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What support can I ask for?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by -myrtille-, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Hi,

    I am acting in the HoD role this year, as a maternity cover. Initially I was enjoying the role (which I am sharing with a part-time colleague). We have lots of ideas for developing our SoW and teaching in our department, and in the Summer term we were starting to put these in place and see the impact.

    We're a small department (3.5 staff) and have always had very strong relationships within the team.

    This academic year we have just had so much bad luck.

    A long-term supply teacher (maternity cover) left, for personal reasons (not to do with the school) in the first month.
    A new permanent member of staff was off sick for about 6 weeks in Oct/Nov. We've just come back from Christmas and they've been off again for the week with a different illness.
    My closest colleague is going through a family tragedy which is going to impact their capacity at work and probably their attendance over the next few months.

    There have been days when I'm the only permanent member of the department on site, and I've been sorting out all of the cover work and dealing with behaviour arising from cover lessons.

    Basically I'm still standing but am really burnt out. My brain isn't working when I try to do my own job (ie: planning lessons for the 9 groups that I personally teach). I've been honest with SLT about this, and they seem understanding. They recognise that my colleague and I have done a good job in difficult circumstances.

    Yesterday the Head asked me what they can do to support me. My mind went blank and I couldn't think of anything, so I said I'd think about it.

    They have already allowed me to step down for a term from most aspects of a different TLR role I have. I am no longer leading CPD, so that's one less thing for me to worry about.

    I do have a tutor group, so could ask for them to be taken off me. But actually they don't add much to my workload (they are well behaved Y7s) and I can normally potter around getting stuff ready for the day during tutor time whilst chatting to them and getting them to do literacy/numeracy/reading or whatever the day's task is. Currently when there's loads of cover work to sort out at the last minute, I ask for my tutor group to be covered, so if that can continue I'm happy with the arrangement.

    What would you ask for if your Head was offering support?
     
  2. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    I'm not the best to advise you as I'm one of those supply teachers who wander in for a term or so and wander off again however re support
    1. Quality of supply
      Do you have any choice or quality control over who comes in? Could your line manager devote a serious amount of time to find a long-term replacement or two? Is there any extra cash available to bribe the good ones to come in and hang around?
    2. Rearrange priorities
      Redefine your job as teaching your classes and arranging cover for the rest. All other parts of your TLR handled by a member of SLT.
    3. Assistance with behaviour management
      Can SLT prowl the corridors at lesson change-over and generally help with the class-calming that 'yet another supply teacher' will need for the first few days?
    4. Support for ALL the department
      Can SLT step up to credibly offer similar support to others there?
    I've just started at a new school which could be yours and I suspect that at least 3. is happening. I've received welcome attention and support from various SLT and shouters with radios and this is helping me prove that I'm one of 'good ones' who they want to keep for a long time.

    Finally remember your personal health, I've suffered depression in the past and I've seen HoDs in a far worse state than the depths I've sunk to. No advancement (or school) is worth that sacrifice.

    All the Best

    EDIT: All points 1-4 are far too big an ask. I hope you're skilled enough at negotiation and politicking to use them as a starting point though.
     
    agathamorse, -myrtille- and strawbs like this.
  3. pianopete

    pianopete Occasional commenter

    Morning,

    What a situation. I hope you are managing to find personal time in the evenings and at weekends to try and switch off and relax. That really is priority number one! I've not been in this situation but am a HoD and quite good at negotiation but as mentioned above you have to ask for more and be willing to compromise.

    As you recognise, form time is an obvious gain. Even if they don't create work having form time free is very useful. If your school has it first thing, that can be a valuable moment if you need to check cover is in place, sort copying for the day etc. As HoD I don't have a form and that time is so valuable just to give a bit of breathing space in case things crop up at the start of the day.

    Plan your own lessons so that the same resources/sheets/textbooks etc. can be used by other teachers. Don't feel ashamed of having moments where your class are getting on and you can take a moment to sit, check a few emails, make a few notes for the next lesson etc. Not ideal - but giving it your all in the classroom and trying to manage everything else will burn you out.

    With supply, could you also get some flexibility here e.g. have some of your easier groups covered now and then so you can get out and support/ensure other groups are getting good quality of learning. That gives you ammunition should there start to be any parental concerns about cover teaching etc.

    How big are your classes? Is there any room to condense things e.g. 2 smaller sixth form classes that could merge into one? Might free up someone to support elsewhere?

    Without knowing the full situation, it's hard to give specific advice. At least it sounds like your leadership team are trying to be supportive.

    Stay smiling!
     
  4. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    I agree that losing your tutor group is the most obvious one - if you don't want to lose touch with them, then perhaps it could be seen as a joint tutor group, whereby someone else takes charge of the registering and suchlike, but they stay based in your room so you can support on the days when you're not busy sorting cover. It sounds as if you may have something close to this already, but perhaps if the other person were there by default you'd be a little more free, rather than having to work out each day if you need to ask.

    I also agree with the suggestion of getting your own groups covered, at least some of the time. If they're using day-to-day supply, they'll have some gaps when the person they're covering had PPA, which could be used to free you up.

    If you haven't got subject-specialist supply, plead for it, if available. Have you got any TAs/cover supervisors with any expertise in your subject who could be allocated more time in your department?

    Could someone else help out on the behaviour front? If supply teachers could call on someone else for issues which are purely behaviour, you could concentrate more on the subject side of things.
     
    agathamorse, -myrtille- and strawbs like this.
  5. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Thanks for all of your ideas.

    I think it's partly my own planning workload that is driving me mad. I teach Y11 French, Y11 Spanish, Y10 French, Y10 Spanish, Y9 French, Y9 Spanish, Y8 French, Y7 French (shared with 2 other teachers - both supply), Y7 Spanish (shared with 1 other teacher - absent a lot). So there are no duplicates - if I teach the same year group twice, it's a different language, so I need different resources. The HoD who is currently on maternity leave was our main Spanish specialist so this is the first time I have taught a Y11 GCSE Spanish group so I don't have previous resources to fall back on.

    The way we teach MFL doesn't lend itself to our resources being used for cover lessons. Our lessons are quite teacher-led with lots of questioning, mini-whiteboard quizzing, speaking activities, etc., so the powerpoints don't even make much sense to anyone else. So cover means finding worksheets/textbook materials that can be delivered by someone who doesn't speak the language.

    We have got long-term subject-specialist supply replacing the teacher who left at the start of the year. One teacher does 2 days and the other does 1 day, so I'm still spending a lot of time supporting them with planning and keeping them in the loop, because they just aren't here all the time. One of them is really good though, so that's one positive. :)

    The difficulty with the absent staff member is that it's not been consistent - they didn't get signed off for 2 months or anything like that. It's been off for a day, which turns into a week, which turns into another week. At one point they came back for a day or two but then were ill again. It's likely to be a similar issue with my colleague's impending bereavement - we won't know when they will feel unable to come to work and that they need to spend time with their parent, or how long for. So we can't recruit anyone long-term as we don't necessarily have a long-term absence, it's just really patchy.

    I'm going to ask for my tutor group to be taken off me on Mondays and Fridays as these are the busiest days in my department, both for my own teaching timetable and for cover. Friday is the day I have my 1x per week supply teacher, so having no tutor group would allow me to catch up with them.

    I'm also going to ask for behaviour support as a new behaviour mentor has been appointed this term. I'll also identify key lessons where I can't support with behaviour (eg: when I have a class of 34 children and no spare seats!) and ask for someone else to be the "behaviour buddy" at those times.

    Thanks for your input and just for listening. :)
     
    JohnJCazorla likes this.

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