TAs who think they are God.

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One thing anyone should be aware of coming into this profession, is that you’ll get less drama in an episode of Coronation Street, than you will in a school. I’ve been back three days and the drama just doesn’t stop. Today, it was due to a TA who thinks that they are God. There will always be a TA who think’s that they are God, or the Son/ daughter/ neighbour of God. They will know how to do the perfect displays (you will always do them wrong), they will know what is best for the children (you aren’t qualified to know this) and they will always have an opinion (a strong, usually offensive opinion).

Well today I had a little episode with my Holy TA. I have mentioned her in a previous post Office Politics and I am aware of her character and try to watch myself accordingly. It all happened yesterday, my TA was off so this TA was sent into my class to cover (she doesn’t have a class of her own, but always seems to be busy; drinking tea, having a gossip, doing displays). Anyway, I digress, she was sent into my classroom and at the end of the day she was stood at the classroom door sending people home. We have a child who is quite ‘naughty’ and was on a behaviour plan. His behaviour has improved immensely, but that playtime he had pushed another child quite violently and this child needed first aid. The parents are very interested to see how their child has behaved that day, so at the end of the day they asked. This TA, let’s call her Steph, said ‘oh, he’s been great today… blah, blah, blah’. I said, ‘oh, but he did a little bit of an incident today where he pushed a child and he’s left a bruise.’ Steph then butted in and said, ‘Oh, but it wasn’t on purpose and the child he knocked into is not innocent all of the times.’ So that was that. I thanked her for her help and she stayed for another half an hour doing bits and bobs.

I didn’t think anything of it. I saw Steph in the staff room this morning, we had a chat, nothing much. That was it. Fast forward to 11am and I am in the PPA room with another TA and Steph comes flying through the door. ‘Do you know this incident with x?’

me: ‘What incident?’

Steph: ‘The incident that you told his mum about at home time yesterday’.

Me: ‘That he pushed someone and they needed first aid?’

Steph: ‘Did you log it?’

Me: ‘It happened at playtime, I was told about it-’

Steph: ‘YES, but did you log it?’

Me: ‘I can’t log an incident if I wasn’t there. The dinner ladies logged it.’

Steph: ‘Well, I’ve just spoke to your TA who said it didn’t happen yesterday, but it happened before half term and you haven’t logged it on the DFE form.’

Me: ‘I don’t know what a DFE form is.’

Steph: ‘Well, you should do. And you said he needed first aid.

Me: Yes, he had a bump. And a small bruise-’

Steph: So there was a small bruise?

Me: Yes.

Steph: Did you see it?

Me: Yes, he had a small bruise on his -’

Steph: ‘You can’t get a small bruise in the space of a couple of hours.’

(Que the Head Mistress walking into the PPA room to get files. Que me wanting this conversation to end now).

Me: I saw the bruise and I spoke to the dinner lady. She said it was dealt with and -’

Steph: Yeah, but you need to log it on the DFE form.’

Me: …er…right.

The conversation went on a bit more, headmistress is now listening in, other teacher is witnessing the whole thing and I’m just really confused. I don’t actually know what the conversation is about. I don’t know what the point is? Should I have logged something that I didn’t see? Is x lying about a bruise on his head? Am I in trouble because I mentioned something that happened this week and not something that happened before half term? And more importantly, who are you to publicly give me a dressing down in front of another colleague and the Headmistress? It is not about status, it’s about you being professional and actually knowing what you want to speak to me about, not bursting, literally bursting, into the PPA room and having a go at me. The tone cannot be done justice in print. I felt like I was being questioned by a lawyer. Everything I said was twisted, ‘yeah, but..’, ‘well I’ve just spoken to your TA who said…’

The other teacher in the room said the conversation was quite aggressive and I spoke to my Key Stage Manager as it is not the first time she has spoken to me like dirt. She’s very defensive and unprofessional, so I thought I had to seek advice on what to do because if she can say things like that and judge my abilities in front of the headmistress, what is she saying behind my back! So I have to take her to one side and speak to her tomorrow. I’m very nervous. I don’t want it to be blown into something bigger than it is, but also I will not be spoken to like that by anyone. It happens at least once a week. I haven’t started my lesson on time, I didn’t tell her I had swapped my hall duty- things that have nothing to do with her. And even though I know it’s my place to say something, I’m still not looking forward to it.

Afterwards I spoke to me Headmistress and clarified if I am meant to log something that I didn’t see. Just as I stated to Steph, no, you cannot log an incident in the playground that you did not see. You have to be a witness, otherwise we would be logging everything, ‘miss, Jake pushed me to the ground’, ‘Emily called me names’, ‘Hayley, gave me a black eye.’ As I was leaving she said, ‘I don’t know what a DFE form is either.’

Teachers 1  Holy TA 0

New Term!

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So after two weeks and 1 day off for a fabulous Easter half term- I started back today for my third and final NQT term. Last night I was so worried about over sleeping, that in a panic I woke up at midnight and demanded that my other half get out of bed and set his alarm clock, ‘just in case mine didn’t go off.’ I was also worried about how I would cope with the 6am alarm call too, after I had been waking up at 11am on some days. (I’m an NQT. Don’t judge me). But it’s like your body just knows. I was up, showered, dressed and out the door at 7am. (Ouch).

The Bank Holiday yesterday has given me a boost, a little 4 day week to ease me back in. Last night I was worried about how I would teach, I don’t remember the marking policy, how do I do a plenary again? My electricity display is still really crap. Anyway, I needn’t have worried. Less than 5minutes back into the school and it felt like I had never been away.

I was hoping for a nice uneventful day too, but it started by my Headmistress asking me for last term’s reading test results. (I had given them to her just under a month ago). She could’t remember this. Then she did remember. Then she went to find them. Then she couldn’t find them. The woman still makes me nervous around her, so this wasn’t the best exchange at 8.30am on a Monday morning. Luckily, the year 4 teacher had let me in on a little secret in September, ‘Photocopy everything you give to Sandra. She looses everything. The amount of times I’ve spent ages doing something, only for her to loose it and I have to do it all over again.’ She had learn’t the hard way. Lucky for me I had taken her advice onboard, and I gave the headmistress the photocopy of the results.

An hour later, she was back. She wasn’t pleased with the reading results. Quite a few children have flatlined since September, a couple have gone backwards and hardly any are making enough APS points. Bloody APS points?! Our school is in an area of Yorkshire where 80% of the children can’t even speak English, let alone read English. So my dinner time was taken up with a meeting with my headmistress to discuss the children’s progress (or lack of it) and what needs to be done. I have all this data printed out and honestly, I don’t know how some of these children can move up 1 APS point, let alone the recommended national average of 6 points!

Anyway, I digress. I actually had a good day, and I was pleased to be back. Honestly, I really was. I’ve decided that I can’t be outstanding everyday, so I’ve let that pressure go. I’m happy with my work/ life balance, I love my class and I’m getting to terms with planning ‘good’ lessons on a daily basis. Yes, I’ve already got paperwork coming out of my ears, but in the grand scheme of things I was happy enough to go back to work today.

I’d be even happier if I didn’t have to set my alarm clock for 6am though….

I had a good lesson observation!

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So, I always thought that my NQT year would be quite straight forward. Not easy. But seeing as I had sailed through the PGCE, I didn’t expect it to be quite so soul destroyingly difficult as it has been so far. I haven’t had the best start to my NQT year, each lesson observation was deemed ‘Requires Improvement’. Which has been hard. Even though I knew that the outstandings I received on placements were not the based on the official OFSTED (spit on the floor) outstanding gradings, it was still difficult being told that you are no where near up to scratch. Factor in an absolutely abysmal observation four days before the end of the Christmas half term, ‘I mean you’ve passed, but only just’ and I had to admit to myself that my confidence was being slowly but fiercely chipped away from me. I had visions on the school asking me to leave after my NQT 1 year contract was up, I was feeling low and the worse teacher ever when I heard of others in the school who had been observed and got good, with elements of outstanding. I thought, maybe, I’m just one of those people who thinks that they are quite good, but are actually sh*t. Oh God- I’m a sh*t teacher!

So with all these negative thoughts/ feelings and my confidence at an out of character all time low, I had my lesson observation for this term, four days ago. And guess what. It was good! It was actually, really good, which made me feel really good. I can’t believe that grown people are turned into grinning, children again just by being told, by other grown people, that what they saw them teach was good. Ludicrous.

Anyway, I’ll tell you a little bit about my observation. It was literacy this time. My first literacy lesson and because my mentor has been so busy this term, it was two days before we broke up for half term, which meant that if it had gone terribly wrong, then there would not have been another opportunity for me to redo it before the end of half term. I knew that whatever was going to happen in my lesson observation was going into my official NQT assessment. But thankfully, it went as good as I had hoped and prayed it would. The children’s behaviour was exemplary, no one let me down. Even a last minute borrow of my TA for the yr6 practice SATS exams couldn’t dampen my spirits. I kept calm and carried on. 

The main difference with this lesson was that was confident in the lesson, I was looking forward to teaching it and I wanted someone to see it, because I knew it was fun, engaging and that the children would definitely learn from it and make thier bloody ‘progress.’ This enthusiasm for the lesson was contagious, the children fed off it and wanted to learn. I was more free to be creative than with my numeracy observations and i could be more flexible. I didn’t have to ensure I followed a strict, rigid format: starter, main, plenary. I could show my personality in this lesson and I feel that is why I ‘shined’ last week, so to speak. And I honestly cannot tell you how amazing and utterly relieved I felt after my observation. It was such a lovely way to end, what has been my favourite term so far.

I just wish that teacher’s happiness and stress levels were not determined by how well another person judges our lesson.

Strike Day- March 26th

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Today is Strike Day. Yesterday at the school gates all the parents were giving me winks, ‘enjoy your day off’ wink wink. ‘Enjoy your lie in’ nudge nudge. ‘Teachers strike day, eh?’ nudge wink. Not one parent asked what is was about, or seemed vaguely interested in why we were striking.

I don’t think people actually get it. Yes, on one hand I do want to strike for selfish reasons. I am tired, a mid week day off is just what I need- I can stay in my onsie until midday. But on the other hand I didn’t want to strike; I miss a much needed (just bought a house) day of pay, I have end of term tests that need to be finished and assessed by Friday (I can’t actually do them without the kids) and the most important reason- I wish the government weren’t shafted teachers in the first place! I wish there was no need for a strike. But this time, there really is.

Working until 68? I’m 28 and I sometimes find it a struggle getting up from sitting on the carpet and crossing my legs. I actually cannot imagine having lesson observations in my 60s.
Performance related pay- just an excuse for some bullying heads to exert more power. My friend doesn’t get on with her Head and has already been told that she will most likely not get her annual pay increase due to ‘poor results.’
Longer days. If this absolutely ludicrous law was ever passed, I would be handing in my notice the following day. Seriously.
The constant pressure to constantly be ‘outstanding.’
The disappearance of fun and creativity.
The increase in pensions. Put more in, get less out. Yeah, that makes sense?!
In fact, I could go on, I disagree with everything. And to be honest I don’t know how effective these strikes are. When the government want something, they’ll just do it. Regardless. And it’s a shame because in the end it’s always the children who suffer, the children that are supposed to be getting a better experience with these changes. It just doesn’t make sense. None of it does.

Anyway, for now I will enjoy my Strike Day. I got up a little later than usual and I am still in my onsie. But I have been working for two hours straight already and that was to rid myself of guilt before I go shopping and for lunch with my mum.

Teacher’s Guilt, much worser than Catholic guilt. Seriously.

 

I’ve realised…. that I’m happy

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I’m going into week 4 of this Spring2 term, which means there’s only 3 weeks left until the (TWO WEEKS) Easter half term. Spring 1 was a difficult term for me, I don’t know why, but I was down, feeling dissatisfied with teaching and moral was very low at my work. Fast forward a month, and I don’t how or even when it happened, but one day I finished work and I was laughing- at goodness knows what- and I realised ‘I’m happy.’ I’m at work and I am actually happy. There is nothing to complain about, I don’t feel like I am drowning, the children even seem happy- and so am I! It feels amazing.

It goes to show that positivity breeds positivity. Before the start of the term, I kept telling everyone that i was excited for this term and really looking forward to it because we had a lot of fun stuff planned- World Book Day, Sports Relief, two school trips etc., and before I knew it, I really was looking forward to the weeks ahead. And this positive attitude rubbed off on the children- they became excited too.

I stopped moaning. I decided that when people said ‘alright?’ I would give them a huge smile and say ‘yes, are you?” Instead of my usual, ‘yeah, I’m so tried’ yawn. It really does make a difference.

So, we’ll see how long it lasts, but I’ve decided to stop moaning. Yes, we all know the negatives about being a teacher, we hear them every bloody time we switch the news on and there’s some teacher bashing headline. But I’m going to list my positives just to help me remember why I decided to go down this path just over a year again:

  • No two hrs are the same, let alone no two days! Where else can you work where you have not got a clue how the hour is going to go? We could be stuck at a desk typing in the same data for the same people, that we did the same time, in the same place at the same time last year.
  • The day zooms by. It really does, I am constantly looking at the clock thinking ‘go slower, go slower! I’ve not done my plenary yet!.’
  • Work colleagues really are some of the closest work colleagues that you can get. No one will understand you like them. And I am grateful for all the ace people that I work with in my school.
  • The pay isn’t that bad really, unlike a receptionist, there is pay progression- we will not be on the same NQT wage in 5 years time. You can actually see where you want to go.
  • The children- we are so lucky to get to work with little people all day and nurture them into future little human beings.
  • Paper work aside- the job is fun. I am a daily actor for the 10mins I read a Jacqueline Wilson books each day, I get to dress up, paint, make displays and sing songs each day.
  • The holidays! Yes, I do work, but I still get to have lie ins, rest and go shopping during the day when the rest of my friends are working in their 9-5s.

And honestly, I could go on. So for now, I’m going to pour a glass of wine and relax watching The voice. Knowing that I will go to bed tonight, looking forward to getting up for work tomorrow. What’s not to be happy about? :)

Office politics.

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Before I was a teacher I had worked in a lot of schools. And the first thing that I noticed was how bitchy they were. Every school I went in was full of catty women bitching about another workers clothes, way with children, a new partner, what time someone arrived at school, what time someone left. I couldn’t believe it. They would have lunch with a work colleague, only to bitch about them the second they left the room. I was shocked. I didn’t think that schools were like that. How wrong I was. School had been full of cliques when I was there as an adult, so I suppose it wouldn’t be any different now that I was there as an adult. 

That is until I started at my school.

It was different. There was no bitching in the staff room. There was no colleague that was a ‘target’, there was no one that people rolled their eyes at when they spoke. Even having a female head didn’t cause any problems. She was, and thankfully still is, a professional. I have never heard, seen, or been told about anything underhand or bitchy that she has done or said. She is strictly business (at one school I worked at with a female head, she had exploded at her staff on the Monday morning after the Christmas do because no one had wanted to sit with her at the table. Another time she had said ‘that’s fu*king nice!’ when she heard that all the KS2 teachers had gone out for a meal without inviting her. Yes really). My head isn’t like that. She’s scary. But she’s great. I like her.

Anyway, slowly, since December I’ve heard little snippets from my TA about ‘politics’ that I should keep away from. Like the fact that the only male teacher in the school is going around saying he will be Deputy soon, how the foundation and KS2 managers’ boyfriends are best friends so be careful what you say to one about the other (or about the school) because they will talk about you behind your back. And how the SEN co ordinated, never drinks at work dos because she likes to listen to everything that is said by loose mouths and report back to her best friend (the headmistress). Thank goodness my TA told me these ‘secrets’, and has given me much valued inside knowledge. Not that I would ever say anything controversial in school, but there’s always times when you slip up. Last month a new teacher was slagging off the KS2 manager to the KS1 manager (cringe). How was she to know that they see each other every weekend and that their partners are best friends? And ultimately is it my place to pass on the insider knowledge I know or just keep quiet? I had to just keep quiet unfortunately. Not that I wanted to, it’s just if I start a conversation with ‘don’t say anything, but…’ I straight away get caught into the office politics web.

My eyes were definitely opened this week though. My TA was off on Wednesday and as I have 30 children and quite a few SEN another TA was sent in for the day. Now she’s not my sort of person, but I thought i got along with her and that she was decent, ok. Well, we have a school trip to Bretton Yorkshire Sculpture Park coming up (dry weather please) and a parent came to me with an envelope with the trip money. I definitely took the envelope and then a mass of parents were at the door asking questions about the trip, questions about homework, had a seen their childs pe kit? Jack came home with Ali’s trousers on… etc. etc. Next thing I know, my TA had said have you got x’s trip money? Oh no! I realised that I had put the envelope down in the madness and I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere where I had been in the morning and i couldn’t find it. I said it will definitely be there and I’ll look at the end of the day. And if i couldn’t find it, I will just pay the money my self. ‘Aw, don’t worry about it. It’ll be here. Look for it at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be in until next week.’

That was that. My TA came back the next day and said that I had to go to the admin office and tell them that i had lost x’s trip money. My TA said that as she was walking into school that morning, the TA who had been in my class yesterday had come running up to her and said ‘you’ll never guess what? That bloody NQT lost x’s trip money yesterday. I mean, how can you loose someone’s envelope with trip money in?! Anyway, I went straight to the office and told them.’

Well I was in shock. Not only had she said don’t worry, you’ll find it. She had put me into a false sense of security and brushed off my own panic and concern. Don’t worry about it. She said. It’ll be fine. She said. What annoyed me the most is, why didn’t she be honest and say it to my face. I went straight to admin and told them i had lost it. I said I will pay for it myself. They were extremley understanding and said ‘don’t worry’ (where have I heard that before?) and that to be honest trip money is not my responsibility. I offered to pay for it and they said don’t bother. All parents know that the school policy is that all money for anything and everything must be handed into the office.

Once again, I realised in schools that you can’t trust everyone. A loyal TA is worth it’s weight in gold and no school doesn’t have any office politics. And how I miss open aired ‘bitchyness’, because at least then you know where you stand. Hidden politics is way more dangerous.

Ps. I paid for the trip money the next day with my own money.