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Not teaching my subject

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by NewName18, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. NewName18

    NewName18 New commenter

    I’m going through a situation at work but not sure what the best approach is. I’ve been teaching for over a decade but have changed my user name for this post because my original user name is too identifying (and my sense of paranoia is currently high!).

    I’m a History teacher in a school that has recently become part of a MAT. I’m on UPS1 (though not overly significant as everyone in the department is also UPS). I’m a good teacher. I know I am. My students get decent results and my marking is often used as an example to other staff. However, this year things have changed. I am teaching in 3 different subject areas so that less than half my timetable is History. I also have a couple of lessons in Maths and half a dozen woodwork lessons. The Maths lessons alone take me hours to plan because I have to teach myself the stuff first! I don’t have my own classroom and am always rushing about as I never have consecutive lessons in the same room. I don’t even teach a complete group in History, sharing all 6 of them with another teacher.

    The thing is, all of a sudden my lesson obs are RI or below. I’m on a support plan. I have to have weekly meetings with a mentor to look at my planning and marking. It’s awful and I feel patronised and frustrated. I know it’s because I don’t have the focus on my subject area but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. SLT seem to be supportive – they’ve said I’ll only be observed in my subject area but I have been put on the dreaded Support Plan. I honestly don’t think they’re trying to get rid of me but I do feel as though they can’t expect the same standard of teaching in these circumstances. I don't have the focus that I normally would and it is obviously affecting my teaching.. I don't think that it's a coincidence that there is another teacher in the same situation as me (teaching in two other subject areas) and they are also now judged to be an inadequate teacher.

    What can I do? I don’t want to leave – I actually really like this school, though things are definitely changing since we switched to the MAT. I think I’m being treated unfairly but I can’t see me going to the union because the school isn’t going to suddenly find someone else to teach my non-History lessons. Do I have any recourse at all?
  2. 1970devon

    1970devon Occasional commenter

    Hi I am not the right person to comment or advise being primary trained and with my own issues but I didn't want to read and run. Your situation seems unfair but not uncommon - to expect a history specialist to teach maths seems wrong to me. Im hoping some of the supportive Tessers here will be better positioned to advise. Tale care x
    thekillers1 and agathamorse like this.
  3. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    "I think I’m being treated unfairly but I can’t see me going to the union because the school isn’t going to suddenly find someone else to teach my non-History lessons."

    Wow there concentrate on YOUR problem do not try and be helpful and understanding of their timetabling issues, that is not your problem and it is why they get paid the big buck. (or I would like to think it is.)

    First of all talk to your Union, please tell me you are in a Union?

    Anyone else reading this, always contact the Union before agreeing to any "Support" plan.

    It may well be that they understand that you are going to struggle when you are teaching out of subject but if that were the case then why not support you in your non-specialist subjects?

    BTW are you insured to teach Woodwork as a practical?
  4. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

    I haven't got advice, but I'm in exactly the same situation - teaching 3 different subjects at A Level standard, 4 different courses if you include the BTEC as well. I have never been more stressed in my life despite being in a good supportive school. My confidence has taken a massive knock and I can feel the kids losing faith in me, my lesson quality is suffering. Sorry to not be able to help, but you really do have my sympathy, I know how rubbish this feels :-(
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    I've been there to an extent - I'm an MFL specialist and 2 years ago literally half of my timetable was Maths.

    Like you, it took me ages to plan the Maths lessons as I was having to teach myself the content (MyMaths was very useful for this, if your school has it) before I could plan a lesson. Y7 was OK but top-set Y8 was a real challenge.

    I also felt my own subject teaching suffered, as I'd spend ages planning my Maths lessons and then cobble something together at the last minute for my French/Spanish groups. My marking definitely went downhill as I just didn't have time.

    Nobody started criticising me for this though - it was all from me. I don't think I had much in the way of obs (we have never had more than the basic 3 per year, but previous incarnations of SLT haven't necessarily had the organisational skills to make sure they took place!). I do think they understood that I was teaching a really rubbish timetable and that they couldn't expect perfection.

    I would say the main thing I did was to keep constantly flagging up the issues and how unhappy I was with the situation. I never accepted it was OK and I asked at the end of each term what the staffing situation was for the new term and whether the timetable would be changing. In the Spring term, I applied for jobs elsewhere and made it clear to the Head that the reason was in order to teach my own subject. They made it very clear that they didn't want to me leave, and that I wouldn't be teaching Maths the following year. Sure enough, the following year I had an all-MFL timetable and am now acting HoD.

    As you say you like your school and want to stay there, I would suggest keeping going for now, but looking out for jobs just in case anything comes up. I do recommend speaking to your Union even though unfortunately I think the school is allowed to get you to teach other subjects. You could try to negotiate some more meaningful support (rather than the "support" that is being offered) - eg: due to the massive additional planning burdens of teaching outside your specialism, you need some extra PPA (I think I did have 1 extra the year I taught Maths).

    Good luck with it all.
  6. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    It sounds worryingly as if their balance of teaching specialisms is wrong and they've realised that they could really do with replacing you and your colleague with teachers of other subjects. But you say you don't think they want you out, so hopefully I'm wrong.

    If you've requested support and training in your non-specialist areas, make sure you have a record, particularly if none has been given. If you don't know the maths you need to teach, ask for some time off timetable to look at it with a maths teacher (teaching yourself is all very well, but a maths teacher will be able to help you with the pedagogy and warn you of common mistakes/misunderstandings), and make sure you have a sound enough understanding. Myrtille's suggestion of extra PPA is good - although harder to implement midyear, so the odd afternoon off timetable may be easier for them to organise.

    Flag up the issues with changing rooms all the time, and look at whether any improvements could be made - sometimes you can find a room that's free for consecutive lessons so you can stay put a it more. Timetablers tend to start from a premise of putting lessons in subject rooms where possible, but eliminating some of the moving may be helpful.

    I don't know how you divide the teaching for your history groups, but if you think a different way would be better, say so. In maths it's usually best for the two teachers to take different topics; I guess that may not be as workable for history. If your maths groups are shared, talk to the staff you share with about which topics you teach - if you were sharing with me, I'd be letting you teach the topics you were most confident with.

    (I don't know what Myrtille's school were doing, giving a top maths set to a non-specialist. There's almost always at least one kid in there who will need a teacher with really good subject knowledge - even in the ropey school I'd taught in, you'd suddenly get a Chinese/Korean kid arriving who was four years ahead of the rest in algebra.)
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    All you can do is to plod along patiently as best you can.

    The HT is entitled to ask you to teach Nuclear Physics if s/he feels so inclined and, with so few mathematicians being daft enough to opt for teaching as a job, it's very common for non-specialists to have to take classes in this area.

    You don't want to leave. So don't.

    The union isn't going to make a fuss at this point. I'd still seek their advice. Just in case you need them at a later date as you will need from now on to ensure the school policy is implemented correctly. As long as they conduct themselves according to the MAT policy then all is above board.

    The key is that you want to stay. So soldier on. Stay. You do your bit but they need to follow their own rules. If they don't? Challenge them. So print out the policy and let them know you know it. Have a copy with you at all times so you can innocently point to paragraphs here and there.

    "I see I need to do x and then you'll do y. That's right, yes?"

    Keep them honest.
  8. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    Maybe in theory, but telling someone to teach a subject they are not able to teach could led to a claim for unfair dismissal (for example I never studied German - had a HT told me to teach it when I clearly can't, I would have had no option but to seek legal redress).

    I think the OP should have got Union support to negotiate a more reasonable timetable when the current subject allocation was proposed. It may be too late now.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Well, a teacher will almost certainly have a Level 2 qualification in Maths so I'd not be prepared to accept that a teacher is "not able" to teach Maths at all. @Weald56

    The example you give about German is a fair point but wouldn't apply to English or Maths as every teacher is expected to have a basic grasp of those subjects and could be expected to teach them to a certain level.

    So I wouldn't advise a teacher to claim that they could not teach Maths under any circumstances.
  10. border_walker

    border_walker Established commenter

    I tend to agree, but I have experienced some, worrying, basic lack of maths understanding from some teachers.
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Indeed. @border_walker


    If I were going to ask a secondary History specialist to teach Maths to KS3 or to lower-ability groups further up the school? I hope I'd give them some extra training!

    I hope such a thing exists. It should do.

    Upskilling specialists in other subjects so they can have a stab at filling the holes left by the absence of properly qualified Maths teachers!
  12. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    There is FREE training via the TSST programme in Secondary Maths, MFL and Science for all qualified teachers so the Op could opt to do this. TSST (Teacher Subject Specialist Training) is available across the country. Here is the link to the database of ALL the courses running. Most have probably started already.

    JohnJCazorla and grumpydogwoman like this.
  13. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    I've worked with quite a number of non-specialists teaching maths over the years. They've mostly made a good job of it, but they did need some support, and they were mostly willingly recruited and had more than a scraped GCSE grade. They were also all supported - the year we had non-specialists teaching all but the bottom/top sets in year 7, we had regular meetings to look at the topics coming up - what had changed since they were at school (eg calculation methods), things they were likely to have forgotten, common misconceptions to look out for, etc.

    I don't think scraped C at GCSE is a guarantee that a teacher knows the whole of what is taught in year 7/8. Year 6 teachers struggle enough - I did have to send in a polite letter to my daughter's year 6 teacher, to explain her (very common) misconception. It might have gone unnoticed, had my daughter not known she was wrong, and been confident enough of that to come home and tell me (after the teacher had disagreed with her).
    agathamorse and Mermaid7 like this.
  14. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Woodwork- such an antiquated term - is this Design Tech ?
    Lara mfl 05 and border_walker like this.
  15. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Design Tech. Such an antiquated term. Is this Resistant Materials Technology? :p
  16. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    I have an 'O' Level pass (but not a good one) in Maths from several decades ago - I'm not sure that would really qualify me to teach Maths, especially these days as (I know from my children) even fairly simple calculations are taught and learned in totally different ways to how I was taught to do them.
    agathamorse and Mermaid7 like this.
  17. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Likewise spelling. Often on this web site.
    Catgirl1964 and ilovesooty like this.
  18. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    No! Even that's gone nowadays - it's just technology!

    With the collapse in DT recruitment, 25% of target for this year, then lots of other non-DT teachers are going to get roped in to fill gaps in the timetables as the current stock of DT staff move on or retire. So I say to all teachers reading this, get those wood, electronics, textiles and metal working skills brushed up!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  19. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Thanks to @catbefriender for a most useful link.

    I don't say it's desirable that we're short of specialists in Maths or that I welcome my grandkids not getting the best education possible but that's the current situation. Better a somewhat reluctant teacher than none at all. And we must expect to have to update our skills. Every one of us has to be able to use IT these days from a background of nothing in the case of older staff.

    It's ok to say you don't want to. I don't think those who say they won't will necessarily stay long in post. You have to change with the times. Or find a niche that's more appealing to you.
  20. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    @grumpydogwoman not wanting to contradict you but, when doing my TSST training and being on the Return to Teaching Programme I went to many a DfE/NTCL Maths Seminar where absolutely AWESOME Maths teachers reigned. There are scores and scores of brilliant Maths teachers with
    a. A levels in Maths
    b. Degrees in Maths
    c. PGCEs in Maths and almost half hand
    d. MScs in Maths

    Not getting work because of their age. I will always remember this 54 years old teacher who looked the business with all of the above, including once being a HoD who said she sent 45 speculative letters and got ZERO response.

    There are LOADS of qualified Maths teachers who have been managed out making a killing as tutors because the new A level Maths requires competency in Pure, Statistics and Mechanics, which many of them can all teach whilst drunk.

    I've been teaching Maths for 3 years now and I am just beginning to get the hang of it. The major challenge is
    a. dealing with students who do not understand your methodologies. There is more anxiety with teaching and learning Maths and in other subjects.
    b. learning as many strategies as possible, even strategies that do not work well with you naturally to support weaker students
    c. trying to link as many topics as possible so that the students do not forget what they have previously learned
    d. working backwards from GCSE Maths, right the way from KS2.

    The idea of getting weaker Maths teachers to teach weaker Year 7s and 8s is counterproductive as Year 11 will happen and they will be in a major mathematical mess. History teachers are better suited to teaching literacy, especially with the new emphasis on 19th literature which needs an understanding of the historical and societal contexts to appreciate the texts.

    It is such a pity that quality teachers are having to break their brains to survive in education, whilst subject specialist are being managed out.

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