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Second Subject - is it me or is this unreasonable?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by onbekende, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    I have taught a second subject at KS3 (just 6 periods per week) very happily since 2014. But now a new HoD in 2nd subject has completely changed the SoWs to include some very challenging new topics. Since I found out on 1 September(!) I'm pretty much one page ahead of the kids as you can imagine, which is really not my style! Also, there are brand new marking policies, departmental sanctions/rewards etc. which the HoD is keen we all follow to the absolute letter. Anyway, I've been trying to be positive and muddle through with all this. Now, however the HoD has decided he will be coming to conduct a work scrutiny of my marking of year 8 and coming to observe a year 7 lesson. Now, to me this seems very heavy-handed so early in the term, and not in line with the policies of the school (work scrutiny is done at specific times in the year, and observations are on a timed cycle - and I'm not due!) Do I have to agree to this? It all feels needlessly stressful, and not likely to actually help improve the students' education - which is meant to be the main thing right? Can I realistically refuse the work scrutiny and observation, or at least ask that they be conducted only at the appointed time, or do people think I'm inviting more problems if I do this?
  2. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    The new HoD is probably trying to assert themselves in a new role. And now end of KS3 judgement is all but gone, many subjects are suing KS3 time to break in GCSE topics.

    I honestly think that refusing the scrutiny and observation will put your head firmly above the parapet so I would just accept it. However, if the HoD complains about what he sees, you have the 'this is not my specialism, I need support' card you could play.

    SOmetimes, being one page ahead of the kids is actually beneficial, as at least you can't go explaining a topic in a level of detail they wont understand! (which sometimes specialists fall into the trap of.)

    Not to belittle your problem, but yours is a climbable foothill compared to the Everests some post about. You'll get through this!
    install, pepper5, minnie me and 5 others like this.
  3. MissHallEnglish

    MissHallEnglish Occasional commenter Forum guide and community helper

    Sounds frustrating. You've obviously been doing a great job. Any change is potentially nightmare-ish but a new HoD with new ideas AND new SoW at the same time is tricky. A lot to get your head around.
    Have you got someone, a line manager perhaps, that you could run this by? It sounds like the school has policies with regard to observations/scrutinies, is the new HoD aware?

    The other option is to go along with their plan and show them your style of teaching and books, proudly. Perhaps then they won't come knocking for a while. Personally, I'd go with this one. Let the dust settle afterwards.

    Sounds like there is some flexing of muscles going on...
    hhhh, pepper5, grumpydogwoman and 2 others like this.
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Alternatively you could email to ask how this will affect the usual cycle, and copy in the relevant line manager.
  5. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    This is my honest view. Please don't take offence, it is not meant in a bad way.

    I don't see anything wrong here. Most subjects have changed at KS3. It is a HoD perogative to do this. It isn't A Level, is the content really that difficult? It invariably involves putting a bit of time in, in order to feel comfortable doing this. I agree with @scienceteachasghost as well, I don't think it is always a problem not being a subject expert, or knowing every facet inside out. If this is not you, then really it is up to you to learn the content. I doubt it is that tricky, especially for someone teaching a subject for a few years.

    I get the issue with the observation. A one off, special lessons are of limited value i think in most circumstances. I think it is up to the HoD to explain the purpose. But i get why a new HoD would want to observe their department. The work scrutiny for me is not an issue. They have told you the year group and when they will check. It is surely looking at what you should be doing anyway. Don't sweat on it. Wiith the observation, i am sure they will keep in mind you are not a specialist. It is your chance to show what you can do. It doesn't sound like it is meant for PM purposes or to undermine you though.

    It is going to cause more issues. On top of that, especially in the case of the work scrutiny, you would not be justified in doing it. The observation- like I say, no-one likes it. There are no regulations though on such things (i think) and I do get why the HoD would want to do it. You need a frank discussion with the HoD to put your mind at ease on the purpose.

    I have been in exactly the same position myself, having to be observed for a second department review on two occasions in a previous place of work. don't think I am lecturing on something I haven't done myself!
    pepper5, minnie me, wanet and 2 others like this.
  6. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    A conscientious HoD has to do this really.

    I'd go along with it and hope it goes well. At a later date let it slip that observations are on a timed cycle and you thought s/he ought to know that for future reference as that's the way things are done.

    One step ahead? We've been there. That's good enough and it does mean you can perhaps have an edge when it comes to the kids who are struggling. It won't be 'old hat' and 'obvious' to you.

    If you get a lot of criticism then get back to us but give this person the benefit of the doubt. Assume they are wanting to make the proverbial difference and see how you fare. Maybe they'll have some great ideas. (Well, we can dream.)
    install, pepper5, wanet and 2 others like this.
  7. TheOtherHalf1

    TheOtherHalf1 New commenter

    Do you work in LEA, Independent or Academy school. They all have different rules, regulations and policies regarding LO.

    As an HOD, old or new, I too would want to know more about the practices in the department that I am responsible for and LO's + book scrutinies will give me some insight. But those are only a start.

    In almost 30 years of teaching I have seen many posturing newbies who convinced themselves that they are the new messiah.

    Book scrutinies have never irked me as anyone is welcome to them at anytime. I did once have a rather negative reply from the said messiah despite my consistent marking and pupil work - all as the policies want. As our argument intensified I politely asked if I could have a look at their books for guidance and sharing of good practice. The look on their face, priceless, but my request declined!

    As for LO's, your school has a policy and you should know how the proposed observation fit into the policy. If it does ask what the focus of the LO is, agree and get on with it. We all hate them anyway, so just see it as that necessary evil.

    If it doesn't fit with the LO policies you are fully entitled to decline. You should not feel or be forced into additional observations.
    Some will see it as a peer/informal observation and so be it. You could obviously then ask if you could observe one of theirs - professional development, learning hubs, Ofsted/Estyn, blah-blah etc.

    Should your LO be one of the official ones make sure that the observer, as they are new to your school, are aware of the school's LO protocols. If it is informal there should be no note taking, comments, criticisms that form part of any appraisals or judgements or given to SLT.

    Some of us use peer observations to help us develop our skills, but that is arranged between the two parties involved. It has nothing to do with the school and is a voluntary act. Some years I'll do one and the next a handful, but hush-hush I have also none in some years.

    There are those in management who see it as their "Number 10" moment and devine right to usurp policies as need be. That is why policies are there - to inform and support you.
  8. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    The additional observation is something to question. It is not equitable if you have to do more observations than other teachers in your school.

    You could ask for it to count as one of the normal rota you do. If they don't play ball, talk to your local association rep. Some unions may instruct you not to take part because of ongoing action.

    If you don't do anything, who is to say that other subjects won't do the same. You could find yourself with another observation as all the HODs compete to impress SLT.
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    How about this?

    "Observation? Right ho. How long for? OK, I'll just pop that in my diary. So that's half an hour out of the x hours as set out in our school policy? Marvellous. Get it out of the way, eh. Oh, you will want to check that policy by the way. There is an observation cycle and this isn't in line with that but we'll cut you some slack, shall we? You being new and so forth."

    I think it depends on your attitude to such things. Me? I'd be going the full ASOSA-route and probably refusing if this is outside the cycle. But most people aren't quite as willing as I am to poke their head above the parapet.
  10. mrkeys

    mrkeys Occasional commenter

    My last school (not mainstream) I taught two subjects and was then expected to have to put up with twice as many observations.
    Despite pupil progress and exam results being better than others HT still demanded this.
    She hated me and I hated her considerably more and even in my final year where I gave notice from September of retiring in August she continued to hound me.
    No justification, an evil and unpleasant woman.
    Retired and not missing the amount of cr4p that goes on, particularly towards the older more expensive staff.
    onbekende and TailwindTurner like this.
  11. TheOtherHalf1

    TheOtherHalf1 New commenter

    I like your style and can happily say that I regularly have to dodge the bullets coming my way because of my own willingness to be head and shoulders above the parapet. I believe in what is right!
    onbekende and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  12. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Like it, but whether I'd do this would depend on how s/he was behaving generally.
    onbekende likes this.
  13. thistledoo

    thistledoo Senior commenter

    This sounds all too familiar and I have been in your situation, Onbekende. What would I do? What did I do? Firstly, I would put all my concerns about my recent workload and particularly new responsibilities and time taken to write/ plan/ mark down on paper to discuss with Line Manager. I would not refuse either obs or scrutiny but make it clear that the KS3 obs would be better in the 2nd cycle of 6 weeks when you have had time to evaluate and amend your new SOW. You should have been given a timetable of obs at the beginning of the year and check where this obs fits into that schedule and ask if the obs will count on your appraisal record. You are allowed to choose when and where... I realise some schools are now giving dates in a week of time and if this is the case you could refuse if the obs is not on the cycle and you certainly do not have to have the comments recorded.

    I would absolutely, definitely make the 'people above' know and understand that you were only told in September about changes to SOW.

    This kind of pressure seems to be becoming the norm.
    onbekende and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  14. TheOtherHalf1

    TheOtherHalf1 New commenter

    It becomes the norm when it is allowed to happen and unchallenged.
    onbekende, thistledoo and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  15. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I don't think it is uncommon to have to teach two subjects plus PSHCE .Many colleagues will talk about teaching successfully across the breadth and ability range ( KS3 - KS5 ) in their application forms. It makes you desirable because you are a flexible, adaptable specialist. I completely understand why the HoD is keen to conduct x, y and z and being new in post will want to get a handle on his / her staff ASAP. What have you to fear ? You are a professional and doing your job - the timing may not be in accordance to the schedule but still counts ?
    onbekende and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    I'd be re-assertive. I'd ask to do a peer review and to look at his teaching of key difficult topics and review examples of his marking to get an idea of practice. You know, as an exchange of professional expertise. Be really keen. Show me yours! Show you mine! And again. Next week as well.

    Very quickly you get left alone. ;-)
    install, onbekende and thistledoo like this.
  17. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    Thanks for all your responses. I have tried to be as constructive and reasonable as possible with this person. However, I'm afraid things are not going well!

    Parents have been calling in complaining about the year 8 scheme of work - in the name of "rigour", it races through too many topics leaving students confused and upset. This I suppose is good, as it's good for management to hear that message from others, rather than from me.

    So... I went along with work scrutiny...
    I received my books back from HoD covered in post-it notes E.g. "last week's classwork incomplete for student X, please follow up" - when I already knew Student X had a music lesson and fully intended to follow up, but literally hadn't seen said student since. Or "why no housepoint awarded here for such a good answer?" -but that was a model answer copied down from the board. Last straw was when I gave the books back to the girls. Several hands shot up, asking about comments on their homework that didn't make sense. I then realised to my horror that HoD had added comments to 4 or 5 homeworks in her own writing, without telling me! To add insults to injury, the kids were right - some of them did not indeed make sense - she had "corrected" perfectly good spellings, for example!

    I find all of this pretty soul-destroying! Clearly, HoD has no trust or respect for my ability to do a good job and "marking my marking" in the kid's books is so undermining. So... I have had a word with one of the Deputy Heads, a reasonable woman who says she's going to "have a word" and has decided to tell HoD to "postpone my lesson observation because I'm so busy in my main subject" - can't decide whether this is good, or they're just trying to placate me and I"ll be faced with more hassle after half term.

    Any further thoughts guys?
  18. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    It is a good thing. This new hod has lost sight of priorities and seems to be doing things for the sake of it, adding comments to books that aren't needed for the sake of it.
    onbekende and grumpydogwoman like this.
  19. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    It's a good thing that the SLT are taking you seriously
    HOD probably does have a lot of respect for you, just needs to show they are doing something.

    Love the fact they 'marked' books incorrectly...how to make yourself look a tit!
    Lara mfl 05 and onbekende like this.
  20. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    From the DH? That's good.

    Beware the reaction of the HOD however. She's probably going to feel her nose is put out of joint. She may feel 'got at'. This depends upon how tactful the DH is when tackling her.

    Just forget it for now. You've done your best.
    Lara mfl 05 and onbekende like this.

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