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Picking on a student?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by MLmath, Nov 21, 2019.

  1. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    Looking for advice. I'm currently acting head of maths as my hod is on mat. leave. There is a teacher in my department who works really hard and I always thought he had it all sorted. Since taking on the hod role I'm starting to see a pattern emerge of him throwing out difficult students from his class. Last year, in the staffroom, he always gave perfectly justified reasons for doing this and I always thought fair enough.

    Now though, as hod, I've had students and their worried tutors coming to me to tell me their version of events which dont quite match his. I started the year by backing the teacher, as you would, then when it kept happening, I started asking him for witnesses. He would give me names of students, but none confirmed his version of events, they have all said something along the lines of "i didnt see/hear that, but maybe I wasn't looking when it happened". This has happened 3 times now and each time I have asked at least 4 students he suggested for their accounts, none confirmed.

    I had a major event today, where he said he threw a student out because they threatened to punch him in the face, again, I couldn't find a single witness and the student said it absolutely didnt happen (told him to **** off, so still serious, but no threat of violence).

    Anyway, the pattern I am seeing is:
    • Always the same students
    • No detentions or warnings seem to be given before throwing them out for chatting or not doing enough work, turns into an arguement.
    • His version always seems to be similar in some repects to the students, they've always done something wrong, but i cant find witnesses for something serious in his statement
    • He has said something personal to the student e.g. you're a nasty child, you're a spoilt brat... although he always denies this.
    I'm concerned that once I start investigating further (although, I'm really inexperience and not sure how to do this!) The rest of the dept. will think I dont have their backs, at the end of the day, these pupils have done something wrong, just maybe not what he is claiming. He is definitely the type to make it public knowledge that I'm not trusting his version of events and I dont really have the reputation yet where people know you have good reason.

    How would I even go about this? I don't really have enough free periods to just wander around, when I have done, the students in question have explicitly stated that "he's not usually like this, he's just being nice because you are here". I also wonder if maybe he has just had a series of unfortunate events because my actual hod did not mention this at all in the hand over notes.
  2. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    Also, in our school we use mixed ability in years 7-9 and have the same classes as science and english, their science and english teachers dont seem to have the same problems.
  3. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    I would approach this in two ways. Firstly, speak to your line manager who may be aware of this being a past problem and may know of previous issues and how they were dealt with. If they don't, it is always useful to make sure they are briefed on a situation like this and they may be able to give you more relevant advice, knowing the school, department etc. Equally, if your concerns become more serious (and there are some indications that are worrying), it can be escalated quickly if necessary

    Secondly, I would need to speak to the teacher. This would not be in a formal way but just a chat emphasising that you wish to support him with his difficult students to avoid more serious issues in the future. This could be done in a couple of ways e.g. making sure that they are using the school's behaviour management policy correctly (this could be done as a reminder in a department meeting), pre-emptively removing a student before the lesson starts e.g. the student who swore at him.

    I wouldn't worry about the rest of the department feeling you don't have your backs - you are still removing difficult students from the class and are supporting your colleague and they may be aware to some extent of what is going on anyway e.g. if they are form tutors for any of the individuals involved.
  4. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    Thanks for the advice.

    My line manager is the head teacher, he is for both maths and english, so I feel like that might be taking it too far (due to circumstance) if I'm not 100% sure the teacher is picking on these students yet, or do you think that is irrelevant and I should still do it?

    I like the informal chat idea, wasnt sure if I would be required to do something more formal immediately, so that's good to hear. Would you mention to him the fact that there have been a few occasions where his statements dont match the students and I cant find evidence that his are correct despite him insisting that other students saw it? Or just ignore that for now? I was maybe thinking of mentioning it in an informal "we need to make sure we are water tight with these, as it may lead to something more serious" as they are difficult students around the school anyway.

    Thanks again
  5. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    I wouldn't worry about the statements not matching up at this point - the aim is to make sure that he is being fair and following procedures rather than worrying about his honesty.

    Regarding the head being your line manager, if there is potential for a big incident it is still worth informing him. It is entirely possible to make it clear that you are just working with your colleague informally (and you may not need to mention names initially, just that you have a concern about one or your department) and are just using him as a sounding board. It does depend on what the head is like - are they an all guns blazing type leader or are they more considered in their approach?

    If you still feel the head is inappropriate to talk to in this situation, then it may be worth talking to an appropriate academic lead be it a Deputy / Assistant Head just to get some advice and use as a sounding board. Another HoD e.g. English or Science might also be a good sounding board.

    Your quote about being watertight is a good idea - you could encourage them to believe that your SLT are concerned generally about students being removed from lessons and you want to make sure that your department avoids criticism.
  6. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    It bothers me that your opening post does not mention the timetable of this teacher.
    What groups are they teaching compared to others in the department? Or compared to yourself?
    I only ask because you have identified a pattern, but why must it be a pattern which is specific to that particular teacher?
    Every school has its bunch of famous "reprobate" kids,who just about every teacher knows.
    Does this colleague teach a disproportionate number of them?
    I bothers me that you focus almost entirely on witnesses for corroboration, rather than a starting point that students have been thrown out for a reason, and that it might be useful to compare this happening to the same students, say, across departments.
    Also, you express concern at the throwing out of the students, and that it is the same ones repeatedly-well, one reason for that may be that a follow up to the throwing out is not happening. I don't know-you don't say. Who is dealing with them after they are sent out? What happened to the kid who, allegedly, said they would punch your colleague? Why are they going back into the lesson at all?

    My worry is your over focus on corroborating what this person says. The fact that you feel the need to investigate. Zero mention of what you may do to support in the light of the following-
    kids have misbehaved in your department
    kids have threatened a member of your department
    the same kids repeatedly do this
    other kids are coming to you and protesting,and enlisting their tutors to protest about what goes on the lessons.
    So where do you step in (as acting HoD) to prevent potential poor behaviour, other than making huge efforts to prove this colleague wrong?

    Seriously. Serious question.

    Edit-sorry, yes you mention those kids in other subjects.
  7. install

    install Star commenter

    Sounds like he feels pressurized. Do not take sides - but support. Tell your whole team the dept protocol eg setting of detentions by class teacher for poor behaviour. And only if they do not attend or continue should you set a hod detention. Also suggest praise- phone calls home for at least one good student a week.

    Do also get support in his troubling lessons fast. Even temporarily. Pop in more to all lessons of your team. Encourage them to pop into your's.
    sabrinakat likes this.

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