More Drama…

I haven’t posted for a while because I decided to REALLY switch off from work. 12 hrs after we finished I jumped on a plane and was on a beach sipping cocktails and totally forgetting about work. The plane tucked down and 24hrs later I was flying over to the Emerald Isle to spend two weeks with family, and again, really forget about work. \

I have done nothing.

Yes, I have though about work, I have thought about displays, planning etc., but not too much and I have certainly not started to do anything. I decided I would leave it until the last two weeks and just take my time and not get too stressed. My health is too important. 

Cue this morning.

I arrive back home after a bumpy Ryan Air flight from Dublin to see my new contract. The first thing I notice is PERMANENT TEACHER. I am ecstatic! This means I can’t get sacked, I will be entitled to maternity pay when the time comes, it will be so easy to buy a new car on finance. I have stability. Then comes the absolute sting in the tail. The crushing devastation and an actual loss of breath. They (my school) are keeping me on the same pay. M1. The NQT pittance that does not cover my hours of 7.15am- 5.45pm. The pittance that I struggled to survive on, but thought it would be only a few more months before I moved up the pay scale. Is this legal? After much research, I have discovered that yes, thanks to Mr Gove’s wonderful legacy, yes, it is. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

As it’s the weekend, I can’t speak to my union until Monday, but after not wanting to ‘rock the boat’, over these past difficult months, I will most certainly be ringing them on Monday.

The thing is not progressing people on the pay scale is the absolute WORSE thing that a school can do to get a teacher to maintain a positive attitude, keep up morale, want to get good results and quite importantly remain loyal to the school. 

In the 10minutes that I read over my contact. I can no longer seeing myself getting into school for 7.15am anymore, I do not want to continue with the free arts and crafts after school club that I set up off my own back, my enthusiasm for my displays that I have been planning has all disappeared and a general sense of giving up has set in. How have I worked, cried, stressed and slept like a dog for the past school year to not be rewarded or shown ANY appreciation? 

I am fuming. I am fuming that they did not tell me this to my face. If I had known this would have been the case I would have looked for a new job starting in September. I am fuming that I will be on the same wage yet I am now a subject leader (more work) and I am working more (no more NQT time). I am fuming that the school is not trying to encourage my potential and make me want to excel. Why excel when you feel unappreciated? The fact that they have given me a permanent contract is great on one hand, but then keeping me on the same wage is absolutely disgusting. I have had no appraisal- I thought there had to be some kind of verbal reasoning as to why you are kept on the same wage? I also thought that there was no automatic pay progression anymore, but an NQT has to move up regardless.

Fuming. Fuming. Disheartened. And fuming. I can’t help thinking that my final failed observation has cost be two grand.

I will let you know the outcome after I have contacted my Union on Monday.

Overwhelming response to my last post.

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to the over whelming response that I have had since I posted last night about failing my final NQT observation. I have read through every single comment and got so much advise. It is great/ upsetting to hear that I am not alone. some of you have had horrendous times and as a whole my NQT year has been tough, but not soul destroying (until yesterday) and I have genuinely enjoyed my year. Yes, I am pleased that I have passed my year, but as one blogger posted, it’s a shame that an NQT goes through so much stress only to dread year two and be put under more intense pressure.

I have had 24hrs to think about what has happened and unfortunately, I am still not fully over the ‘blow’ and I found myself quite down and unenthusiastic today in school. When I was teaching I almost had a ‘what is the point?’, it has really knocked my confidence but most importantly my drive. At the moment (and I hope this will change) I feel like it has dampened my spirit and they have dimmed a little bit of my light. My mum rang me at lunch time and when I answered the phone she commented on how ‘disheartened’ I felt. She too said get the union involved, but I agree with Toby when he said getting the union involved would ‘mark my card’, my card has already been marked somewhat because of me speaking up to the TA who was belittling me. (She just so happens to be best friends with the teacher who did my observation. Petty coincidence? Friends sticking up for each other? Getting their own back? Maybe. But I don’t want to start going down the paranoid route).

I have reflected and spoke to lots of people regarding yesterday. The facts are, I have never had an ‘outstanding’ observation this year, although I have had good, positive ones, and until my final observation, I was making progress. I have only had negative observations when my mentor observes with another higher level member of staff. I personally don’t respect my mentor as a teacher, I have seen her teach and it was one of the most shockingly bad lessons I have seen in my life. At the end of it she said ‘sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I’ve not taught RE for ages…’ Anyway, it seems to me that she just goes with whatever someone else says. It is annoying that to save her own back she has put the blame on me. I am also kicking myself because she offered to look at my planning for the lesson and I said it was ok (HUGE mistake) as in the slating she said ‘I mean, you don’t even want advice, I offer to look at your planning but you refused.’ I didn’t refuse, I just said I would have liked to try myself and see how it goes, so now she is scott free on the responsibility front on that account. I still think my lesson was not a fail. The children were engaged, loved the lesson and learnt something. I don’t agree with the intense planning scrutiny and observations that are to come, but I have come to realise that it is all a game and if it means three months of hell to get them off my back after Christmas, then so be it.

As the eternal optimist I will now state the positives:

*The first, most important one is that I PASSED. I have passed my NQT year. I survived. My salary will increase and I don’t need to go into the new academic year with unfinished business, so to speak.

*I am still in year 2 next year with the same TA. We work together well, she is extremely supportive (my school rock), and I have all my planning and will have a better idea of what to do.

*My headmistress has been so supportive, to be honest. I went to see her this morning. She told me that she had heard about my bad lesson observation (that’s just great, isn’t it?), but she is going to have a meeting with me tomorrow afternoon to go through how she is going to help me come September. (A bit embarrassed about this- but pleased with the support). As my TA said, she wouldn’t be putting all this in place if she didn’t want to invest in me.

*My children have made progress and moved up the appropriate APS points. Not everyone is on track, but they have made great progress and a few have made huge jumps.

*’What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ All this pressure next year will make me the strongest teacher I can be. I will be a ‘better teacher for it.’

I know it will be hard work. I know it will be tough. I know that there is no chance of trying to get that elusive work/ life balance come September. But the positive thing is, I’m ready. I’m expecting it. And I am going to prepare for battle in the summer holidays.

I can and I will do it!

Wow…. failed final observation.

The thing about the NQT year is, you just get used to things, you feel like you’re getting the hang of things, slowly getting a work life balance and then WOOOOSH! The rug is literally pulled from under you. This happened today.

With only two weeks left to the half term, I had my last observation. I have my class for next year, I’m excited to still be working with my TA who I love and my class next year is a brand new one with all new mod cons. I just had to get through my last observation. And I failed. Well to put it bluntly by my mentor, ‘that lesson was a bit wobbly…. no, actually, it would have failed.’
‘Can I do it again?’
‘No, I’ve just told Miss X (Headmistress) how… how it needs more work and you’re going to be observed weekly from September. And we’ll need to see all your short term planning by Monday mornings. But the good news is that you’ve passed.’

I asked her why/ how/ what? Panic rising inside me, but more than anything, just a really big feeling of sh*tness. It feels sh*t to be told that you’re just not good enough. It feels low to be told ‘you’re just not where you should be.’ And there’s only so many times you can hear ‘if Ofsted saw that… if Ofsted looked at that….if Ofsted were here today.’ You know what? Ofsted can p*ss off.

My results are good. They speak for themselves. I had all children making progress, only four didn’t pass their SATS. I am in school at 7.30am every morning and leave at 6pm. I work at weekends. I plan for 5 sets of differentiated work per lesson, I have numerous interventions in place, I try to be ‘sparkly’ and ‘shiny’ for each lesson and I mark books on time and do displays. I have had no sleep properly since September, I have had no real social life (or sex life, to put it bluntly) since last summer. And to then be told that I’m just not ‘getting there’ and that this change can only come from me, it’s what i ‘have to work on’ is just devastating. I. Don’t. know. What. Else. I. Am. Supposed. To. Do.

Maybe, just maybe I am not a very good teacher? I need to face the facts that, in all honesty, maybe I’m just not a good teacher and that I will most likely always ‘require improvement’. I’ve seen the outstanding teachers at my school- and I don’t want to be them. One is going through a divorce with her husband of 2 years because she is never there for him and doesn’t have time for anything that isn’t school related and another one looks like she is ill, has had a mental breakdown and resents her job. That’s what I’m really scared of- that thus job will break me. It will batter all confidence and enthusiasm out of me until I am one of ‘those’ teachers who hate thier jobs and the children and the curriculum and the lessons and the life!

Phew. It actually feels good to get it off my chest. I am going to have a hot bath, get a really nice out fit ready to wear to work and have a good night’s sleep, not thinking about anything. And yes, I cried in school today, but I think crying for the first time in July with two weeks to go during my NQT year is outstanding.

Last observation this week…. why am I so nervous?

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Well, to say my NQT year has zoomed by, that would be an understatement. One minute it was September and I was full of enthusiastic energy, then it was December where I was questioning my abilities and sanity, fast forward to Easter, where things were looking up and now I’m here; three weeks to go. And one final observation.

I am nervous. Very nervous. This is my last chance to prove that I am a good teacher with elements of outstanding. If only it could be that easy. I have been told that my lesson this week must be ‘sparkly’, and have lots of ‘sprinkles’. Yes seriously. I have been told to do a Science lesson that is sparkly and has sprinkles. My face must have shown what i was thinking as my mentor said ‘don’t ask me what a sparkly lesson is… but you know…. make it big and lively’. All this was said with large accompanying hand movements. 

So now it’s a Sunday afternoon and I have 4 days to go and my mind is a blank. I haven’t got a clue. But one thing I am sure of, is that I will get my good with outstanding if it bloody kills me, because I have to. I cannot deal with the stress of being ‘RI’ (requires improvement), my self esteem has taken such a battering this term, that I have to finish the year on a high. I’ve been there on both sides of the scale. I’ve had a nearly inadequate observation and i’ve had a nearly outstanding, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one doesn’t cause sleepless nights.

So, yes, I will go out all singing and all dancing, I will create a lesson that is false, not a true reflection of how I normally teach and go way over the top with what little energy I have left and I will show my mentor what sparkly means. All teacher’s find that they have to become West End performers to jump through the hoops that this current government is setting for them.

Gosh, it’s all so fake and artificial. 

Welcome to education under Michael Gove. 

5 weeks to go… we look 5 decades older.

1-woman-older-and-tiredWe had a staff meeting today. A meeting about how the government is changing the levelling. How we will still use APS points, how the families have only just gotten grips with what a 3C and a 3A actually means, how this is all anyone needs right now. I had been in school from 7.30am and was now being expected to be fully awake, engaged and enthusiastic in a meeting that was going to last until 5pm.

As my mind drifted, I looked around the room and realised, quite shockingly, was that we all looked bad. I mean, we honestly all looked ill. Our headmistress is a young headmistress- she has a 5year old daughter- but today, I looked at her hair that is riddled with grey, I saw deep, deep lines in her forehead (they looked like worry lines) and saw prominent wrinkles around her eyes, which I doubt would have been there if she was a manager of a library or baked sausage rolls in Greggs. (Oh to work in Greggs, where the only thing you think about after work if whether you left the meat and potato pies in the oven for too long today). Anyway, my Head didn’t look good. I turned to a glamorous SLT member. She looks like she plans her outfits with precision each morning, her hair is immaculate and she wears pointed stilettos all day every day. Surely it’s just my Head who is having a bad day? But no, this SLT leader looked grey. Maybe it was just the lighting? No, she was definitely grey. This morning she had been mixed race.

Another teacher’s hair was so greasy it was bordering on obscene. She had no make up on (when does the stopping of make up happen? Year 3-4?) and she looked exhausted. Another had deep lines creased around her mouth, another looked like the walking dead. And I’m not to be excused from this line up either. My hair is just scraped back, I have an unhealthy yellow tinge to my skin and I just feel exhausted. It’s like we have all switched off, like we are coming to the end of a prison sentence and we can see the light.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that we all looked absolutely horrendous, and if greasy hair, grey skin and deep wrinkles are all I have to look forward to, then I seriously need to make sure that I am not in this profession long enough for that to happen.

On the home run!

I actually cannot believe that I only have 6 weeks left of my NQT year. One observation is all that stands between me and passing my NQT year. What can I say? In some respects it seems like a life time ago since I started at my school, but in other ways, it has passed in a blink of an eye. 

Have I enjoyed this year? Yes. Yes, I have. There were times when I honestly thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was just sh*t, I was rubbish, I was an ‘inadequate’ teacher. There were times when I didn’t know how I was going to get all my paperwork done, or mark all of the books that need marking or deal with everything that needs dealing with. But the good news is, things DO get better/ easier. I still hope that I will finish this year without any dramas. The TA, Steph, who I spoke to has resurfaced this term and could easily manage to make life difficult for me (post to follow with this on going drama soon), I still have 30 reports to write and get all my files in order to pass onto the next teacher (who is the phase leader- so everything has to be in tip top condition!), but I am pleased with my choice of doing the PGCE.

I am also glad that this year has made me realise that I no longer regret taking those years out after uni to get life experience before starting in education. During my course I was thinking I should have done it straight away after uni, I had left it too late (?!), I would have been over all this stress by now and on a really good wage up the pay scale without all this performance related pay. However, I realise now everyone needs to have life experience, reckless years, carefree jobs, because honestly, I would be bloody depressed if I had come into this career at 22 and realised that I was staying here for the next forty years! Not that I would have lasted that long. I already know that I do not want to be a head or deputy anymore, I do not have the desire or stress levels to chase that. And yes, I will be in the statistics of teachers who leave the profession in 5 years.

Well, fingers crossed I can get out that soon and with my sanity in check…:)

Words & phrases I have banned from my every day vocabulary.

There are words and phrases that I can no longer use in my every day vocabulary outside of school. It’s like when you say something that your mum would say, without thinking. This is what I catch myself doing on a daily basis, exempt, I’m not saying things my mother says, I’m saying things a teacher would say! And it’s really annoying. Really annoying. This needs to stop.

1. Differentiation.

‘I can only see meat dishes. Where is the differentiation? We have two vegetarians coming to the dinner party. Plus a vegan and Jenny from next door is allergic to gluten. Thank goodness OFSTED haven’t been invited here tonight.’

2. Progress.

‘Your progress is amazing. I only asked you to paint the door frame, but in the hour you’ve painted the door frame and the skirting boards. Not only did you understand the learning objective, you even had time to do the extension activity too.’ 

3. How rude.

Said in an abrupt, annoying middle class accent,  (My Yorkshire accent suddenly forgotten), to anyone and anything that doesn’t do what I want, how I want. Including my toaster. ‘You’ve burnt my toast. How rude!’.

4. EAL

‘Sorry, I don’t really understand your accent. Are you EAL?…No. Oh right, you’re from Newcastle. Lovely. That’s nice.’

5. SEN

‘I’ve explained to you 6 times now, I want to switch my energy supplier. Do you not…? Oh sorry, you must be SEN. I’m so sorry. I’ll print off some pictures for you to help with your understanding, if you still don’t understand, that’s ok, we’ll try again with a 1:1 TA.’

6. High ability.

‘Oh, yes, he’s definitely high ability, did you see how he could just remember our food order with no support? Amazing. But we must think how we can challenge him when he takes our dessert order. We don’t want him coasting.’

7. APS

We’re moving, our house has gone up in value so we can afford a bigger house.’

‘Yes, but has it really gone up in value? I mean, by how many APS points? A house of that age and ability should have gone up by at least 16 APS points. Anything under that and it’s not even an achievement.’