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Plunging confidence levels - any advice? Do you fit into your staff room?

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by tifur, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. Hello,

    I'm a prospective teacher, with a confirmed PGCE place in September. Getting the place was the result of intense hard work and minute preparation as well as being able to interpret and communicate the experience I gained from voluntary TA work in a primary school. After the interview I went on to secure paid TA work for the rest of the year.

    All should be well and good, but I'm having a crisis of confidence.

    I had the feeling my first voluntary placement was drifting as I never had the feeling the teacher expected anything of me and felt a bit like a spare leg (particularly as the school has so many TAs). This I guess might be normal for volunteers (there are so many, they pass through quickly, you're at the bottom of the pile).

    My paid role is very challenging - in a 'special school' - and I have gone from a situation of having developed excellent relationships with pupils to one where particularly the older kids are hard to reach. I realise I should just see the limitations of the role (I shouldn't think I'm a teacher) and not see it as about helping the children's education, more being a sort of policeman!

    As my lack of experience has come across more (particular the social skills necessary to act wisely in some situations!), I've been subject to teachers and TAs gossiping about me in my presence. I've also had some curious inverted snobbery about my accent being too well spoken to have come from the local area.

    The situation and the withdrawal of the bursary is making me rethink teaching altogether. I'm not certain I really fit in to the teaching staffroom culture. The response I've got has been defensive and passive aggressive rather than directly (and therefore helpfully, critical). Schools can be insular little bubbles and as much as I choose teaching as my career, the staffroom or the classroom isn't my entire life. I enjoy working with the kids and the children seem to respond to me but I find other teachers a real problem!

    Has anyone else had a problem with the school or staffroom culture? Particularly career changers going into teaching? Regarding TAs, it might be useful if you mention what good TAs do over poor or bad ones - what are your expectations?

    Lastly, the stress of the interview and internal and external pressure to 'perform' is really dragging my confidence down. I feel pretty low. Has anyone else had a similar experience when they are initially in classroom? As I was already under duress with my PGCE interview, I fear I've not made a good impression meaning I'm falling into a partly self-created muddle!
     
  2. Hello,

    I'm a prospective teacher, with a confirmed PGCE place in September. Getting the place was the result of intense hard work and minute preparation as well as being able to interpret and communicate the experience I gained from voluntary TA work in a primary school. After the interview I went on to secure paid TA work for the rest of the year.

    All should be well and good, but I'm having a crisis of confidence.

    I had the feeling my first voluntary placement was drifting as I never had the feeling the teacher expected anything of me and felt a bit like a spare leg (particularly as the school has so many TAs). This I guess might be normal for volunteers (there are so many, they pass through quickly, you're at the bottom of the pile).

    My paid role is very challenging - in a 'special school' - and I have gone from a situation of having developed excellent relationships with pupils to one where particularly the older kids are hard to reach. I realise I should just see the limitations of the role (I shouldn't think I'm a teacher) and not see it as about helping the children's education, more being a sort of policeman!

    As my lack of experience has come across more (particular the social skills necessary to act wisely in some situations!), I've been subject to teachers and TAs gossiping about me in my presence. I've also had some curious inverted snobbery about my accent being too well spoken to have come from the local area.

    The situation and the withdrawal of the bursary is making me rethink teaching altogether. I'm not certain I really fit in to the teaching staffroom culture. The response I've got has been defensive and passive aggressive rather than directly (and therefore helpfully, critical). Schools can be insular little bubbles and as much as I choose teaching as my career, the staffroom or the classroom isn't my entire life. I enjoy working with the kids and the children seem to respond to me but I find other teachers a real problem!

    Has anyone else had a problem with the school or staffroom culture? Particularly career changers going into teaching? Regarding TAs, it might be useful if you mention what good TAs do over poor or bad ones - what are your expectations?

    Lastly, the stress of the interview and internal and external pressure to 'perform' is really dragging my confidence down. I feel pretty low. Has anyone else had a similar experience when they are initially in classroom? As I was already under duress with my PGCE interview, I fear I've not made a good impression meaning I'm falling into a partly self-created muddle!
     
  3. Hello Tifur
    I'm sure you'll get a whole range of responses to your mail depending on personal experiences. I went in to teaching later in life and I have to say for me personally that the whole process magnified my personal traits and insecurities. I still find it hard to fit in to the staffroom culture - it is very unique but all schools are different. I think a lot of it is down to what the head is like - I've even been in a school where the staff are petrified of scratching the hall floor lest they provoke the head's wrath. I'm doing supply and the job situation is hideous in my area (should have bailed out of the PGCE when thet tutors told us to forget about getting a job in this area).
    Regarding being a good/bad TA - the best TA's support the teacher in every way they can but act on their own initiative too. For me (I was a TA too for a year) it was about building a good rapour with the children but I did realise that there are some who you never really feel you can get through to, especially in a special school - with some children I considered it good if I had kept them safe. I was also a volunteer and did find that I was 'a spare leg' but in other schools volunteers are highly valued - as a teacher I always make sure that the class say thank you to the volunteer before they leave. Some schools have a clear 'us and
    them' culture with respect to teachers and TA's whereas other treat all
    as equals. If you are prone to being paranoid about what people think of you/say about you (which I am) then I think it is hard in the classroom culture - I changed my accent to fit in at the school I was working at!
    To sum up my experience doing a PGCE to become a teacher as a career change: highly stressful and mad hours like nothing you've ever experienced; younger students and some teachers seemed to think us more mature students as nothing better than people dragged off the street - I read a post on here from someone complaining about us getting places on PGCE courses because we only do it because we are having a midlife crisis - absolute rubbish. The constant scrutiny and 'constructive criticism' really took my confidence away but that depends on who is mentoring you - some are better than others - it's luck. I managed to get through the course but with my sanity only just intact (my husband begged me to give it up when I was lying face down in the garden screaming at 11 at night - that's what I was saying about it magnifying existing traits). My best friend on the course is still recovering and the thought of going into a classroom ever again makes her physically sick. Most of the mature students on our course had similar experiences - I think it makes it harder to accept the classroom culture when you have had a life outside the classroom - maybe it's easier if you go into it younger without the other experiences. Also, it was felt that the level of support on the PGCE was poor, particularly for mature students and if you come out of the training at a low ebb it's hard to tackle the NQT year.
    Sorry I've waffled on. In a nutshell, it is hard and the PGCE will take everything you've got and the NQT year will take more (if you can find a job - check the situation in your area). You will be constantly monitored for your performance and have an endless list of things to do but people do find a balance and manage to stay passionate about teaching. It's down to two things I think - what you are like and what school you are in.
    Good luck whatever you do.
     
  4. I have also been in this situation - it was after i had qualified and was the worst teaching experience I have ever had.
    I have never had this in any other school and I think it might depend v much on how cliquey the current teaching staff are and their personalities. Unfortunately this is very hard to judge at an interview day.
    I have promised myself that if I am ever treated like that again I will look for another job and steer well clear of the staff room until I leave. I refuse to work in a situation where the teaching staff act like child bullies.
    Don't give in, but don't take that kind of behaviour towards you either. Stand up for yourself. A small statement might go a long way and stop them doing it. If not, look for somewhere else.

    Good luck

     
  5. Thanks for the replies and advice. I really appreciate it.

    I suppose on the bright side, it's never going to be easy and it's better to get 'used' to some difficulties before I'm stuck in front of a class as the leading teacher. I'm used to working vicious hours in my old job, but colleagues tried to make it easier by working under a level of equality and foster good personal relationships. With that in mind, the unwritten rules of the staffroom and hierarchy strike me as a bit bizarre.

    School life also has a set rhythm and I suppose that might have something to do with it. I suppose it's natural to assume something that interrupts that rhythm must be bad - or is at the very least disruptive. 'How things are going' in terms of behaviour does become the focus of the day for any teacher or TA.

    Performance monitoring I don't mind (feedback please!) but the personal slights I can do without. Things now (finally) appear to be improving. I'll keep chipping away, but your comments have helped me find some perspective on this.

    Big thanks,

    Tifur
     

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