improve'. Right now I feel incompetent and close to leaving a career I enjoy. I have been teaching for 6 years and not had any of these problems before. I don't know who to turn to for advice and not be judged or made to feel belittled. This culture that Pupils can just make complaints and SLT just stick by them and not the staff bemuses me! Any ideas on how I can re motivate my pupils?
  2. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    I'd get a bit nasty. They'd be given a right b*llocking and told to pull their socks up. I'd then ruthlessly punish the slackers - missed breaks, detentions, on report, phone calls home, the lot. I'd be a complete and utter b*stard until they started to respond.

    They're taking the mick and you have to take back control. You are in charge of the lessons, not them. Forget this 'interactive activities' nonsense, they sit and copy off the board or slog through worksheets in silence for as long as it takes until they start showing the right attitude. Then you can ease up.

    Pupil voice? I'm not interested in your opinions right now, thanks. Your attitude stinks and until you change it, this is what's going to happen. I'm the teacher and you'll do as you're told.
    cate_h, phlogiston, pepper5 and 11 others like this.
  3. bevdex

    bevdex Star commenter

    Sun Tzu once wrote "kill one to terrify ten thousand." Applied figuratively, b**ll**k the first to step out of line on Monday.
    pepper5, install and Pomz like this.
  4. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    It depends what you mean by "Independent Learning" - that has to be cultivated over a period of time otherwise it can look like you're making no effort and expecting them to do everything.

    You may have to abandon this and go back to teaching them more formally. A member of my department goes down the independent learning route and she is having a lot of issues with her groups.

    Personally I never believed in the wholescale approach - sometimes yes, all the time - no.
    phlogiston and pepper5 like this.
  5. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    I'm with @whitestag to a certain extent, and especially with the y10s.
    Whilst I'm not advocating leniency with the y11s, you may want to instead focus on the positive students. Three of them completed the student voice and took off the piles of past papers to do. Two of them came to you, in their own time, for revision. Focus your attention and praise on these individuals during lesson time. I think some of the others may be complaining because they're scared of failing. It's easier to blame others than it is to address your own weakness. You say you had a good relationship to start, remember this. They probably wanted you to "hold their hand" all the way; as soon as you stopped, they felt abandoned.
    Obviously, I cannot know what's going on with the class dynamics, I can only offer guesses. What I do know is that y11 groups can be all over the place mentally and emotionally, especially in their build up to exams; I haven't ever had two groups that have behaved similarly. Have faith that you are a good teacher. Some of the y11s are playing up and the y10s are getting wind of it so trying their luck. Stamp on them and stick it out for the last few weeks of the y11s.
  6. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    Very good point, this is really relevant when you address the y10s.
    pepper5 likes this.
  7. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I was going to write this.

    I think if you lose confidence in yourself and try lots of different things it can unsettle pupils even more. I'm not sure what you mean by independent learning but I would be tempted to go back to your own preferred style, perhaps just reinforcing that you are there to support but that the tasks you've given them are valuable. I'd also throw the book at any pupil talking or playing on a phone.
  8. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    This just tells me that SLT don't care, or at least don't mind. I doubt SLT are taking the students side, they're probably just fobbing the complainers off with "we'll look into it" and passing it onto you. If SLT were asking you into meetings and giving "support" plans to address this, then I'd be worried.
    phlogiston and install like this.
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    They're playing you. The first half-term was fine. Honeymoon period. Now they've spied a 'weakness'. You're pandering to them. Letting them influence you too much. Stick to what you know and what works.

    Clamp down on behaviour. Do what @Flere-Imsaho says.
    phlogiston, saluki, pepper5 and 2 others like this.
  10. install

    install Star commenter

    Get another adult in there that you trust - someone to support you in tackling the nasty elements of the group.

    Send letters out each time you do any extra clubs, and letters of concern to a few. Your manager needs to support you far more also.

    Things will soon change...
    pepper5 likes this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    What strikes me about your post is that you have taught six years and never had any problems.

    The problem sounds like it is the culture of the school pandering to pupils.

    What are they doing out with mobile phones and playing about? Forget the interactive sessions - they are just messing about.

    Don't let these students make you feel incompetent as they will try to do that if they can.

    If you your SLT do not support you, I would look for another post.
    ATfan and install like this.
  12. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I could have written your post with regard to one of my groups. Pepper5 has been intrigued about my situation previously. I have, in fact, been on secondment in an inadequate organization, trying to improve standards. It has been hell. I have had no support from inadequate SLT, many of whom have now been removed. New management are gradually coming in to place and things are changing. The new broom doesn't start sweeping clean until September.
    Today, one of my students told me that I am a really good teacher. The first time this year, after listening to all the rubbish mentioned in OP.
    Take heart and don't let the small stuff grind you down. Quite normal for students not to bother with student voice thingy. I just ask informally if students prefer/don't prefer certain ways of conducting lessons. Some things are non-negotiable. Quite normal for students not to attend revision sessions.
    It will all be over in just a few weeks time. Keep your chin up.
    ATfan and pepper5 like this.
  13. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    You are the professional they are the learners.
    You have chosen learning activities based on your experience of getting several hundred pupils through their GCSEs. You are the one who can break it down and make it make sense and who can guide them to do the things they need to get the skills to pass.
    Sounds like they've given up or got scared. Most of us have had groups like this. It's probably too late to do much with the current year 11. Give them your best shot, and look forward to seeing their departing backs.
    Year 10 need careful but vigorous handling.
    If they do work, and you feed back, that's interactive.
    If you have practical stuff, that's interactive.
    I'm guessing you have some tricky stuff (that's why it's a GCSE), they don't like it and want it soft centred - tough!
    So why doesn't your school have a clear no mobile lesson distractors policy? Do SLT want to lose their jobs when ofsted next visit?

    Good luck
    pepper5 and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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