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 child, 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 teacher, 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 full time TA came back the next day and said that I had to go to the admin office immediately 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 not 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.