1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

RQT - I want to be a good teacher, but no matter how hard I try, I constantly feel rubbish.

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by MrsP-1992, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. MrsP-1992

    MrsP-1992 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I find myself at breaking point with my current position.
    I am in one of the top 50 schools in the country for GCSE results, with a residual of almost +1. The pressure for results is high and I seem to be inept. I teach a Y12 group with a new course and my students are failing their mocks. I honestly think I have no clue how to enable students to pass exams. I came into teaching with so much passion and life and love for my subject, but it isn't translating to exam results. And as i try to become better at getting my students to pass the courses my love and passion for my subject has been extinguished.
    Last day of term the school has intervened with my Y12 group, removing some lessons from me and installing "team teaching" with the head of department. Whilst I realise that this is spending money on improving my craft, I feel incredibly useless and unreliable as a member of staff. The idea that the head of department has to teach two lessons a week with me because they aren't sure that what i'm doing in lessons is good or not.
    I've spent the better half of this term trying desperately hard to improve, jumping through all of their hoops and trying to be strict with myself and the students. Whilst I've done this I've crumbled into a mess of a human being who cries so often that my partner now hates my career.

    Like I said, I want to be a good teacher, but no matter how hard I try, I constantly feel rubbish.
    I am applying for jobs elsewhere, hoping that this is a problem with a school too focused on being the best for results that they squash the life and soul out of an RQT. I am not convinced however that I will ever get better at this job - since it's not for a lack of trying.

    Any advice from people more experienced than me, any stories of anyone who has felt this same way would be appreciated. I need a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Mrs P
  2. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I hated the year 11 'I need a C and it's your job to get me a C' that existed 20 years ago when I was in my 2nd/3rd year of teaching. I don't imagine it is any less now, even if the grades are now numbers. Where I lived at that time, we had middle schools and so I moved there. Still taught my subject, but far less exam pressure.

    As it's unlikely uou'll find middle schools these days, you could try a prep school. With scholarship classes in year 8 for common entrance, you would be well into the higher GCSE level for subject teaching, but also have a lot more fun with the other classes. Teaching year 5-8 would very probably reignite your love of your subject and of teaching, as well as broaden your horizons as you possibly teach other subjects as well.

    Oh and keep in mind that EVERYONE feels rubbish at this time of the year. It's called being so knackered you can't think straight.
    Shedman, phlogiston, pepper5 and 2 others like this.
  3. thekillers1

    thekillers1 Lead commenter

    Now answer my post please xxx
  4. felicity5183

    felicity5183 Occasional commenter


    I’m not sure if I can offer much in the way of advice but I didn’t want to just read and run! I can totally understand how you are feeling at the moment. I too am - or was! - an RQT, and have had experiences in a school like you suggest.

    Some people think that Outstanding schools with excellent results are a godsend, and that because the children behave better then that usually equates to a much better experience.

    Wrong! With outstanding schools - I don’t know whether yours is outstanding or not but the results certainly seem to be - comes outstanding pressure. All you can do is try your best.

    Please don’t feel like they are labelling you as a failure. It might just be that this class are a particularly tricky class and that they need to call on the expertise of the HOD to help. They haven’t removed every single lesson from you and written you off - that is a good thing.

    One thing you can do is realise that you are still an RQT, you are still ‘learning’ your craft as it were, and hopefully the school are supporting you with it.

    In terms of how you are feeling, please try to ease off some of the pressure you are putting on yourself. The last thing you - or the students - need is you burning out and ending up unable to teach them anything, never mind help them pass their exams.

    Use this Christmas break as a breather. When you go back, or this week if you have time, have a think about some intervention strategies you could put into place for the students who need it the most in your class. Better still, ask the HOD to sit with you and do it together. This will show them that you are trying to ensure that they make progress, and perhaps you could have a professional conversation about how you both can tackle the problem of underachievement.

    I do hope things work out for you, but remember it is not the be all and end all of your career. I am taking a break from teaching at the moment and who knows if I will return, but you have to do what is right for you. And when you know, you know...

    Fliss x
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I feel for you @MrsP-1992 . It's miserable when groups that should do well, do badly in exams.
    The bottom line is that you need to enable the students to do the work.
    Look through the papers they failed and look for why they didn't do well.
    If there are common errors, reflect honestly on how those errors arose, whether it was down to the kids misreading the question, you missing a key bit on information, over-simplification or whatever,
    Then reflect on what teaching methods will enable the students best to deal with the demands of the new A levels.
    Sadly "passion and life and love for your subject" are probably not very compatible with modern A levels. It's one of the reasons I work elsewhere now.
    gingerhobo48 likes this.
  6. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    Sorry to hear you feel so down. You are at the end of a drainingly long term and it is an exhausting job at the best of times. You are new to it and in a very pressured school. As felicity5183 says, you are still learning your craft, and this is a process which will continue for many years.
    Look on the other side of the coin - you are so good that you landed a job in this very ambitious school. You have been given some 6th form classes as a RQT, which the HoD will support you with. You don't mention KS3 classes so they must be going well? Your HoD hasn't talked about the dreaded capability, just made moves to support and help you.
    There are positives here, but you are probably too tired to think straight and haven't been able to see them. Over the holidays, take a few days off from school completely. Then you will return in January with a bit more energy.
    Good luck!
    gingerhobo48 and Landofla like this.
  7. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    You have been given good advice here. Don't just think that their success depends just on you. They are also responsible for themselves, and so are their parents. The teachers who have given you advice have gained from their own experiences, and so did I. My last year of teaching was 100% better than my first year of teaching and that is for sure - but, as I say, don't forget that THEY also are responsible for passing their exams too. It depends on how much it matters to them.
    gingerhobo48 likes this.
  8. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    This could be the problem. It's the results that count.

    You might be happier in a more down-to-earth school where you can still see students more holistically and not as generators of UCAS points. That might mean looking for a school with less cachet or looking at younger age-groups.

    I don't think you can assume, on the strength of being RQT and with such limited experience in such a stressful environment, that you must be a poor teacher. Give yourself a chance.

    I know I'd hate such a school. Personally I was a fairly high-achiever with a First in Latin but I wasn't interested in teaching to grammar-school kids. My forte (it turned out) was in Special Needs. So accept all the help you can get but don't write yourself off yet.
    gingerhobo48 and phlogiston like this.
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I'll go and have a hunt for it and give it a go... :confused::confused::confused:
  10. bmarchand

    bmarchand New commenter

    Teaching a subject and getting students to pass exams are two different (but connected) skills. I learnt that the hard way too. My first set of actual results were quite poor, but they are now good. Most Y12 students underestimate how much work they need to do, and should do 2x or 3x what they actually do, even when motivated. A set of results like that makes you feel bad, but you sound like a potentially inspirational and successful teacher.

    A few things to consider:
    - Do students understand the teaching in class, and do they complete the work set?
    - Do you teach from a textbook; and have you planned for the difference between textbook level questions and exam level questions e.g. by regularly setting them practice exam questions through the course?
    - Are students doing a least as much work outside class as in it, or up to twice as much outside class? How do you know, do you regularly check this?
    - did you give them some past papers to practice before the mock, and give them feedback on their attempts at these?
  11. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    From a lesson I learned myself in my first year of A-level teaching

    When they do practice Qs do you correct them or do they? I had a lovely small group, we did a lot of correcting in class and it was this that let them down (so yes, my fault). They thought their written answers were the same as the required answers whereas in reality they were more vague or even sloppy. I didn't pick up on this because they were marking their own and their results in the first module were disasterous. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.

    This might have nothing to do with your situation - but check that they know why their answers are inadequate and how to improve those.

    Chin up, it's nearly Christmas and it will get better!
  12. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    Can you share mark schemes and sample answers at all levels with them? Get them to apply the mark scheme to the range of samples, understand what is required in order to get an A,B, C and compare their own answers with the sample answers. You can share assessment objectives until the cows come home but until they actually apply the AOs they don't see the point.
    gingerhobo48 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  13. MrsP-1992

    MrsP-1992 New commenter

    Thank you for all your advice. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the pressure for results that has made me feel inadequate, and I need to move schools to allow myself to continue learning. It’s become detrimental to my health and my CPD.
    Your advice is (as always) simple, constructive and I want to act upon it. I just need to space in which to breathe to allow myself to see if it is working. Rather than having to be amazing right now!

    I can’t express how glad I am that I posted.
    Thank you
    Mrs P
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It must be very tough to be learning your trade whilst having to churn out top results. Not a very good introduction to the profession.
  15. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Horses for courses, some people thrive on the academics.
  16. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I am sure that teaching high-achievers can be very rewarding but it sounds as if the quest for top grades and the pressure to maintain a certain level certainly doesn't suit this young teacher.

    We all know pupils who have an excellent grasp of a subject but go to pieces in an exam. I would imagine it's very frustrating if you have a couple of those and are roundly blamed if their unexpectedly poor results blight your data.
  17. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Give yourself time, learn from what you observe from the other teacher and remember that the pupils should be doing the hard work not you. It's tough teaching a new course - for anyone.

    I think team teaching is incredibly stressful. I've only done it well with one other person and it was because we had quite a similar style anyway. I've stood in classrooms with other people and felt really awkward trying to teach to their lesson plan or activity or standard of expectations. if you find it weird and hard, that's because it is.

    Keep at it. You've survived to Christmas and that's an achievement in itself!
    gingerhobo48 likes this.
  18. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    If your pupils don’t do well in assessments then there are three reasons I can think of immediately.

    They don’t know their subject content for the exams well.
    They have weak assessment literacy.
    They are not motivated to perform well in assessments.

    The first one is usually due to either being taught the wrong stuff or being taught the right stuff badly. Dry insipid mindless teaching with no retention or excitement built in. Is this you? I wouldn’t think so.

    The second is very common. You do a whole class analysis and write up what they are doing incorrectly and then use single question micro assessments and micro planning embedded into good teaching to train them to be more effective. "Seriously? Why would you write two sentences for an 11 mark question?"

    The last one. There can be a myriad of reasons. Class culture can be powerful. Sometimes the style of the teacher is wrong for them. I’d be minded to survey them using an anonymous survey to find out more about their thoughts. Are you properly trained in evidence or research informed methods? Did you do it in your PGCE?
    JosieWhitehead and JohnJCazorla like this.
  19. baxterbasics

    baxterbasics Senior commenter

    I recall a time in the distant past when, as pupils, if we failed a test or exam, it was our fault alone - no blaming the teacher. The idea that kids see their teacher as an enabler for their exam success as made them more lazy and less keen to take initiatives for themselves.

    As a pupil I gained an A-grade in A-Level Geography - I went as far as borrowing examiners' reports from my teacher. He gave some explanations of geographical process, but it was really up to us to do the studying and learn the topics.

    Sorry this is of no use - I am just lamenting how times have changed.
  20. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    You are 100 per cent right Baxter. We tend to live in a blame culture - always looking for someone else to blame. When I failed exams, which I and everyone else did, we just took them again. I had two letters from the examining board when I took O level Geography and O level English Literature. I was told that I'd failed by one mark (no b, c, d etc grades then) - and we were advised to take the exam again in the autumn, which we did, and we made sure we passed the second time. That was the end of the problem.
    geordiepetal likes this.

Share This Page