Being bullied in the work place.

It’s taken me a while (nearly two and a half years to be exact) to feel ready to write this post, that’s how much the subject matter affected me. But sharing is caring and it’s always ‘nice’ to hear that you’re not on your own in these unpleasant situations.

To put it bluntly. While I was a mainstream teacher I was bullied in my last teaching term. As a grown woman it was and still is very embarrassing to admit that. But I was and it was horrendous. I am a very confident, bubbly person. I’m a ‘girly girl’ and love spending time with female friends. I was fortunate enough to love school as a child. I have a loving husband and a super supportive family. I was the last person to ever think I would be a victim of bullying, especially adult bullying.

I’ll give you a little background information. I used to work in a 2 form entry school. The other teacher in my year group was ok. We got on, so I thought. She was quite a bit older than me, always a little stressed and very negative about the job and life in general but nothing you thought twice about. It was just her.

When I went on maternity with my first child the school became a 3 form entry school. The new teacher that was appointed for the third class was ‘lovely’ ‘great’ ‘you’ll really like her’ ‘your sort of person’ I was told by all the staff while I was off. I was looking forward to getting back to work. And when I saw the new teacher I was excited. She was bubbly, dressed like me, was the same age and bonus- had a thing for cocktails. Except she was very off with me from day one. I thought I was being paranoid but I wasn’t. There were definitely vibes coming from her. The older teacher however seemed to love her. They got on like a house on fire and it soon felt like I was back in high school. The two of them would huddle in meetings together, share their medium term planning while I had to do all of mine by myself., even though we were all teaching the exact same thing. The older teacher would arrange school trips with the other year class and not tell me and so I would have parents asking me why my class weren’t going on a trip when the other classes were. That was the first time I would know about it and it was highly embarrassing professionally.

After a few months the new teacher thawed towards me. We would chat if the older teacher wasn’t around and discovered that people were right, we did have lots in common. On the rare occasions that the older teacher would see us talking she would flounce into the classroom looking furious and talk in hushed tones to the new teacher then flounce out the room giving me dirty looks as she did so. She started saying ‘morning babe!’ loudly outside my classroom to the other teacher then would look straight through me when I came out of my classroom. Looking back now, it was all very petty things, but they started occurring on a regular basis and it soon got on top of me. Like when we had to team teach and she slammed by lesson as inadequate and told the head of KS1 that I ‘wasn’t coping’ coming back after maternity. She would do extra booster secret end of term assessments and give them to the other teacher without my knowledge then at whole staff meetings she would read out the results from both classes. The Head asked me where my results were from the tests and that would also be the first time that I was aware of them. She would talk loudly outside my classroom so I could hear ‘X I’ve printed you all the resources for this week’s numeracy lessons. You know, after we discussed it last night.’ It was like I didn’t exist.

It was December when other staff members started to comment. Christmas in our school was a big thing. The Christmas performances were a huge deal and the whole school looked forward to seeing what each year group did. I was thinking how I would cope working with the older teacher on the rehearsals as we had done every year, now she obviously had a problem with me. I didn’t need to worry. The older teacher had took charge and had arranged the year group performance without my class. It looked odd on the day. All year groups performed together except my class. Staff knew how temperamental this older teacher was and they said ‘she’s leaving you out. She’s not being very nice towards you. She’s got issues with you etc.’ It was nice to know it wasn’t me but also made me sad as I felt sorry for myself.

The new teacher, who I was quite friendly with now told me that she had asked the older teacher if my class needed these resources/ tests/ school trips/ were a part of the Christmas performances etc. and was told I had said I wanted to ‘keep my class separate and do my own thing’. I was shocked at her blatant lies but it made sense why she hadn’t said anything. Once she realised what the other teacher was doing she would give me the resources anyway. And she had started to see the real side of her. She would have a go at her if she saw her talking to me and would go in moods if the other teacher complimented my teaching. It was all ridiculous.

The thing about being bullied as a teacher is that it sounds so insignificant to other people. ‘Just ignore her’ my family would say. I started to keep logs of the incidents but on paper they looked pathetic ‘ignored me in staff meeting. Spoke down to me in front of class’ etc. But when you’re living it day in day out and it’s constant, it grinds you down and even the strongest person can break.

My TA was my saving grace. She saw everything and supported me throughout. She saw curled up in our stock cupboard crying, she saw me try to hold it together every day, she saw me at my lowest and saw how I tried and failed to get help. I went to the Head of year ‘oh it’s just X, you know what she’s like.’ I went to the Head with my log but she was going through her own personal problems and couldn’t off any support. I went to the Head of Governors and was told ‘you’re not the first to be a victim of her and you won’t be the last. She’s not worth it. Leave it.’ But I couldn’t leave it. I didn’t want to go to work. I woke up with a knot in my stomach every morning. She was making me ill and I couldn’t do it anymore.

‘Everything happens for a reason’ and I do believe that. I had no intention of leaving my job when I did. I had just come back off maternity, I loved the children and the parents and had great friends at the school but despite this I knew I could no longer become a shell of myself. I started looking for jobs and couldn’t believe it when I saw my dream job. A Pupil Referral Unit. And not just any PRU, but my local one that I had been driving past for 10years and longing to work there. I was told by everyone that jobs don’t come up there. Well one had and it was perfect for me professionally and personally. To say I was ecstatic when I got the job was an understatement.

News of my new job seemed to infuriated the older teacher even more but it made me stronger. It disempowered her. She could no longer upset me and she knew it. I ignored her ways now and the new teacher had also fully realised what she was like and distanced herself from her. On my last day, the whole staff members (bar one obviously) came to the staff room to wish me well and give me cards and presents and that afternoon the hall had been given to my class all afternoon for a goodbye party. The new teacher asked if she could bring her class and we had an afternoon of silly games, loud music and lots of laughter. The older teacher was on her ppa and walked through the hall during our party. The look of absolute horror and anger when she saw the two classes and us teachers have fun was priceless. I knew she was trying to have a confrontation with me too. On my last day, having never done so in all the years working there she came into my classroom to use my classroom door to get to the car park. The door was open as I was loading my car with presents and belongings. She burst in dramatically with all her books, dumped them in the middle of the floor and went back to get some more. I thought she wants an argument and I could give her one. I’m stronger now. I could tell her all the things I’ve wanted to say to her for months and she couldn’t do a thing as I would never see her again. She came back into my room and dumped another pile of books in the middle of the floor. I waited for her to come back into my classroom with the third pile of books. I didn’t acknowledge her, I just walked out of the door to the car park and locked the door. My TA had been helping me load up. I gave her the key to hand in and thought of the absolute anger on the older teacher’s face when she realised that she didn’t get the argument she wanted and now had to lug 90 books back out of my classroom to another door that leads to the car park. I never looked back.

I went out socially with the new teacher a few months after I left. She told me that before I had returned from mat leave that the older teacher had told her to ‘be weary’ of me. She had said that I’m a nightmare, a really bad teacher, I never do my share of the planning and I’m not to be trusted. I was angry and hurt and it all made sense now why she had been off around me at first. It’s also disappointing with how the school responded to my claims of bullying. I’m just so thankful every day that I’ve now got my dream job and in a way I have my bully to thank for that. And for that reason, I no longer hate her.

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My first twinge at missing my old job.

Now I really don’t regret leaving my my old job. I would never, ever return to my NQT post for love nor money. I struggled, but I didn’t hate it. It just wasn’t the place for me. There were too many cliques, I never felt good enough, every lesson observation was ‘just not there yet…’, the work load was unbearable, the hour commute even more so. There was constant changes to marking policies, book scrutinies, unachievable appraisal targets, constant pressure and humongous stress. I didn’t sleep at night properly, I could never relax- always feeling guilt that I should be lesson planning, marking, in putting data etc. Plus, I had the constant challenges of working in a deprived area of Yorkshire with a 92% EAL intake. I felt like I was constantly treading water, using all of my energy just to keep myself my drowning. There was no way that I could have continued like that. At times I felt like I was loosing my sanity.

Fast forward to now: A class of 5 children, an earlier finish time, an exact seven minute drive from my house, lovely colleagues who don’t know the meaning of the word clique, an unnaturally supportive Head, a higher paying salary, more creative control, no traditional assessments, time to do planning each day and genuinely a much more rewarding job.

However, today my old colleagues were told which year group/ class that everyone would be having from September and it was all over Facebook (I still have a love/ hate relationship with the thing). For the first time since I left I felt like I was being excluded from this really cool club. Everyone was commenting on each other’s statuses, saying how excited they were for next year, how they couldn’t wait for September and how ‘amazing’ it was going to be. I realised that I have truly and once and for all left the place where I did my NQT and RQT years and that I was no longer part of ‘The Family’. And I must admit, I felt a little bit sad. I no longer had a right to comment, I didn’t know what the little in jokes were that people were mentioning and if I’m honest, I don’t really know my old colleagues anymore and they don’t know me.

But after a guilt free cup of tea while watching telly, a nice after work stroll with my baby, then playing with him in the garden, plus only writing 6 reports- I realised that yes, I did feel a little twinge of sadness that I was no longer at my old job and that it’s ok, because I did have some good times there. But ‘some good times’ can never compare to my job now, where I have a lot of good times in my school life and many more good times in my home life. Plus my sanity.

I am no longer tread walking. I was doing a nice leisurely breast stroke and it feels so, so good.

I’m now on Twitter!

I’ve just joined the world of Twitter! I must admit, it’s taking me a little bit of time to grasp the whole concept. But it’s great for finding out the latest changes to education and following some really inspiring people.

If you’re on Twitter give me a follow: Ms PupilReferralUnit @teachingtantrum

I’ll follow you back- once I’ve got the hang of the bloody thing!

Small one form entry or large 4 form entry school?

Most people graduating from their PGCE will have already secured employment for September. Others will still be planning on what they want to do next academic year. Supply? Maternity contract? It doesn’t matter, it’s all experience.

I know that with competition so high for jobs, no one can be as choosy as they would like. But one thing that is worth seriously considering when looking at jobs, is the size of the school.

I have worked in both extremes and also in the middle. I have worked at a school that was 3 form entry and moving into a 4 form entry. I have worked at a school that was 1 and a half entry moving into two. And my current job at a pupil referral unit has 5 teachers. We aren’t any entry! What I thought I would love was actually my worse. And what I thought I would hate has been my favourite.

Initially, I thought that I would be more suited to a larger school. A large school does have many positives. I thought that it would be great to work in a large school as there would be more teachers my own age, there would be more people to socialise with and support each other. I liked the idea of having other teachers to share the planning workload and bounce ideas off each other. I thought that they would be a great chance of working with the three classes in my year group and collaborating on things. I also thought that there wouldn’t be as many ‘eyes’ on me and less pressure as there were more teachers to observe and keep an eye on.

Some parts of my time at a large form entry school were great. The staff were mostly my age, we had lots in common, when we were socialising they all wanted to go to the same places I liked, they dressed like me, we could talk about similar interests. The planning was shared out with the other teachers. I certainly did not have as much medium term planning to do as I would have done if I’d been on my own. I made three very good friends, who again were my age, my type of people (and I’ve just been whatsapping before I started writing this post).

However, there were some things that I didn’t like. With large groups, inevitably, cliques form. I was never in the ‘in’ clique, The group of girls who had been there for years and started at the same time. The other teacher in my year group treated myself and my class as competition. She never wanted to do joint assemblies, Christmas songs. Neither would she share resources or lesson plans. She would go to the phase leader, behind my back, about my planning, which always contained something that she thought was an error. I didn’t like the way she did her planning. I couldn’t understand the way she set it out, or the ideas that she had. I felt like I wanted to be more creative but she was a lot older than me and had quite old fashioned views. There was never a strong sense of ‘family’ in the school. It was just too big. We never had whole school assemblies or even got together as a whole school, and so there was always a feeling of separation between KS1 and KS2. There were huge personalities and it was sometimes difficult to be heard in meetings or during the staff room. Moving onto the staff room, it felt very impersonal. It was large and quite spread out, so different groups and key stages were at certain tables. Not everyone used the staff room because the school was so big it took ages to walk over to the other side of school where the staff room was and there wasn’t enough room for everyone anyway. Considering the school was full of lots of people my age, at times I felt very isolated.

Moving on to a smaller school. The first thing that hits me is the sense of solidarity. We are a ‘family’, there is definitely a sense of togetherness. We have daily meetings each morning, we can all fit around a table and air grievances, support each other, communicate. You know what is going on in the school and with the pupils. There are no cliques- the whole teaching staff is a clique. Everyone supports each other. There is no competition because no one is doing the same as you. Everyone is there for the children. There is no time to gossip or get involved in office politics. I mean, who would you gossip about? Yourself? I also like the fact that you know your Head teacher very well and they know you. You have a good relationship with them and they have time for you.

There are some negatives. There might not be anyone that is the same age as you, I am the youngest by far at my current job. You have to do all the paperwork yourself, but I have found that liberating. I have been the most creative that I have ever been- and I love it! There is no where to hide in a small school either.

All in all, surprisingly, I am more happier in my smaller school, than I was in my larger school. I feel more confident, more appreciated, more supported, I know the staff more and I find my job more rewarding.

It’s a lovely change.

Writing a resignation letter

You may have been offered a new dream job, you may have just decided to quick; either way you will need to formally resign from your post.

I was a little taken aback when my Head mentioned about a resignation letter straight after I told her about my new job. The word ‘resignation’ sounds so scary. I had only ever encountered it in negative situations; a teacher who resigned a term before me because of stress, a Deputy who was being forced to resign over a safe guarding issue- it never seemed to be a positive thing to do.

However, I soon realised that when you have told your current Head that you will be accepting a new post you must resign, it is a legal requirement. Here are the term dates that teachers must abide by:

To leave at the end of:                                        Teachers must resign by:
Autumn Term (31 December)                            31 October
Spring Term (30 April)                                         28 (29) February
Summer Term (31 August)                                   31 May

I got my new job in the first week of December and my Head was encouraging (almost pressuring) me to hand my resignation in by the end of the Christmas term, round about the 21st December. I hadn’t yet signed my new contract so I didn’t want to be left without any job if something was to fall through with my new job so I wanted to resign officially as late as possible. My Head kept reminding me when she saw me about my letter and she only backed off when I showed her the above dates. Eventually I resigned around the 20th February as with half term I would not have been in school to resign on the 29th Feb. It was a scary time as I had still not signed my contract but I had to resign or I would not have been able to legally start my new job.

Which brings me to the next point- the actual letter. People may disagree but I think that no matter what the circumstances are of you leaving, you must always, always leave on a positive note. If that is impossible to do (i.e. if you said positive things in your letter it would come across as sarcasm) you should always be professional.

Now I didn’t have the best last term in my school (more to come on that in future posts), in fact it was one of my worse, much worse than my whole NQT years. There were numerous occasions when I would cry in my classroom, cry on my drive home and cry at my home and I am angry that I would let another colleague (bully) affect me in such a way. I did complain, management knew about my problems (nothing was done due to different factors). On one particular low day I decided that I would name and shame this bullying colleague in my resignation letter, I would mention how she had ruined my last term in school, but then I came to my senses. No. I would not do that. I would not let any individual have that much power over me, I would not have people think that she had affected me that much. I would leave on a positive note. And I did and it felt SO good to leave with a smile on everyone’s face.

And teaching is such a small world that you never know when you are going to bump into ex colleagues again. So I wrote a nice professional letter with some personal touches. Below is a draft of my letter:

 

Resignation from post of teacher at X Primary School.

Dear Mrs X,

Please accept this letter of resignation from my post of year 2 teacher effective from ____________. My last day teaching in school will be _______________.

It is with sincere regret that I am leaving X Primary School. My time at X Primary has been a very positive and enjoyable experience and I have enjoyed being a part of the school for the past three years.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your staff and all of your support since my NQT year.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs G.

As you can see I kept the letter very positive, I thanked my Head for the opportunity and I didn’t mention anything about my negative experiences with an individual colleague. I don’t know what the previous teacher’s resignation must have said but my Head came to see me at the end of the day after I had handed in my letter and thanked me. She said she was ‘really touched’ with what I had written and that made me feel really good inside. And she is right- I might see her again sooner rather than later. At a training course, a CPD session or even at a future OFSTED inspection. I’m glad I kept it positive 🙂

Getting pregnant in your NQT year. The good and the bad.

My pregnancy wasn’t planned, but was very much wanted. I was a little bit embarrassed about getting pregnant in my NQT year, but because I got pregnant in the July, people weren’t made aware of the fact until the next academic year. Everything has pros and cons and here is my list of the good and bad reasons for getting pregnant so early on in your career.

The Bad

  • Your NQT year is a very stressful time, add in a new pregnancy and it can be a very over whelming experience.
  • Be prepared to be looked at differently. I felt that I wasn’t taken as seriously once I was further on in my pregnancy. I was taken off courses that I wanted to do and not invited to meetings that I felt I still should have attended.
  • You’ll be very tired, especially during the final stages. You’ll find it difficult to sleep at night and will come to work with an exhaustion that you didn’t feel possible.
  • You will be on the lowest pay scale which means that when your maternity becomes half pay, you will really feel the financial hit.
  • Having been at the school only a short time you will not be as established in the school and might feel like you’re starting from scratch again when you go back.

The Good

  • You’re on the low end of the pay scale. Even though I mentioned this in the bad points, I actually found it to be a good point. I was never actually down by that much money because I didn’t earn that much anyway. Some SLTs were loosing over a thousand pounds a month on maternity, which would be really hard to deal with.
  • You’re just starting out on your career so you can easily adapt to this new working life much easier than someone who’s been a teacher without children for say 10 years.
  • You have something more to focus on other than school. You can no longer spend every waking minute worrying about displays when you’ve got a baby to think about on the way.
  • You have to leave early. You will be exhausted by the end of the day and you will physically need to go home early. Plus, no one will say anything or look down on you for doing so.
  • You will get a lunch break, because a) you’ll be ravenous by lunch time and b) you will just need to sit down and rest your legs. I made sure I had nearly the full lunch time every. single. day. I thought, it’s the only time I’ll have an excuse to do this so I’m taking advantage.
  • Doctor/ hospital appointments. You will have quite a few mornings/ afternoons off which breaks the week up and gives you some much needed lie ins.

Pregnant woman at work writing in binder

Starting the new year after a good lesson observation!

Jumping woman silhouette

It finally happened. After a dreadful, stressful NQT year. A failed final observation and the morale of a depressed goldfish, I finally got a ‘good’ lesson observation just before we broke up for the Christmas half term. And even now, it feels bloody great.

I think teacher’s morale, outlook on their job and general well being could be improved dramatically by just a few simple positive words of praise and encouragement. I do not understand why SLT members in school feel it is productive to belittle and constantly criticise other teachers in schools, then get confused when said teachers don’t suddenly pull out ‘outstanding’ lessons with the high energy and jazz hands of a West End Performer. Simple fact. You will get more out of teachers if we are shown a appreciation, praise and constructive criticism.

Anyway, back to my lesson observation. The school is way overdue an OFSTED visit. We were due one in April 2014, never happened. We were determined we would be visited in the summer term, like the school behind us. Never happened. ‘It will be in Autumn term’ subject leaders were saying. We thought it would be the third week in September. Never happened. In fact, the call never came at all last term, and at 1.30pm on the last Wednesday of the week we all breathed a sign of relief.

Mangement are feeling the pressure, as unannounced and without, the second to last week of term we were all told that we would be getting observed. Lesson observations were to take place for everyone in the school that week. Either the Headmistress or Deputy head would be observing us. I was nervous to say the least, especially as I still have my own personal stuff going on and had a hospital appointment straight before the observation. But the main reasons for my concern were; One, the headmistress had only ever seen me teach for 15mins during my lesson observation at my interview, two she knew all about my struggles last year and three, she is the person that deals with my appraisal/ performance related pay. I was more than nervous.

However, it went fantastic. It was a writing lesson, which is always difficult with younger children, but there was no major criticism; behaviour was in place, children used talk partners, there was role play to help them with their writing, work was differentiated and I effectively used my TA. To say I felt on cloud 9 was an understatement. I was elated, I felt the weight of my last observation lifting, in the space of 10minutes of feedback I felt my confidence in myself growing. I was happy. I had job satisfaction and even though I’m dreading the alarm going off at 6.30am on Monday, I am looking forward to going back to work. I want to go back. My confidence is returning and I no longer feel like I made a mistake becoming a teacher.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all teachers could just have 10mins a day being praised by their management? What a wonderful, yet unrealistic, thought.