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Not sure what to do (if anything)

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by steely1, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Hi everyone

    I can't give much in the way of specific detail as I fear saying too much might compromise my anonyminity but as some of you will know, I am a head of department in an independent school.

    Having been at the school for several years, I've grown to be quite disillusioned with my SLT (I realise I'm not alone in this respect). The workload has grown and there is very little in the way of appreciation or gratitude - from SLT, the students or the parents. The moment any student or parent expresses a grievance, it is guaranteed that SLT will side with them and point the finger at us. My department gets pretty good public examination results but there is very little sense of SLT appreciating this. The moment something goes wrong (as this week - I can't say too much but in the grand scheme of things, it was pretty insignificant), I'm hauled into the offices of SLT and berated like I'm a child and told, quite literally, how idiotic I am.

    There isn't one member of SLT that I trust. Virtually all of my encounters with any member of SLT have left me feeling inadequate / inferior. Nothing is ever good enough. Three weeks into this term, I'm exhausted and drained and have had next to no time to myself outside of school.

    I'm not sure how long I can continue like this. Part of me wonders whether being a head of department is worthwhile given all of the extra stress that accompanies it, certainly at my current school. Should I demote myself? Move elsewhere? Stay put and see whether things will improve? I have a mortgage and family to consider so not sure whether my salary could take the hit if I did relinquish my HOD responsibility. I'm also limited in terms of moving geographically, so to speak. I worry about the impact of any move on my CV, if that makes sense. I worry about the reference I'd get if I did apply elsewhere - if SLT would write a reference for me at all.

    I realise my worries are insignificant compared to other problems that are posted on here. I know I could be accused of feeling sorry for myself. I also realise the start of the autumn term is pretty grim for everyone out there. But having been at my current school for several years now, I'm just not sure how much longer I can continue being SLT's go-to whipping person. I feel exhausted and very much demoralised.

    Thank you in advance for any advice anyone has.
    BW12345, agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  2. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    HI steely1

    You didn't get to this point overnight and there will be a solution, but it will take time to make a plan and implement it. Mainly your dilemma evolves around work, family commitments including ensuring you keep a roof over your heads and a better quality of life.

    If there is another adult in your home, sit down with them and discuss this matter. Could you do the usual things people suggest and go through your finances and see where you could cut back significantly so you would have extra money to put in an "escape fund". Are you able/willing to down size your property to enable you to take a job that pays less perhaps so you could retrain?

    Do some research on what the law says regarding references. If you are in a union they would be able to advise you.

    Perhaps a one year plan of escape would be realistic.

    No one on here is going to accuse you of feeling sorry for yourself.

    One last piece of advice is to try to take off one day completely to rest as once you get rested you will be able to think more clearly.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I'm pretty sure you're not alone.
    The people who fund the school (Government in state schools, parents in independent schools) have a lot of clout.
    Many schools have become very hierarchical.
    The nature of teaching is that you put a lot of effort into it, it becomes very much part of your sense of identity, and it is very easy to feel under appreciated.
    School managements are also busy and under pressure, and often seem to take for granted the normal parts of the teaching role done by the rest of the staff.
    A friend of mine was getting a lot of grief, she bravely stuck her neck out and grumbled. She also started applying for jobs elsewhere. The school management suddenly started to say that they liked her, and wanted her to take on more responsibility.
    She still left.
    As @pepper5 says, you need to take time to reflect on your options.
    I do not regret my decision to change direction a few years ago.
    There is more to your identity than your job. There is more to life than money, although I appreciate that in this expensive country of ours, that's only easy to say if you've got enough.
    Good luck
  4. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Hello pepper5 and phlogiston

    Thank you for taking the time to reply with your words of wisdom. I think I just need some time to take stock, as you have both suggested, before considering my next move. The financial side of things will definitely need some thought on my part.

    I just feel like the sword of Damocles is hanging over me in every encounter I have with my school's SLT and that doesn't feel right. I'm wary of sounding like I'm whining about being under-appreciated. It's not that I'm looking for a pat on the head from SLT - but their treatment of me over the last few years has left me feeling pretty down.

    Thanks again.
    phlogiston, agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  5. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    Time to go. Diminishing your position but continuing to work in the same school would be a road to even deeper misery. You seem very low and negatively focused - you might consider seeing your GP also, it's hard to make positive decisions from a negative viewpoint. Best of luck.
  6. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Just a thought - if you have been at your current school for some time, and (I'm assuming) there is no opportunity for promotion at your current school, it would seem quite normal for you to be looking for a new post, with added responsibility (or different responsibility - Head of Year, say). And your SLT should expect that.

    One way you could approach his is to go to them, say that you feel you need extra responsibility/experience and ask if they have any opportunities at the current school...if they say 'no/not really' etc, they won't be surprised if you start looking elsewhere... ;)
  7. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    And if they say yes, you're left feeling tied to an SLT that has made you feel miserable for years and you've made it even harder to leave.
  8. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Thanks for this.

    The thing is, I'm HOD of quite a large department and the next "logical" step up - as far as usual school career trajectories are concerned, if there is such a thing - would be an SLT position, which I really don't want to go for at this point.

    I won't lie: there's a certain appeal to me about demoting myself - whether at my current school or elsewhere - and being a class teacher again. I know I would lose my responsibility points, a chunk of my salary and timetable allowance - but there's an appeal about being in the classroom without quite as much interference from SLT.

    Would self-imposed demotion look odd on my CV?
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    You only get one life, and this is no way to spend it

    no they are not
  10. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    You've fallen into the trap many abused people fall into, especially when the abuse creeps up on them.

    "its not too bad, its normal, other people have worse, I don't deserve better"

    it is, it isn't, other people may or may not have it worse, but that doesn't matter, and you do

    start job hunting. It may take a while to find somewhere you are happy with, that wants you, but start.

    Money/job/location all matter obviously, but to different degrees. You might get less money, or worse location, but at the moment you may have the money and location you want, but its a terrible job! so worth some trade off on the other two, for a better job. Of course the exact amount of trade off is up to you
  11. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Greater experience can come form a number of routes - for example (I'm not suggesting these, of course, just saying that they are all valid routes):

    • Bigger school; or smaller school...
    • School offering a different type of curriculum/exam (IB, say, rather than A levels)
    • School in a different part of the country;
    • Different type of school (state, say... or overseas)
    • Head of Year or other pastoral position...

    FWIW if you are still fairly young (let's say under 40ish) I think stepping down to a classroom role might actually make you more of a target of a vengeful SLT unless it is at another school...
    jlishman2158, agathamorse and steely1 like this.
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    HoD? Not for me. But you did like it until you didn't. What would you advise your wife/brother/best friend to do?

    As for relinquishing the role? I think you'll find you're worried about your ageing parent/auntie who is showing signs of deterioration. Plus your wife has given you an ultimatum. She's displaying worryingly feminist tendencies and seems to think you should be spending more time with the family. You poor thing. Your career used to mean everything but what can you do?

    Consider a move. See what's out there. But I'd go downtrodden husband. They already don't care or respect you so don't care what they think!
  13. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Thanks again, Frank. While self-imposed demotion does have its appeal for me at the moment, I take your point. Lots for me to think about.

    Thank you to everyone who has been reading / posting their thoughts. It really helps to know there are supportive fellow professionals out there.
    pepper5 and agathamorse like this.
  14. smurphy6

    smurphy6 Senior commenter

    My advice is to look for a new job in a new school as suggested by previous posters, especially by Frank in post 11. DO NOT leave without a job to go to. If your SLT want you gone they will give you a good reference but if you leave without a job and then ask for a reference later they have no incentive to give you a decent one.

    Do not demote yourself - it’s the school that is the problem not the role. You should look for the same role in a different school saying something like you want more experience as a HOD in a smaller/boys/girls etc school school prior to going for an SLT job in years to come. Even though you don’t want an SLT job a new school will see that an a positive as it shows you have ambition so will work hard. Best wishes.
  15. foxtail3

    foxtail3 Star commenter

    Your concerns are by no means insignificant. Absolutely not.

    I agree that returning to classroom teaching might make you more of a target and that could include the person who becomes HoD.

    I think you need to look for another post. Either a sideways move or something slightly different if you don’t want to move to SLT yourself. Your results are good, so they speak for themselves surely. I don’t see why your SLT would decline to write you a reference, even if it’s just along the lines of ‘steely1 was employed at this school between ...... and ....... ‘ etc etc.

    I’d start by looking around at the area you can realistically select from, bearing in mind family commitments, then look at the type of post you think you’d be interested in. Try to think a bit outside the box maybe. And look at your finances, just to see what you could manage on, if an interesting job came up that maybe didn’t pay what you now have. Sometimes you have to accept less money, for a better quality of job and life.

    One thing I think that you really have going for you, is that, despite your exhaustion and fed up ness, you are able to clearly see that you are not appreciated, but haven’t got to the desperation point that so many do, when the only alternative is to go off I’ll. It’s good to do some longer term planning now, so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

    It may take a while, but just knowing you’ve got a plan should help.

    Best wishes.
  16. harpplayer

    harpplayer Occasional commenter

    Sounds like classic burnout to me. See a doctor with a view to being signed off for a month or two then take stock. A frank conversation with the HoD might be in order on your return? Are you the only HoD in this situation? If not, see if others will speak up then get 'staff moral' on the next HoD meeting, for a frank airing of concerns. A change may be good for you if you've been there a while. Nothing wrong with having a look around at other jobs and signing up with agencies, then start applying on your return. Have a review of your finances, start cutting back. Start looking for solutions rather than endless reasons why a problem can't be solved.
  17. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Like others here, I agree that you need to leave.

    Whether you go for another HOD role or a teaching role will depend on what is out there. You are tied geographically and work in the independent sector...there won't be a zillion posts to pick and choose from.

    No shame is going back to 'just teaching' at all. A great many people do it for all kinds of reasons. I was chatting to others at a similar career point to me the other night at a union social. (Mix of state and independent colleagues.)We were all saying how the first decade or so is spent thinking how to climb the greasy pole and the second enjoying whatever height you reach and the third is spent trying to find a way to slide back down to a point where you can relax and enjoy life and work. All of us have bobbed up and down over the last 5 years or so with no problem at all.

    Just start looking around and when you see something you like the sound of, apply and see what happens. Your school may or may not like it...either way you need to get out into something nicer.
  18. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    Thank you to everyone's advice above - as I said, I'm very grateful for it. I just need time to mull things over.
    BW12345, pepper5, Corvuscorax and 3 others like this.
  19. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    By the way, just be aware that self-imposed demotion is something you would have to negotiate, and might not be able to have. Your post is HoD, and if you step down they'll need a new one, and if they come from outside the school, they'll need your timetable to teach.
    If there is someone in your school ready and able to take on the HoD role, you may be able to negotiate a swap, but if not, then you may well be told that you can't resign the HoD role without resigning altogether.
    pepper5, steely1 and FrankWolley like this.
  20. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I assumed the OP wanted a demotion in the sense they would apply for non-HOD roles elsewhere.
    It's a horrid sounding school and they really shouldn't be considering staying.
    jlishman2158 and pepper5 like this.

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