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NQT observation - am I getting upset over nothing?!

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by stressedoutnqt, Aug 13, 2016.

  1. stressedoutnqt

    stressedoutnqt New commenter

    Hi! I'm 23 and I've just finished my NQT year (I passed) but towards the end of the year I was having such a terrible time that I really didn't think I was going to pass and it's really making me dread going back in September. This is quite a long story but please read it and let me know if I'm being unreasonably upset!

    I'm a secondary school MFL teacher and my Head of Department came to observe me two weeks before the end of the year - the observation didn't go well because I didn't include a speaking activity that lesson, and when she spoke to a pupil they said that they didn't do speaking activities. The lesson feedback therefore said that I never did them, so I spoke to my HoD and explained that we did do them. I showed her evidence of this in my past powerpoints and in my previous lesson observation notes from the school's NQT mentor. She agreed to change the feedback - not before I had got really really upset about it all - so I thought this was all fine. A few days later she spoke to me about how I need to learn to take criticism, and how I can't get as upset as I did and then expect her to say that everything is fine when she fills in her forms, but I thought we were fine.

    The next day I had an observation from the school's NQT mentor (they were all squeezed into the end of term because we were running out of time to get them all done!) which went really well, and she mentioned how good my feedback was from my Head of Dept. I mentioned that it hadn't been good previously but that she had changed it so all was well. The day after that, I found out that my Head of Department had been speaking to some of my pupils (she had been getting them to go see her at break times) about the types of activities they do with me. I didn't know that this had been happening until the children asked me why they had been called to speak to her, so I was really upset but I didn't say anything to anyone. The day after that, my Head of Dept and the second in the dept came to my classroom at the end of the day and confronted me about having spoken to the NQT mentor about being upset over the lesson notes. Apparently she had been quite harsh with them for not being supportive of me (she has done this before because she doesn't think that they have given me as much support as they should have done, and I've been confronted about it many times before throughout the year, with them saying that I shouldn't speak to her) and so they were saying again that I shouldn't speak to her anymore, that I need to think of the department's reputation around school. I said that I was upset that my HoD had interviewed my pupils behind my back but that I hadn't spoken to anyone about that, and they said that it was normal for that to be done so I need to learn to take criticism.

    I was told by a friend from another department that interviewing pupils after the observation wasn't normal, but I didn't check it out by speaking to the NQT mentor because I had been told quite harshly not to speak to her anymore. I kept my head down and didn't speak to anyone until we broke up for summer. I had hoped that it would all die down over the holidays, and it may do, but I really really don't want to go back. I feel so unsupported by my department and I wish I could tell somebody that I felt too intimidated by them to speak to my mentor, but I know that if I did it would get back to them and it would make everything worse. I feel as though I need to leave this school to make it all end, it's really stressing me out and I've been losing sleep this holiday over the thought of going back.

    I know I've probably done something wrong here but I don't know what it is - it's obviously my first job and I don't always know what to do! Does anyone have any advice?
  2. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    Congratulations on passing. I can understand that they had a genuine concern about a lack of speaking activities and so followed it up. I personally think that crying over the comment was a bit excessive. It would have been better to stay calm and show them the evidence that you do usually include speaking activities. Your mentor sounds supportive, but maybe they felt just as upset as you did by what they perceived as unfair comments by you and dealt with it in a different way. It could be office politics as well. Unless your mentor supports RQTs you need to work on talking to those within your department. You can also offload to the teacher support line. Try to forget about it and just enjoy the rest of the break. You can't change what has happened, but you can focus on the fact that you have passed.
  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi stressed

    What has happened is a mix of things. When you were observed, and the student said you never did speaking activities, the HoD should not have been so daft to write that in a report without checking your lesson plans and speaking with you. I can see why you would have been upset; however, perhaps although you did have a reason to be upset, the way you communicated your displeasure may have been the issue. So, next time, just calmly state what the issue is and discuss it in a calm manner. Hard I know.

    That of course is not the only issue here. The HoD then went to speak to pupils without telling you, the issue with the mentor's involvement and so forth.

    So what do you do now?

    This situation is salvageable. You passed and September is a new beginning. On the first day back, go speak to your HoD and ask what kind of holiday they had. Put all the past behind you and start fresh.

    You did incredibly well to pass an MFL Secondary PGCE and not many people have the talent and the determination.

    It is very hard to take criticism sometimes - especially when the other party is not correct or their manner is abrupt.

    Make a promise to yourself that when you do speak to third parties about your HoD or other people in the school, you only say something positive about them. Don't dwell on their faults, but try to find something to say pleasant about them. Even if it is only one small thing.

    Take a couple of days in the holiday to do a bit of preparation for the term; nothing overboard, but look through your class lists, make some notes, get your clothes ready. Go back and show them what you are made of and what you can do. If you got through an MFL degree plus a PGCE and you are only 23 years old you can teach a bunch of kids some basic French and Spanish.

    Don't forget, you are just starting out as a teacher. However, there are still some things you can do to help yourself. If I were you, I would make a list of the things that made it terrible. Was it the behaviour? Was it the planning? Was it the workload? Once you have your list, then note what aspect of that particular issue do I need help on and then find someone to discuss it with, post on here under maybe MFL forum, behaviour forum, whatever the issue is.

    In work situations as in life in general, it is an art to know when to say something and what to ignore when it comes to interacting with people.

    So, go back with a fresh beginning and a belief in your capabilities, and willingness to forgive and move forward with your HoD.

    If you do all that and you are still not happy, then if you decide to leave, make a plan first.

    Always keep it in mind, however, you did pass and that is an incredible achievement. Well done. They want you to come back, so that is a positive sign too.

    All the best for September. It won't be as bad as you think! Try to have a sense of humour too. You have learnt something through this experience. You have been blessed with a capacity of languages and a good mind and you have worked hard to use it for something positive. Well done.
  4. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Learning to be a teacher is very emotional process and small things end up being given huge and unwarranted significance. Even experienced teachers get overwrought at the end of term and stress about details that would have sailed past them earlier in the year. There can also be a lot of school politics going on and you end up being used as a pawn between HoDs (and seconds) and SLT and mentors who don't get on.

    Don't assume you did anything wrong. You perhaps do need to learn a strategy for dealing with negative feedback where you can make your point without getting upset but the rest of what you describe sounds like storm in a teacup stuff and you shouldn't worry about it. Some schools do interview pupils to get feedback on your teaching - if you every get inspected, they will chat to the pupils about what normally happens in your classroom etc.

    You're going back as a fully qualified teacher. Start building relationships with all your colleagues on that basis. Nobody can tell you not to speak to your old mentor but that relationship will also change. I honestly think a few weeks rest will give you fresh perspective - the last weeks of term are horrendous for everyone, never mind having observations. Good luck.
  5. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I suspect there will be a lot more up get upset about in the future - sadly ! Put this down to experience and save your energies for the next term ... and the next . Resilience is key in this profession.
  6. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Exactly right Minnie me: resilience is key in the teaching profession.
    rachelpaula008 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  7. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Not to best way to end your PGCE but also far from the worst, and you passed so well done on that!

    That being said the end of induction is a tough time in terms of how you feel, like Flere said emotions run high. With 3 weeks to go on the end of my NQT year some people finally sent some feedback/concerns that would have been helpful and relavent at the time they happened but all they did was throw a spanner in the works. My mentor in the department was the Head of Department and said how we had worked on those things and the schools professional mentor for NQTs was equally on my side. I still ended up getting observed by the county NQT advisor! So yeah, been there done that and the t-shirt etc.....but as I said the key thing is you've survived and also you arn't the first to have had some sort of hiccup with observations etc.

    As people have said start next term as positively as you can, you'll be an RQT (recently qualified teacher) and whilst you don't get any formal support you should still get some help as a newish teacher. If you are feeling unsure about things you can try initially giving them a pinch of salt and assuming the best possible intentions, but obviously if things haven't settled down into smooth sailing it's worth asking if things are right. The key thing you can do is enjoy the rest of the holidays and go back well rested and feeling fresh. Teaching can be a demanding profession so don't let it start wearing you down early on!!
  8. pcsmush

    pcsmush Occasional commenter

    Teaching is such a personal thing. I used to take every negative feedback badly when I was a student. My big tip is to write notes during the feedback session, so you busy yourself so you're not just focusing on anything negative that was said. :)

    In defence of your HOD (Who I do think handled the situation badly) they have a responsibility to check that high standards are being achieved in their department. I probably would have informed teachers that I was conducting Pupil Interviews, but other than that it is actually good practice to get the viewpoints of the children.

    You passed though! Every year is a new start. :)
  9. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    You are being ridiculously over-sensitive and are over-reacting. The HoD has a job to do, which involves constantly observing you and giving you feedback. You might as well get used to it because this is a part of all teachers' jobs now, or find alternative employment. One thing to do is learn stock phrases, repost questions and body language for thanking someone for feedback. Observations and feedback is a silly game all teachers have to waste time going through. You need to behave sagely and professionally, not behave like a little emotional girl.
  10. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Congratulations on passing your NQT year! I agree with the others that learning to deal with criticism is something you can take from this. Next time be prepared for it and keep control - I wonder if you cried or got angry, I'm guessing you got angry. There are things you can do with criticism - examine it, accept the part of it that is justifiable and really work on that, reject any of it that is not justifiable and consider why the person has decided to offer it then move on from it.
    Having something play on your mind during the holidays is something I know well. As you grow in true confidence it won't happen. Give yourself a good talking to and try to concentrate on something which will really distract you and be good for you. Lose yourself in music, exercise, friends, chat. Be good to yourself.
    Next year will be very different - move on. Good luck.
    Lara mfl 05 and pepper5 like this.
  11. pennyh.

    pennyh. Occasional commenter

    Teachers do this to each other now and it is a very depressing part of working in schools. Hopefully your dept. becomes one where you all work together and don't score points off each other which SMT will use. The biggest mistake is to think you can chat and say how you feel about issues in school. Start fresh and remember everyone gets stressed at the end of year and promptly forget come Sept.
    1. Never trust pupils or parents and never confide in them. The nature of performance appraisal in my opinion has destroyed to some degree trust and help. You share resources and someone else now takes the credit etc
    2. Don't trust other staff with how you feel.
    3. There are office politics in other types of employment too
    4. "learn stock phrases, repost questions and body language for thanking someone for feedback. Observations and feedback is a silly game all teachers have to waste time going through." True and increasingly so (I can look back to when it did not exist) Highly qualified teachers could play the game by just saying "great", "fab" "carry on" but don't. This is hard because you have gone through school and Uni to become highly qualified with positives looked for and now you end up working in schools where you will face a career of media, political, SMT and colleague bashing- and low pay.
    5. "little emotional girl" no -just a young person realising that the workplace is tough and teachers, are sometimes unnecessarily not nice to each other.
    6. If you have another tough year with your HOD look to move on -join a union and do their reasonably priced and sometimes free courses (ATL has great ones) to build up your CV.
    7. Learn to laugh and take up a sport hobby to get rid of tension. There will be some great days too and also some great colleagues!
  12. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Definitely do not neglect joining a union as post 11 suggests.
  13. amarantha_valentine

    amarantha_valentine New commenter

    Owww, that's a bit harsh. You make really good points but as a young teacher, learning new skills and faced with a number of observations in a short period (at the end of term) the stress and pressure of that would make some experienced teachers emotional.
    HODs do have a job to do, but part of that is supporting their teachers to do the best they can in the interests of all parties.
    OP try not to worry about it, move on and be reassured that in all likelihood you will not have as many observations next year. Take the advise of others on here that will help you not get emotional next time and just try your best.
  14. stressedoutnqt

    stressedoutnqt New commenter

    Thank you to everyone who has commented and offered advice so far! I know I probably did overreact and I seemed unprofessional, you're right. I'm still really upset about it though - I'm scared of going back in September as a fully qualified teacher and not having support from a mentor anyway because it'll be a big jump, and the fact that I'll still have the clean-up from this to deal with makes it all feel so much worse! I wish it had happened earlier in the year really. It's all really getting to me and I know that way worse things have happened to other people but I just keep crying and losing sleep about it! I'm sorry!
    pepper5 likes this.
  15. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Little to add to excellent advice from a variety of posters.

    I'm guessing you're quite a young NQT? You probably still have a lot of growing up to do yourself in the next couple of years, whilst still being responsible for many youngsters yourself. That's tough.
    Think positive. Believe in yourself.

    I've often said one of the essential requirements to being a teacher is to develop a 'tough rhino hide' and you may often have to examine yourself to improve practice, especially when being tested by students who push the boundaries.
    rachelpaula008, Moony, wanet and 4 others like this.
  16. amarantha_valentine

    amarantha_valentine New commenter

    Stressed, please don't let this ruin your holiday. You must be a good teacher, you passed the year and have a permanent job and by caring over this that much you obviously try and want to do the best you can.
    Go back and consider it a fresh start (you'll have new classes and new students) continue to do what you do and keep good records (note in books that they've done speaking work and a brief comment on their performance (do this in the lesson).
    At the end of term everyone is tired and wound up, see what September brings. IF it feels an awful environment (which i really doubt) start looking at new posts, if it is so bad you feel like you have to get out then consider supply.
    PM me if you want to ☺.
  17. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi again stressed

    It is understandable that younare stressed and you want to cry. Lara is right in that you do have to have a thick skin to work as a teacher.

    Believe me, your HoD is not crying and probably sleeping like a baby. Why? They have forgotten about the previous upset and are moving on. Do not dwell on what happened, but identify the areas you are going to improve on. Remember, you passed.

    One thing that has helped me is to take one day at a time and don't look in the rearview mirror. I know those sound pat, but it does help not to focus too far in advance nor dwell in the past.

    Believe me, you will be absolutely fine. You have not committed any criminal offences and you passed!
  18. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    Nasty and uncalled for - those comments would make any exhausted new teacher even more upset!
  19. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    As others have said, try to relax for the remainder of summer, and start the new school year with a positive and friendly attitude, and don't show your department that you're holding on to what happened previously.

    However, you need to be wary of what you say and do in the future - your HOD obviously prides him/herself on leading a cohesive and supportive department, even if that is not actually the case (the fact that they had to check with pupils to see what you had been doing in lessons suggests to me that they had not been monitoring you adequately), and as a result they have reacted badly to feedback from the NQT Coordinator.

    My school did this sort of thing by the way - they took students out of other lessons and interviewed them about me without my knowledge, and I was mortified when the students came into the classroom and told me, and it damaged my relationship with them; it was one of the many ways that the school spied on teachers, which led to 'Can I have a quick chat?' situations that involved you being told off for something petty. This way of doing things made for a very unpleasant working environment. I would suggest that if these sort of things continue after September, that you think about completing the year then moving on to a different school.
  20. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It is easy to get emotional when outcomes of observation are high stakes. Well done for passing. Sadly you can't relax very much because salary progression is dependent on favourable lesson observations.now you need to move on, make yourself mentally ready. When you are observed make sure they can tick the boxes that need it. Meantime relax and enjoy the remains of August.
    pepper5, Moony and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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