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Rock bottom - please help.

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by coldhandswarmheart, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. Hi, really hoping for some advice please. It is a long story and I'll try not to waffle on for too long or go into too much detail.

    I was an NQT last year and passed, it wasn't the easiest year by any means but I figured this was normal and passing gave me a huge confidence boost. I moved this September to an independent with the promise of a promotion in January - giving me the first term to settle in. In the meantime I took an unpaid responsibility on at HT's request, establishing the school's library.

    Things started off really well. I had spent all summer, prior to starting in September, producing an indepth SoW for my Year 11 class on a topic that had never been taught before, so everything I did was completely from scratch. It comprised of a week by week SoW (in line with the school's proforma), a lesson by lesson SoW (for me) and a comprehensive resource booklet that both my HoD and SMT have described as "publishable". This unit of work was to be taught during this current half term up to Christmas.

    The term from Sept - Oct half term I created a SoW for Year 11 with resources based on something I had taught before but from a different angle (due to the school using an exam board that I had never taught before). In conversation I talked to my HoD about what I should be doing and she said what I was teaching and what I had created "sounded great". Unfortunately 3 weeks later following a dept meeting, this wasn't the case and I was told I was doing it all wrong and got a huge amount of stick from the school's SENCo, who actually made me cry. My confidence took a huge bashing. Nevertheless, I soldiered on, radically changed my approach, held intervention sessions in my own time and my class passed their CA all in line with their predicted grades.

    Preliminary inspection was announced and I was 'asked' to go into a well known High St bookshop the following day (a Saturday) to buy a bundle of books to stock up the library shelves all as part of my unpaid responsibility. I did so, but without time to check what the school already had, I accidentally bought a few second copies so had to go back into town the following Saturday to swap them.

    By this time, I was working endless hours after school just to stay afloat and getting increasingly tired and run down. I also planned three differentiated lesson by lesson SoWs and created resources during this time for three separate year groups for the current term as well as two more SoWs and sets of resources for the following half term. So by Oct half term I had contributed SEVEN really detailed SoWs with complete sets of resources to the school and saved these onto the school network for the rest of the dept to use if they wanted to.

    Half term came and so did illness. On top of being really poorly, I planned full lesson plans for the main inspection that was pending the first week back, got ALL of my books fully marked up to date and made sure the library was ship shape. I came into school to get everything ready and up to date. Unsurprisingly I didn't feel any better when I returned to school but battled on through inspection and had very good feedback from an inspector who described my lesson as "fantastic". It was a really boost and I felt valued.

    Unfortunately, I was off the following week with a throat infection, on strong antibiotics and was advised by doctors to rest my voice. I sent comprehensive cover work each day despite feeling very unwell. I returned the next week despite still feeling under the weather, suffering frequent bouts of sickness and diarrhoea, and it just got worse from there; three parents' evenings in four weeks,GCSE marking hanging over me, a close family member suffering from serious illness and me being too far away and too busy to visit, a house sale falling through all was contributing to me coming home in tears every evening and fighting back the tears on the way to school in the morning. So with some persuasion from my better half, who was bearing the brunt of my misery, I eventually asked my HoD for help - I wasn't coping and I couldn't keep struggling on alone.

    My HoD observed me and said that I had a good rapport with my classes, my planning and resources were meticulous, the students were well supported by these, subject knowledge was good etc. BUT my lack of energy was letting me down, I knew this, I felt it, but being physically exhausted (I was sleeping terribly due to swollen glands in my neck making it too painful to put my head on the pillow) but I was just glad that I was there delivering my lessons - trying to demonstrate my reliability and being there for my classes.

    I then had an unannounced lesson obs from SMT with my most difficult class. Majority have ADHD tendancies but no diagnosis so no support. He came and left without a word and when I saw him later on in the dining hall, he was very laid back giving no indication of any concerns. I asked for feedback and he said that it isn't usual for feedback to be given on such informal observations but if I wanted some especially I could go and find him another time. I knew it wasn't my best lesson (far from it) but assumed he'd took on board that I was still feeling under the weather. I went later on for feedback but it wasn't a good time and I was told that there'd be a meeting between me, my HoD and the member of SMT the following week so I could get my feedback then. I naturally presumed this was because I'd asked for support from my HoD.

    The meeting came and I couldn't have been more wrong. . I immediately felt somewhat “set up” as the meeting involved me, the member of SMT and the HoD who I was told was there as a supportive role but she took notes the whole way through on everything that was said. The SMT member was very deliberate in what he said and repeated several times that my job was at risk. I was in tears from the first few minutes in and continued to be throughout. He gave me the feedback from my Year 9 lesson stating that he felt “it was on the edge of losing control”. I had “no classroom presence”. The students only got their work done “through a willingness to be compliant”. That it “wasn’t a badly behaved class in comparison to state school”. He also stated that this meeting would have happened much earlier but because of inspection etc that it has had to wait until now but there have been “serious concerns for a long time”. I wish I had asked WHY now I think back because there can be no evidence whatsoever for this. I also wish that the inspector could pass his feedback personally on to SMT about my "fantastic" lesson! In all honesty, I was in shock, tears were pouring down my face and when he said do you agree (being naturally hard on myself) I nodded. He replied “good, I’m glad what I say resonates with you, I would have been very worried if it hadn’t”. I was then told that I had until Feb half term to show improvement or I would get a "Thanks but no thanks" letter and be asked to leave.

    The next day, I went to the doctors and was signed off for exhaustion. I realised that I wasn't doing anyone any favours by being in school when so run down, least of all myself. There is no way I could meet their targets of classroom presence and management whilst feeling so ill. Additionally, I sent in an overview of cover for the fortnight I'm away with no acknowledgement from anyone from the school, not even my HoD. I feel like I have had the biggest kick when I'm down and the thought of a "thanks but no thanks" letter is destroying me. I have lost my trust in those above and the thought of going back is making me feel literally sick. I had a phonecall from SMT asking me to complete a set of reports whilst signed off and I did without a word of acknowledgment in reply from them. I've been made to feel like I'm doing a disservice to my classes which I just can't cope with but it seems clear that they're better off without me as their teacher anyway. I'm just not cut out for it.

    I just don't know what to do, I feel so low and so useless. I've been desperately scanning job adverts and would be willing to take a severe pay cut just to be happy. It seems as though whatever I do I won't be in a good position - I'd love to just leave teaching and that school altogether but that is obviously near impossible with the requirement to give a whole term of notice (the thought of going back is stressing me out unbelievably) but if I stay I'm likely to be given my notice which I cannot let happen. It feels as though whatever I do, won't be good enough and I could get in this state again trying to please SMT and still be sacked. That feeling of failure would never leave me I know it. Either way, I won't be getting a good reference and I cannot possibly afford to be jobless.

    I've realised I have completely waffled despite trying not to (and this isn't even the whole story) but any advice would be gratefully received... I couldn't be anymore rock bottom.
     
  2. Hi, really hoping for some advice please. It is a long story and I'll try not to waffle on for too long or go into too much detail.

    I was an NQT last year and passed, it wasn't the easiest year by any means but I figured this was normal and passing gave me a huge confidence boost. I moved this September to an independent with the promise of a promotion in January - giving me the first term to settle in. In the meantime I took an unpaid responsibility on at HT's request, establishing the school's library.

    Things started off really well. I had spent all summer, prior to starting in September, producing an indepth SoW for my Year 11 class on a topic that had never been taught before, so everything I did was completely from scratch. It comprised of a week by week SoW (in line with the school's proforma), a lesson by lesson SoW (for me) and a comprehensive resource booklet that both my HoD and SMT have described as "publishable". This unit of work was to be taught during this current half term up to Christmas.

    The term from Sept - Oct half term I created a SoW for Year 11 with resources based on something I had taught before but from a different angle (due to the school using an exam board that I had never taught before). In conversation I talked to my HoD about what I should be doing and she said what I was teaching and what I had created "sounded great". Unfortunately 3 weeks later following a dept meeting, this wasn't the case and I was told I was doing it all wrong and got a huge amount of stick from the school's SENCo, who actually made me cry. My confidence took a huge bashing. Nevertheless, I soldiered on, radically changed my approach, held intervention sessions in my own time and my class passed their CA all in line with their predicted grades.

    Preliminary inspection was announced and I was 'asked' to go into a well known High St bookshop the following day (a Saturday) to buy a bundle of books to stock up the library shelves all as part of my unpaid responsibility. I did so, but without time to check what the school already had, I accidentally bought a few second copies so had to go back into town the following Saturday to swap them.

    By this time, I was working endless hours after school just to stay afloat and getting increasingly tired and run down. I also planned three differentiated lesson by lesson SoWs and created resources during this time for three separate year groups for the current term as well as two more SoWs and sets of resources for the following half term. So by Oct half term I had contributed SEVEN really detailed SoWs with complete sets of resources to the school and saved these onto the school network for the rest of the dept to use if they wanted to.

    Half term came and so did illness. On top of being really poorly, I planned full lesson plans for the main inspection that was pending the first week back, got ALL of my books fully marked up to date and made sure the library was ship shape. I came into school to get everything ready and up to date. Unsurprisingly I didn't feel any better when I returned to school but battled on through inspection and had very good feedback from an inspector who described my lesson as "fantastic". It was a really boost and I felt valued.

    Unfortunately, I was off the following week with a throat infection, on strong antibiotics and was advised by doctors to rest my voice. I sent comprehensive cover work each day despite feeling very unwell. I returned the next week despite still feeling under the weather, suffering frequent bouts of sickness and diarrhoea, and it just got worse from there; three parents' evenings in four weeks,GCSE marking hanging over me, a close family member suffering from serious illness and me being too far away and too busy to visit, a house sale falling through all was contributing to me coming home in tears every evening and fighting back the tears on the way to school in the morning. So with some persuasion from my better half, who was bearing the brunt of my misery, I eventually asked my HoD for help - I wasn't coping and I couldn't keep struggling on alone.

    My HoD observed me and said that I had a good rapport with my classes, my planning and resources were meticulous, the students were well supported by these, subject knowledge was good etc. BUT my lack of energy was letting me down, I knew this, I felt it, but being physically exhausted (I was sleeping terribly due to swollen glands in my neck making it too painful to put my head on the pillow) but I was just glad that I was there delivering my lessons - trying to demonstrate my reliability and being there for my classes.

    I then had an unannounced lesson obs from SMT with my most difficult class. Majority have ADHD tendancies but no diagnosis so no support. He came and left without a word and when I saw him later on in the dining hall, he was very laid back giving no indication of any concerns. I asked for feedback and he said that it isn't usual for feedback to be given on such informal observations but if I wanted some especially I could go and find him another time. I knew it wasn't my best lesson (far from it) but assumed he'd took on board that I was still feeling under the weather. I went later on for feedback but it wasn't a good time and I was told that there'd be a meeting between me, my HoD and the member of SMT the following week so I could get my feedback then. I naturally presumed this was because I'd asked for support from my HoD.

    The meeting came and I couldn't have been more wrong. . I immediately felt somewhat “set up” as the meeting involved me, the member of SMT and the HoD who I was told was there as a supportive role but she took notes the whole way through on everything that was said. The SMT member was very deliberate in what he said and repeated several times that my job was at risk. I was in tears from the first few minutes in and continued to be throughout. He gave me the feedback from my Year 9 lesson stating that he felt “it was on the edge of losing control”. I had “no classroom presence”. The students only got their work done “through a willingness to be compliant”. That it “wasn’t a badly behaved class in comparison to state school”. He also stated that this meeting would have happened much earlier but because of inspection etc that it has had to wait until now but there have been “serious concerns for a long time”. I wish I had asked WHY now I think back because there can be no evidence whatsoever for this. I also wish that the inspector could pass his feedback personally on to SMT about my "fantastic" lesson! In all honesty, I was in shock, tears were pouring down my face and when he said do you agree (being naturally hard on myself) I nodded. He replied “good, I’m glad what I say resonates with you, I would have been very worried if it hadn’t”. I was then told that I had until Feb half term to show improvement or I would get a "Thanks but no thanks" letter and be asked to leave.

    The next day, I went to the doctors and was signed off for exhaustion. I realised that I wasn't doing anyone any favours by being in school when so run down, least of all myself. There is no way I could meet their targets of classroom presence and management whilst feeling so ill. Additionally, I sent in an overview of cover for the fortnight I'm away with no acknowledgement from anyone from the school, not even my HoD. I feel like I have had the biggest kick when I'm down and the thought of a "thanks but no thanks" letter is destroying me. I have lost my trust in those above and the thought of going back is making me feel literally sick. I had a phonecall from SMT asking me to complete a set of reports whilst signed off and I did without a word of acknowledgment in reply from them. I've been made to feel like I'm doing a disservice to my classes which I just can't cope with but it seems clear that they're better off without me as their teacher anyway. I'm just not cut out for it.

    I just don't know what to do, I feel so low and so useless. I've been desperately scanning job adverts and would be willing to take a severe pay cut just to be happy. It seems as though whatever I do I won't be in a good position - I'd love to just leave teaching and that school altogether but that is obviously near impossible with the requirement to give a whole term of notice (the thought of going back is stressing me out unbelievably) but if I stay I'm likely to be given my notice which I cannot let happen. It feels as though whatever I do, won't be good enough and I could get in this state again trying to please SMT and still be sacked. That feeling of failure would never leave me I know it. Either way, I won't be getting a good reference and I cannot possibly afford to be jobless.

    I've realised I have completely waffled despite trying not to (and this isn't even the whole story) but any advice would be gratefully received... I couldn't be anymore rock bottom.
     
  3. Moonworm

    Moonworm New commenter

    Hi coldhandswarmheart
    I'm so sorry to hear about your horrible situation. It's even worse that your health seems to be suffering so much as a result of your work.
    My first thought was that this sounds like a situation that needs union involvement. However, I'm not sure what the situation is with independent schools and unions. Are you a member of one? If not, you definitely need some serious advice on how to approach your leadership team with your concerns.
    I do think your health has to come first and if the doctor has signed you off due to ill health/exhaustion, you're doing yourself no favours by completing work whilst you're off e.g. the reports. The school has no right to ask you to do anything whilst you are signed off. So I would put a stop to that straight away and take a genuine break.
    Next, I would become very formal with all issues to do with your work situation. When your health has recovered, you should put in writing a request to meet with the senior staff again and be prepared to air your concern that you have been judged so unfairly on one lesson. You can also ask them if they received any feedback regarding your lessons from the external examiner. I would also go in armed with a detailed list of all you have contributed during your time at the school - with evidence e.g. the schemes of work as well.
    If all you say is true, you must gather the courage to represent and defend yourself fairly to these people, even though I realise your confidence has taken a knock. It's only once you've dealt with them that there is any point in looking for another job - as this is so much on your mind. Once you've had your say and received some genuine evidence from them regarding their concerns about your teaching, I absolutely agree you should look for a position elsewhere - after all, 'ganging up' on you in such an out of the blue fashion is not the way professionals should behave.
    Good luck with it all - I'm more than sure there's a way out. And anyone who devotes so much time to planning lessons for the students must be in the right job - don't forget about the bits of the job that you no doubt used to love.
    x
     
  4. As far as I am concerned that's the only way any students get their work done - if they are not willing to be compliant then they won't do it. They were willing in your lesson so what is the problem. I would recover over Christmas and then ask for some clarity as you have had very mixed messages from more senior staff.
     
  5. It appears that they have blatantly dismissed your very good less obs with the Inspector. They are therefore picking and choosing their lesson obs feedback. Personally I would get out now as they are not valuing your efforts. I wish you well.
     
  6. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    There is a very good thread written by a dewildered dad on "Opinion" entitled," ....so who sharpens the pencils?" which ponders the notion of why a first-class resource bank isn't freely available in all schools, and the unrelenting grind of the NQT's first couple of years at work re-inventing the wheel, over and over.
    You have produced excellent resources, schemes of work, etc, been highly rated by inspectors, and you have shown a willingness to take on extra responsibilities. You should be treasured, not censured.
    There is a game afoot at your school. It sounds scarily like my old workplace, only I didn't get out quickly enough before my health was ruined. You can stay and fight if you have a rottweiller of a regional union rep, or you can get out as soon as you can. My gut feeling is that despite your sterling qualities, your face does not fit. As you can read on these fora, you're not alone.
    Get signed off, you're not well. DON'T provide work for the school whilst on sick leave, speak to your union and do not attend any further meetings unaccompanied.
    I am so very sorry that yet another teacher is going through hell. You take care of yourself, and keep on posting on here. xx
     
  7. Continuing a meeting while you were visibly crying is called bullying. They have virtually asked you to leave, if you do it is called constructive dismissal. Get onto your union. If you don't have one, get one. And start looking for a new job. This lot are ***.
     
  8. please don't take this too hard but if you are honest, are you doing the easy things like planning really well and not addressing the harder things (and more basic and essential) things like behaviour management and progression and rapport//?
     
  9. ???? this person has already been graded by an Inspector as very good!!! If they had not shown good behaviour management and progression etc in their observed lesson then no Inspector would have given such a good grading!!! and progression in lessons these days, with the new kind of inspections, must be evident.
     
  10. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Don't assume it was an OFSTED inspection. It may have been by another body as it is an independent school.
     
  11. ok - but I agree with kindofaverage, it was still an inspection (of what ever sort) and she passed with flying colours. As has been said befor on this forum, they pick and choose what observations they want to use as evidence against a teacher, and it is never the good ones!!.
     
  12. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    I also agree with the feeling that teaching probably has very little to do with it.
    After nearly two decades spent teaching in independent schools, two thoughts come to mind.
    Either the lesson was atypical and the general everyday teaching is inadequate and has been a matter of concern for a while ( if so, why didn't the HoD intervene and give guidance? ) or that the OP has upset somebody senior in the school and it has been decided that he or she is surplus to requirements.
    Either way, I would look for a way out on my terms.
     
  13. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Not only that, an inspector is trained and qualified to do inspect. The others are just pretending.
     
  14. Amen to that, Sideshow! They do indeed sound like a bunch of See U Next Tuesdays.
    They don't deserve you - look for another job.
     
  15. Thank you very much for your replies Moonworm, Ruthie66, kindofaverage, rosievoice, sideshow, sophiegee, Karvol, Siegen81to82 and Dink_bird. They have given me some hope. I have got in touch with union and interestingly when I said the name of the school their instant reply was "they are well known to us for exploiting their staff" (!) But not being in line with STPC I'm not sure what will happen. Just got to wait and see what they suggest I suppose.

    Thank you also outstandingwinger you offer a balanced view, I can see why you might think that from my post but I can assure you that my main priority has been to build up a good rapport with each of my classes. Hence taking the time to plan exciting schemes of work. I'm still an inexperienced teacher so I do need my ideas of the lesson infront of me in order to feel confident, I am rubbish at "winging it". I have had some really warming feedback from parents also that reflect the good relationships I have built. Unfortunately the drop in obs was with my only class that I still didn't feel I had the ideal relationship with (one lesson the class would be focused and enthusiastic but the next they could be absolutely dire and hardly able to stay seated) and I knew I hadn't got all the class on board. But I was working on it.
    Behaviour management is something I have worked very hard on throughout my training and NQT being naturally quiet and 5' nothing, I have always been aware that it isn't my strongest area and quite frankly it's not something I enjoy. Nevertheless, because of this it is something I make sure doesn't slip (because it is such a vicious circle) - I follow school procedures meticulously and consistently. I already knew that the drop in lesson wasn't my best lesson, it was a consolidation of learning lesson using a "pub quiz" activity and then an exercise exploring structure to put their knowledge into practice. More significantly, I was feeling really run down, picking up every cough, cold, tummy bug going and this was clearly deteriorating my teaching and in retrospect I shouldn't have been in school but if I hadn't then maybe they would have been calling me in for a meeting regarding absence? Furthermore, the inspector that gave me really lovely feedback was from ISI but he was being inspected himself by Ofsted on the day.
    I am an inexperienced teacher, I hope that my post doesn't sound as though I am not willing to take feedback because I am. I'm very self critical anyway and I work my socks off to meet targets given to me but the way that this has been handled has just left me feeling completely vulnerable, useless and devalued. I suppose to sum it up, they've used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    I know that I need to put it out of mind for now but finding it very hard to rest and relax not knowing what is on the other side of Christmas. Following your lovely replies and suggestions I have spotted a permanent TA vacancy at a school I trained at and absolutely adore, I would love to apply but I am so worried at the same time. I don't want to be in breach of contract but equally I don't want to be asked to leave. There's obviously no guarantee that I'd get the job either and I can't possibly afford not to have money coming in. I think the post would really suit me, I know being a TA is not at all easy option but it would use the skills and understanding I have gained, still having a rewarding job with young people making a positive difference but with much less pressure.

    Anyway, I hope that whatever is meant to be will be and I will await union's response.
    Thank you again for your kind words x
     
  16. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Being a perfectionist teacher is the sure way to a nervous breakdown. It's a job - do the best you can without running yourself into the ground and move on as soon as you can having gained some useful experience . Learn to keep things in proportion. Don't expect to be appreciated but find somewhere you can, at first survive and then develop, as a teacher.
    Best wishes.
     
  17. Well OP you seem like a real asset to the school, and a lovely person to boot. You may just have to get a bit wise to your SMT though.
    Lesson obs are ridiculously subjective. At my school, I plan wildly different lessons when I'm going to be observed by different members of SMT. One person likes all singing all dancing varying activities whereas another likes perfect behaviour and lots of traditional work. Another has an obsession with differentiation and nothing else matters.

    Sounds like this guy is not going to accept anything but perfect behaviour so if he observes you again sod the plan and just make the pupils work in silence with traditional, easy to manage tasks. He will leave happy cos his particular bugbear has been sated!
    These people also forget what it was like to learn and forget they undoubtedly had problems when inexperienced too. Disgraceful really. Behaviour management didn't properly click with me for three years, and even now 20 odd years in I still get nemesis classes which I wouldn't like to be observed with, like ALL teachers do - regardless of experience.
    See it through. Give the SMT **** what he wants, and don't give up it gets much easier. He will move onto the next NQT to assert his authority over, I betcha.
     
  18. princesslegend

    princesslegend New commenter

    You sound like the kind of teacher I
     
  19. princesslegend

    princesslegend New commenter

    You sound like the kind of teacher I
    would
     
  20. princesslegend

    princesslegend New commenter

    You sound like the kind of teacher I
    would love
     

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