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 outfit 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.


42 thoughts on “Wow…. failed final observation

  1. I can totally relate. Im an NQT and had a shitty time before Xmas with a school that just wouldn’t support me and then blamed me when I didn’t know how things work. You can do it and will do it. This is the worst time of year to be doing observations too. You’re tired, the kids are tired and no one cares anymore!
    I totally get what you mean about those teachers though! I want to love my job, not hate it and I’m not going to ruin the rest of my life for it. No one else would do that. I work hard and get things done, but I’m not jeopardising my health for it, no way!
    I hope you feel better soon, and if you ever just need a rant then I’m never far away! Much love xxxxx

    • I agree- there’s no way I’m jeopardizing my health for a job. As long as the children are learning, making progress and getting good results while enjoying school. That’s all that should matter. It is a bad time fir observations too- but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

  2. I’m so sorry 😦 You have worked so hard – you don’t deserve that.

    I only have one piece of advice: keep going 🙂

  3. You poor, poor thing. It is absolutely outrageous how we treat our teachers. I have spent 25 years teaching and frankly I was “wobbly” during my probationary year. I didn’t work anything LIKE the hours you do but I stuck with it & learnt heaps from the more experienced teachers. I like to think I have improved dramatically & done a good job. I don’t think I would have survived nowadays. This current mindset is going to ensure the teaching workforce is less diverse and only the most compliant teachers will survive. “Group think” rules our schools. I hope you stick with it & are supported by the staff. Join a union if you are not already a member

  4. Reading this gave me goosebumps.
    The management of ‘you’ by others has me concerned. You should (arguably) not have to differentiate five ways, you should not have to come in so early every day and leave so late every day. You should not have to work all weekend.
    Consider a number of things:
    Experience should make it easier.
    You may not have been taken care of well enough by management.
    You need a work-life balance and this may need you to fight your corner – and ask for a few ‘time-management studies’ to show you how to fit everything in.
    You might be right when other people say you are wrong (this is common).
    You need to adopt a very effective expression said in a Kevin tone = “Whatever” – which, in effect, means you need to develop a hard skin.
    Keep focused on your pupils – they are who counts.
    And you.
    Good luck.

  5. Reblogged this on James's thinking space and commented:
    How some NQTs are treated reminds me of children being bullied by others just because the others have the power to bully. So this poor teacher meets induction and all they have to look forward to is an even more oppressive year two. Remind me again how many great teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years?
    So on the basis of ONE lesson (and we all know lesson observation is at best unreliable) this poor teacher has a term of hell ahead of them.
    So we now have a teacher who by all other measures (assuming what is reported here is accurate) is good now thinking that they may not be a good teacher and may not ever be a good teacher.
    Imagine the outcry if the teacher had said to one of their pupils – ‘well up until now you have been fine and all your work is good, but that last bit of work you did was not up to my standards – so next term you have to be in the remedial group and have everything you do subject to scrutiny.’ On that basis alone I would grade the teacher as RI.
    So my verdict for this mentor is that he/she requires improvement and needs extra training in how to be an effective mentor!

  6. Reading this resonates with me. Although I didn’t have the same feedback from observations I had a mentor who always followed up one ‘ok’ thing with two ‘you need to improve’ comments. In the whole year I don’t think the words ‘your doing well’ once left her lips. Colleagues just said ‘keep your head down, keep quiet’. So I got out, well I am getting out, luckily a head who interviewed me for my NQT year remembered me and offered me a job. Needless to say the mentor was not happy. ‘We have moulded you and invested a lot of time in you’ was her response ‘It will look bad if you’ve only done one year’ was another comment. My advice; leave asap, why invest all that time and effort in people who don’t appreciate you? Luckily my new head seems lovely and even gave me a big hug when I turned up at the summer fair. I’m clinging on to the hope that not all schools are the same.
    All the best and well done for speaking out.

  7. I always had outstanding lesson observations, up to last month, then I got satisfactory I do not agree with the observation and have refused to sign it! I have been teaching for a number of years and have had students working with me. If your mentor feels you have failed, surely she/he has too? If any of my students failed to meet the grade, it would not be their fault, it would be mine as I had not given them the support needed. As for the hours you work, STOP IT! You will drive yourself to a break down or illness. I work 8am to about 4.30pm most days and get everything done, if you need more time ask your line manager for help! As Debbie says, adopt a ‘whatever’ attitude, it’s an opinion that one person has offered, ask another, and you will get a totally different opinion. You might also want to ask your mentor to deliver an outstanding lesson for you to observe as progress for you. Anyway, chin up, hold your head high and focus on what’s important, the children! x

  8. How some NQTs are treated reminds me of children being bullied by others just because the others have the power to bully. So this poor teacher meets induction and all they have to look forward to is an even more oppressive year two. Remind me again how many great teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years?
    So on the basis of ONE lesson (and we all know lesson observation is at best unreliable) this poor teacher has a term of hell ahead of them.
    So we now have a teacher who by all other measures (assuming what is reported here is accurate) is good now thinking that they may not be a good teacher and may not ever be a good teacher.
    Imagine the outcry if the teacher had said to one of their pupils – ‘well up until now you have been fine and all your work is good, but that last bit of work you did was not up to my standards – so next term you have to be in the remedial group and have everything you do subject to scrutiny.’ On that basis alone I would grade the teacher as RI.
    So my verdict for this mentor is that he/she requires improvement and needs extra training in how to be an effective mentor!

    Reblogged this on my blog account.

  9. I left my job as an NQT in January for those same reasons. I was told how rubbish i was and any ‘evidence’ of this was unjustified, widely exaggerated or just plain false. My choice was to either leave, contact my union or stick it out and eventually be failed. I didn’t have the emotional strength left in me to go to a union and fight, so I left.
    I am now happily enrolled in a new school having done long term supply in several schools. Each school told me how much they wished I would work for them and how I had made a huge difference. I am finally feeling good about being an NQT despite it still being hard work.
    No one should have to work in those conditions. I feel for you entirely!
    Just remember, you can only do your best, if that’s not good enough for them, then go somewhere where it will be!

  10. Wow!
    The fact you stuck the year there is amazing! I’ve been teaching for 8 years and it is tiring being breezy and chirpy every morning. It isn’t easy, especially when you’re working with difficult mentors!
    If you need help any time email.
    Life does get easier a few years in, the government always move the goal posts but try to stay strong and as soon as poss look for new positions elsewhere.
    Try to reflect on 3 good things at the end of each day, just take 2mins to remember you are brilliant, your kids adore you and sometimes it will just have to be done tomorrow. Keep smiling and keep the faith- not all schools are like that. Remember to be you!
    Best of luck for the future
    aka very tired teacher, mummy, wife and daughter etc.

  11. Can I ask what your course leader has said when they have observe you? I am very sorry you have been treated in this way. Being a teacher is such hard work, I left the profession a few years ago as I turned into ‘one of those teachers’. I was very jaded… I am returning this September as I have missed it… I would say persevere, but that is easy for me to say. It does get easier but only if you have good support. I would ask for someone to peer observe you so that you can get some friendly advice/knowledge about how you teach. If your pupils are achieving and progressing, then it sounds like you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. Good luck in your journey!

  12. Others have made extremely good points which I fully agree with. Remember, the school is there to support you and if you are not being shown how to improve then that support is not in place. Have faith in yourself; your NQT year is incredibly tough and if you have a proven track record you are most definitely doing something right! Nearly there, next year will get easier.

  13. I’ve seen it soooo many times. In the school I work it is common to see teachers crying… It’s wrong, I know! I do my best, work weekends, late nights, but sometimes only the “whatever” can set you free.

  14. The current regime is killing great teachers. I don’t know you but I recognise passion for teaching. You cannot fake commitment to improving children’s lives. Enjoy the bath. Have some sleep. Then spread the joy of being a great teacher. OFSTED tick boxes do not count as much as the boxes ticked, sometimes unknowingly, by pupils.

  15. Well, that’s put a dampner on my evening…bet it’s not as bad as you feel though. Several points though…

    Have you passed your NQT year now? As in met all competencies? If so, what was this obs for?

    You have clearly done a good job…you don’t get judged by ofsted on 1 lesson, so tell them to look at numerous blogs…including mine. Appraisal of any sort should be a triangulation of evidence gathered over time.

    What support have you had…& was there any indication of this prior to the “wobbly lesson” . Don’t even get me started on such appalling feedback. Wobbly? Frickin wobbly? Honestly.

    SMT need to stop using the Ofsted line…it’s like a poor line manager giving you bad news they have agreed to but blaming higher authority…crap leadership.

    Have a rest and contact me if you would like a chat.
    Good luck onwards.

  16. I am sorry to read your story. It is extremely sad that passionate and hard-working professionals are being driven to such extremes. I too, feel your pain. I am an experienced teacher of 15 years and yet have been made to feel exactly the same; that I’m not good enough. We have become slaves to Ofsted and it is their agenda we must follow. Well, I for one, didn’t go into teaching to please Ofsted. I went into teaching to inspire and create a love of learning. I refuse to teach children to pass tests and therefore my teaching is being called into question. Your SMT should be ashamed of themselves. Don’t let them beat you!

  17. So sorry to hear that: it’s the worst feeling in the world – but you will bounce back. Try reading the following, which has helped more than one person before. You’re right, though, it’s not worth ill health etc. for – keep a balance and start to learn why so many experienced teachers are so cynical…

    “I pay absolutely no heed to whether someone has a teaching qualification or not. What I do look at is whether someone has the human qualities to make a great teacher. They need energy, passion for their subjects and for teaching, a readiness to learn, an altruistic nature, integrity and intelligence. Some eccentricity definitely helps, though is not a necessity.

    Lack these qualities and you will never be a great teacher, regardless of how many years you have spent in training. Those who do have them may be raw and naïve. They may have a difficult first year in the classroom – the best teachers I know often had a difficult start, because they are sensitive and vulnerable, and they had the courage to be themselves in front of the children, as opposed to retreating into a safe and manicured persona. They learn how to retain their own characters and vulnerability, while not letting themselves be squashed, and the children love them for it.”

  18. I qualified in Jan. My first class was the most difficult in the school. My second class was the 2nd most difficult class in the school. Their previous teacher had 20 years experience and struggles to get a handle on their behaviour. The head was told this and was recommended not to give me them. However the head didn’t listen. Within a couple of weeks of having them I was hauled in to the heads office to be told (amongst other things) that I should be able to manage their behaviour and that I was now failing. The head drew up and action plan which included regular observations, observing experienced teachers for the day (which meant I would miss out on my class trip) and a full days behaviour management course. The head covered both my trip and the course. After covering my class for a full day, the head finally apologised to me for putting me with yet another difficult class. She simply hadn’t beloved that they were as tough as described! My nqt year was one of the worst experiences of my life to date (there had been other things too numerous and detailed to go in to). I am still in the school but take things with a pinch of salt. I know that I won’t be in the teaching profession for not longer, that’s for sure!

  19. Disgraceful you were treated in this way. As someone who continually doubts themselves as a teacher don’t let it get you down too much. This is easy for me to say now but the drive to be good will maintain you as an excellent teacher. With regards to what your observer suggested i fail to see how that would enable you to improve and is unjustified after just one observation they don’t think was as good. Speak to your union representative

  20. I didn’t even make it to my nqt year. My first placement was horrible, no help what so ever. It would take me 8 hours to plan 1 lesson as I didn’t have a clue and they left it until the last week of placement to say anything and then pulled in my uni mentor and had a meeting about me and the day of my observation so as you can guess that went well (not). I went onto placement 2 but I was just so far behind that it was a real struggle. I was up at 5am and not going to bed until 12. I’m glad I survived the year but I just couldn’t go through another yr like that. I got out and now have a family which I can’t even imagine I would be able to have if I had kept teaching. I do miss it sometimes as most of my pupils were nice but I just remember all the planning and marking and remember why I got out. X

  21. Getting the union involved is bad advice… In my experience, the unions can (unfortunately) be corrupt or just by getting them involved means (sadly) you might as well leave – your card will have been marked. I’ve seen teachers completely crushed by management bullying and given up all hope of teaching again. A teacher needs to ‘see the writing on the wall’, sometimes even before ‘the writing is on the wall’. My only advice to you is get out of a school that seems to treat everyone this way. You’ve passed your NQT year (congratulations!) – so get out there and see what’s available – on supply. Maybe see that everyone is in the same boat – there are some good schools (maybe) still out there, that will appreciate you. Or better still – the world is your oyster. Having worked in International Schools, it became very clear to me that there was a certain generation that was ‘escaping’ the NC and everything that goes with it. There is more (IMO) freedom and in some countries you are treated better – with pay and conditions, obviously in some you are not – depends on the country, society, school etc. Its very sad, but your/this situation is a national thing that’s going on at the moment and apologies for being a bit grim, but the situation – is grim. This is happening everywhere, in most schools all the time. Good luck with your career and well done for expressing your feelings and trying to keep a clear perspective on all of this… sorry I can’t be more cheerful… But I’m not being needlessly false.

  22. I have been teaching 8 years now and was reduced to grade 3 requires improvement on my performance management obs 2 weeks ago for the first time since being an NQT. I am 8 months pregnant and going on maternity leave tomorrow. Did I get upset??? Yes, particularly as manyof the “reasons” for my grading were beyond my control, such as the size of the room for the class, they layout of tables, which is limited by the room size and the patronising fact that it took me a while to hand out a differentiated resource due to my condition! On reflection do I care? Not about the judgement because judgements are subjective. I know my kids are making progress, I know I work hard, I know kids generally enjoy my lessons and being with me. My health and sanity are paramount, as are yours….dont let them grind you down. Good luck

  23. And this is why I don’t teach anymore.

    However good teacher get better and find it easier. On a legal note. Contact your union and get them in.

  24. There are some crazy things going on in education at the moment regarding observations and performance management. Many of them are to do with budgets. In the school where I am on supply at the moment they took on 5 NQTs in September and failed 3 of them at Christmas. They kept them on and paid them as unqualified teacher rate. In September they are taking on 3 Teach First teachers. I am an experience teacher so there is no way they would keep me on. All to do with money.

    I know your what you are going through. I think heads have it some where in their performance management to have a certain amount of teachers on improvment plans. The thing is now that OFSTED judge a teacher by the work in the children’s books how can they fail you on one observation? As mentioned before get some union support and also try Teachers Support Network. Good teachers should be nurtured not belittled. Hang on in there.

  25. I had a horrible NQT year, and I think that killed me. I didn’t pass at the end of the year, but then went back into another school and passed with another term’s work and much, much better support. (But really haven’t been back in a classroom as a class teacher since). Do keep going. Being in one school can be very ghettoising. I would seriously consider looking at other job opps in another school, as you may find this will be better in the long run. You cannot suddenly go from being good to having every part of your planning scrutinised. You don’t have to accept their verdict. If needs be, get your union involved. We should be encouraging and supporting new talent, not screwing it into the ground.

  26. I agree with ijstock. Remember, observations are arbitrary and unreliable. There is far more to a great teacher than demonstrating preferred pedagogy and policy. If it’s in you, you should persevere. After decades I am, at last feeling the satisfaction of the appreciation from pupils, parents and some close colleagues; Bugger the observations!

  27. So to me this sounds like you were failed by your school and mentor. Why, with just two weeks to go, are you being told that your teaching is “a bit wobbly”? That’s outrageous! If there was a problem then it should have been highlighted months ago so that you had time to improve.
    I have just had my final NQT observation this last week as well, so I feel your pain and stress. Remember you’ve put a lot of work in this year and you have only been at this properly for one year. You’re allowed to make mistakes, bad observations happen and if you are a good teacher then you’re still learning what that means.
    By the sounds of it you’ve got the right attitude though. Chin up and march on. Do what’s right by your pupils.
    All the best.

  28. Thank you everyone! So much fantastic advice. I agree with everything said, I personally do think I share the blame with my mentor. I have to take some responsibility myself, but I feel her failings have caused her to use me as a scape goat. I hope I get my mojo back and can regain my confidence before the start of the new term in September. I am extremely lucky, in that fortunately, I have a very supportive headmistress and (touch wood), amazingly, she seems to be on my side.

  29. Get a few other people to observe you as well so that you have evidence from other people and remember it is about teaching over time so not only about one lesson observation. If your pupils have made expected and better progress then they cannot say your teaching is not good even if one lesson was a bit wobbly. The best teachers do not teach outstanding lessons all day every day. We are all humans after all not machines. Maybe ask for some external support from the local authority if you do not think your school has supported you as well as they should have?

  30. I’ve been there, my final (secondary) placement went shockingly badly (I blame the school mostly). I ended up needing to take a third placement the following year at a different school which went well. I found a job in my current school which is the right place for me, 4 years later I’m looking forward to becoming second in department from September.
    Don’t despair.

  31. It’s all so familiar – been there, done it, and I didn’t even get a praise postcard.
    As a teacher, I would never, ever, not in my wildest dreams, do that to any of my students: tell them they failed. Imagine what management would say if you did! If they’re lazy or can’t be bothered I would love to fail them, as a wake-up call, but I am not allowed by the system, who will nevertheless blame me for their lack of progress, never the student.
    If you can live with these double standards, stick with it – teaching is the most rewarding job. But you’ll have to work on your time management, because how much time and effort you put into your work will never be appreciated by your bosses (and OFSTED, and the DforE), only your results.

  32. Dude. I’ve been teaching for 12 years now. At the end of my first year I was told that I probably had potential to be a good teacher. Probably. Sooooooo unhelpful! It took literally years for me to gain any confidence as a teacher. However, I’ve now had outstanding lessons and satisfactory lessons. I also have a husband and a young son. Do your job. Love those kids and help them love learning. You’ll learn to tick boxes but the ability to inspire, motivate and engage those children comes from within. Teaching is the most amazing job in the world and anyone who says different has obviously missed out on having teachers like us! Good luck and enjoy the summer! Sleep and have sex! 😉

  33. This is so sad. We need to support and develop our teachers, especially those at the start of their career. You shouldn’t be graded like this, one lesson should not determine your future. Observations and feedback should be supportive and developmental and unless they are accompanied by a programme of coaching and learning they won’t be. If the school won’t / can’t / doesn’t offer this – there is a world of ‘free’ teacher CPD out there via twitter / forums / blogs and books written by teachers.
    Good luck.
    It’s a shame that this is still happening when there is plenty of great practice and CPD out there. When we know it isn’t what we should do. When we wouldn’t dream of doing it to the children we teach.
    Teachers are the blood of education, we need to look after them.

  34. This is ridiculous. After 30 years of teaching many of my lessons were still “wobbly”. How can they not be when you are giving up to five performances a day in front of unwilling audiences who can sabotage you in a thousand ways. My last oafsted gave me satisfactory and I would rather listen to the verdicts of my pupils. Keep fighting though. There cannot be many more worthwhile careers.

  35. Thank-you for blogging so honestly. We are all cheering you on!
    Sounds like your TA has done the most to support you and aid your progress this year. Great news that you’re together again next year – keep treasuring him/her!
    Don’t you think it’s true that the majority of people who enter teaching are already products of the system? Too often, they were the obedient pupils in their own school days, who complied and conformed and did what they were told, jumping through the hoops laid before them.
    I know I was! I then went on to qualify as a teacher, working so hard to tick all of the boxes demanded of me, perpetuating the system, as I strived for that ‘outstanding’ accolade. It took me almost 20 years before I really started to question the worth of those boxes and the impact they had on the children I taught.
    Hope you perfect the art of a healthy shoulder-shrug over the summer.

  36. Just found your post and it reminds me of my daughters experience of teaching. She stuck it for 3 months. She was told the children didn’t like her (their parents told her otherwise) the parents didn’t like her (they told her otherwise) and that she was there to serve and not to get any job satisfaction. She was told she was doing well and then bammmmmmm we are going to fail you. She was beginning to feel so ill her Dad (a teacher) and myself (a former Nursery Nurse in schools) told her to leave. She did and now works in a call centre for about £100 per month less wages and 100% more happiness. Whoever is going to want to teach in the future. It is frightening. Hope you get on ok and that you enjoy your summer. If all else fails there is more to life than teaching especially if your health and/or relationships suffer. X

    • Wow, that is awful Debs. As of this moment I feel like my headmistress is supportive. I’m a little worried about the intense pressure from my mentor and would love a new one. My meeting with my headmistress has been postponed so once that is over with I will have a clearer idea. I just hate how much this has personally affected me. It has really dented my confidence and I have been thinking of nothing else since last week. However the advice has all been so helpful and honest.

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