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Managing a tricky character

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by JenTruslove, Jan 25, 2019.

  1. JenTruslove

    JenTruslove New commenter

    I'm struggling with my NQT + 1. Last year when I was his NQT mentor, I regularly gave him feedback and there were some things he responded well to, and other things he chose to ignore, but were still important. At times I'd find him belligerent, defensive and on the brink of rude, regularly threatening to leave.

    This year he's been OK on occasion but I've picked him up on a few things this week and he came to see me to tell me all his stresses at work are because of me, he's scared to come into department meetings, he's afraid to check his emails in case of what I've said, and has claimed that I belittle him. He told me I have poor people skills, and that I'm not taking in what he's saying. He also tried to tell me what I should and shouldn't be doing, and that coming into his lessons wasn't appropriate. He's not an incompetent teacher, but has problems with professional conduct. The things I pick him up on are having his phone out in lessons, chewing gum in front of the students, punctuality and once he did some one-to-one marking in a cupboard with the door shut (class remained in classroom). These are small things but he is so defensive he then points the finger at me. I'm finding it pretty impossible and my line manager 'has a word' with him but it's ineffective, and is reluctant to be more formal with him.

    I don't know how to manage him but he has accused me of causing him anxiety and I'm not doing anything unreasonable. Any suggestions?
  2. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Occasional commenter

    I think in this case you need to refer this to the Headteacher or Deputy, have a private meeting with them to address your concerns then conduct a meeting with the teacher in question. If you don’t address these issues now (without the support of SLT) then they are simply just going to get worse. A PDP could be put in place in order to develop prior to commencing formal capability proceedings.
    JenTruslove, tb9605 and jarndyce like this.
  3. koopatroopa

    koopatroopa Senior commenter

    He's gaslighting you. It's not unreasonable for you to be telling him these things are unacceptable and they are such basics that no amount of "people skills" would turn that process into anything other than an embarrassment for him because he is behaving like a pupil rather than a teacher!

    I'd deal with it the same way I would a pupil and simply state expectations. These things are non-negotiable and part of the job. He has a responsibility to uphold certain standards and perform certain duties. Not doing so is his failing, not yours.
  4. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    I'd get SLT involved. It doesn't have to be a formal procedure.

    I've done this myself as a HoD - and had it done, years ago, to me, as an NQT! Sometimes it's uncomfortable to have to haul up someone in your own department whom you see every day, especially if you've been responsible for their induction and have had more of a nurturing role. A deputy head can be very useful for playing the role of "bad cop".
    Flanks, agathamorse, tb9605 and 2 others like this.
  5. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    O dear.
    This sentence alone means I can see both sides straight away.
    You ought to be meeting this person regularly and "picking up on things" in this meeting. Not just as and when you see stuff that falls short of your required standard.
    If you're going to address a member of your department about things they are falling short on "a few times in one week" it absolutely does not matter what those thing are, they are going to feel pursued by you.
    If you do acheive a meeting, you ought to select the one thing that matters most that you have seen that week, and from your examples it would probably be the fact of marking one to one and not supervising the class. That's not good, is it? Punctuality neither. Although you don't say in what context. Late for lessons and late to meetings are two different things. They are.
    But as for "picking him up on" chewing gum and having his phone out" are these against contracted school policy? They are things I know many teachers to do. And I have never seen a staff policy against either of them, although I know the phone one might vary across schools.

    Perhaps your line manager is reluctant to be more formal with them because they do not know what the problem is. Your issues with this person are not all to do with their teaching, some of them are "comportment" based, and as such, seem to be subjective.
    Dunno-it very much bothers me that you are so dismissive of their comments about how they claim to feel around you, when they came to see you especially to address this.
    The above suggestions of getting others involve could ultimately be a recommendation to invoke allegiance, rather than hear this person. Who came to see you about their issues.
    Two sides to every story, you don't seem interested in that at all. With respect.
  6. install

    install Star commenter

    Let someone else line manage him in your team, and also guide him and support him immediately. As it is, your line manager is not supporting you on this. Did you maybe make an error in allowing him to be taken on? Has he changed so dramatically? Even so, you need to ensure you are not open to attacks here - and you are simply trying to.do a job. So get someone you trust to line manage him. They can always report back to.you.- send you updates.

    Also get your team to support you in your monitoring and checks. Maybe get someone to encourage him.to.observe.best.practice...
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  7. JenTruslove

    JenTruslove New commenter

    I agree with the gas-lighting thing! He has been sucking up ever since- so he knows he's over-stepped the mark, and maybe now he's trying to convince me he's not that bad after al!
    Flanks likes this.
  8. JenTruslove

    JenTruslove New commenter

    Dunno-it very much bothers me that you are so dismissive of their comments about how they claim to feel around you, when they came to see you especially to address this.
    The above suggestions of getting others involve could ultimately be a recommendation to invoke allegiance, rather than hear this person. Who came to see you about their issues.
    Two sides to every story, you don't seem interested in that at all. With respect.[/QUOTE]

    I have tried to be- I listened when he spoke and said I would reflect on how I could be belittling him, but he couldn't give me any examples and I've since really struggled to find a time when I have dismissed him. I gave him an opportunity to tell me which department meetings have been difficult, and what emails he's struggled with, and he couldn't give me any examples. I've looked back through emails for the last 4 months and can't find anything unreasonable.

    I agree with the you on the allegiance thing, I'm reluctant to play it that way but this is progressive. Last time he wanted me to re-write his NQT report because I mentioned punctuality was an issue. My feeling is that he projects his issues onto me and is not accepting feedback readily. If, every time I give him feedback he responds like this I am reluctant to go in his classroom, never mind speak to him! Which is probably his aim... Thank you for your honesty. I like truth-tellers and it is good to have people pick out potential blind-spots.
  9. newposter

    newposter Occasional commenter

    Do you want this teacher to do everything your way? You pick out several things in a week? No, I think I can see how that would be stressful. Why be so hands on? Why not trust your team?
  10. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    Not being on time, phone out in class, 1-1 marking in private, chewing gum in class isn't a case of someone picking out things that aren't done their way. It's a HOD who is rightly taking an issue with someone's unprofessional conduct. I would expect a HOD to be aware of these things and to be trying to resolve them.

    Personally, I would move towards more formal NQT meetings and be much clearer with your expectations. Do you have a staff handbook/department handbook to refer to as a starting point? If not, then the marking in a cupboard is a safeguarding issue for a start. Be very clear what the main issues are (don't muddy the water with any 'personally I would teach that differently') and then pass concrete examples to your line manager for reference. Give the NQT an opportunity to rectify things before taking it further
  11. firstpoet

    firstpoet New commenter

    The phone and cupboard stuff are really not small things.
    Flanks likes this.
  12. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    Are you his current line manager? I've had a problem several times with PGCE mentors/NQT mentors not being able to adjust to the change in relationship that occurs once a student teacher gains qualified status. If the answer to this question is no, your correct response is to refer it to his line manager and let them deal with it. He's also perfectly entitled to ignore you if that's the case.

    The things that you're picking him up on are very trivial, bar the cupboard one, and if you're picking up on lots of little things in a week as you say then yes, you are going to make him feel as if he is under siege. You say yourself that he is not an incompetent teacher - then trust him to execute his job and let him learn. Things such as chewing gum come out in the wash as kids kick back and he learns from experience. The only one I personally, as a HoD, would pick up on is the cupboard thing. Younger teachers are often carefree and don't protect themselves from false allegations, at least I hope that's why you mentioned it - if you were concerned for the students' welfare I hope that you wouldn't be posting about it on a public forum.

    If I'm honest, there are many ways of approaching teaching and engaging the students/earning their respect and new teachers need space to make mistakes/learn from them and find their own teaching style. Your post reads very much like you're expecting him to be a mini-you and that you may not be recognising that there are other ways of getting to the same destination. Your post is quite dismissive of him and you haven't found anything majorly wrong, ever wonder if you're over-thinking/reacting?
  13. NewbieHoD

    NewbieHoD New commenter

    I would pick your battles here, just as you might when dealing with a troublesome student in a class. Challenge the serious stuff robustly and through your procedures. The smaller/niggly stuff, let it slide for now but perhaps address them in more broad/general terms at another time.

    Meet regularly with everyone, both individually and as a group. That way it’s not as daunting when you tell them that you need to speak to them.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    Did you even read the whole post which says what sorts of things are being picked up???
    zxczxc likes this.
  15. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    I suspect all of us in our career have needed an honest hod/manager that is willing to lay things out honestly for us and draw lines. I personally have been blessed with two or three manager who both pulled me up when needed (normally because I have a smart mouth) and also let me make mistakes although they itched to tell me to do other things.

    The things you are picking up on are basic professional conduct for a teacher. Anyone who says that chewing gum, using phone and locking themselves away in lessons are normal or will 'come out in the wash' are simply wrong, or just want to object to the principle of management for some reason.

    I would agree that a semi regular meeting seems appropriate. Make it clear that you feel his teaching is fine, but he needs to be aware of how his behaviour models itself for pupils and sets expectations. It also creates issues for his colleagues when they try to set basic expectations but are argued with by pupils because he has made it fine to chew gum and use his phone in lessons.

    I would make your line manager aware of it, but say that at the moment you are happy to address it. But this way they are prepared to step in if you feel he isn't responding to you. Keep minutes of the meetings and give him copies of them too.
    SundaeTrifle and agathamorse like this.
  16. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    I've seen this happen with dozens of trainee/student teachers over the years. It's "simply wrong" from YOUR point of view. We need to stop pretending that people of 21-23 are fully grown up, grabbing a degree certificate doesn't immediately make you mature. Only time does that.
  17. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    So to be clear, you believe that chewing gum in class, using phone in class, and shutting yourself away from your class, are simply things which we should overlook while they grow up a bit too avoid then feeling bullied?

    Not sure whether to take you seriously or not...
    MissGeorgi likes this.
  18. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    If you want to see it like that then yes. I prefer to give people room to make mistakes and not feel judged unless it's an important issue, people realise most things on their own and mentioning it eventually just gets the other person back up and doesn't help.

    As I said earlier - the only thing I would take issue over is the shutting away in a cupboard incident and I would refer that to SLT if I thought there was anything serious to it. Not talk about it on a public forum. If someone were talking about it on a public forum and there were substance to it - that would be an automatic dismissal.
  19. PoundStretcher

    PoundStretcher New commenter

    OP - do you do any 360 feedback from your team? Might be a worthwhile exercise if done anonymously as it may give you a better idea of how you are perceived and how relationships can be built to improve things. I do this regularly every year and as such it helps in terms of the way in which I manage.

    Ultimately there are some basic "must do" things that every teacher at every level needs to adhere to but ensuring that you are able to consider what your team think is also important for a strong department.
    agathamorse likes this.

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