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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The A word (ambition)

I always find it strange how the word ‘ambition’ has different meanings in education depending on the gender of the person who displays it.

With males, to be ambitious is seen as a positive trait. I know lots of male teacher friends who will brazenly tell me ‘well, I’m not going to be a classroom teacher forever. I’m going to be a Head within 5 years’. They usually achieve this in 4.

Male teachers can be extremely confident, loud, sometimes arrogant and it will be brushed off as ‘banter’ as ‘just the way he is’ – said while playfully rolling your eyes. A man without ambition is seen as weak, a bit wet. I worked with one male teacher who was ‘happy just where I am.’ He was the loveliest, kindest caring teacher I had ever met, but he wasn’t popular. Eventually he was ‘pushed out’ amid whispers in the staff room that he wasn’t very good, too soft, too quiet, he didn’t fit in with the ethos of the school etc. When in reality he was none of those things, he was just a genuinely nice guy who didn’t fit in with the other almost aggressively ambitions males in the school. The other males in the school were seen as attractive, people wanted to be around them like moths to a flame. No one wanted to be around Mr non ambitious. As I’ve said in previous posts, the very ambitious Head I worked for as an NQT was treated like a Rock Star on our Christmas do- the young female staff flocking around him, trying their best to gain his attention by dancing just a little too enthusiastically on the dance floor. He was loved, but I doubt he would have been as popular as he was if he was a non ambitious, quiet, Head. Love them or hate them, there’s just something about ambitious male teachers.

But now let’s turn to females who are ambitious. ‘I’m only going for assistant Head jobs from next year’ one female teacher stated loudly in the staff room when I was an NQT. This teacher was young, ambitious and female. She was disliked by pretty much everyone in the school. Unlike the male teachers, her ambition was seen as the unattractive type of arrogance. Who did she think she was? She’s a bitch. She’s full of herself. She’s too confident. All these things were said about her. And she’s not the first female teacher I’ve heard people speak negatively about just because they want to better themselves and be the best. And why not? It’s 2017 women teachers can be Heads, assistant Heads, Head of departments and be just as, or even more successful as men. Ambitious women shouldn’t be frowned upon. Is it because we still expect female teachers to be the nice, quiet, caring class teacher for their entire 35 year career without joining the SLT? How dare a female teacher talk openly about wanting a promotion?

My current boss is Head of the 3 PRUs in the borough. She power dresses, speaks assertively, is bloody brilliant at her job and is always talking about ambitious plans for the school’s future. And she is hated by the majority of the staff.

I am in the minority. I like her. I respect her for owning her ambition and giving us women starting out in this career path a role model and inspirational figure. The A word shouldn’t be a dirty word when coming out of a female’s mouth.

#womensupportingwomen

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.

My problem with the Year 1 Phonics test.

Now, I’m going to talk about the Year 1 Phonics screening test and why I think it is a load of **** and just another added pressure for us teachers to hit targets that don’t actually mean anything.

I’ve not mentioned about me teaching in Year 1 before, I didn’t want to help give my identity away and I also never felt the need to mention it. Now that I am no longer in my mainstream school I feel like it is time to air my grievances about this new test that was only very recently invented and has just been taken in every school in England.

Let’s get one thing straight. No one cares about the phonics test. It’s really not important in the grand scale of things. A six year old who is unable to read the word Sprock correcty is not going to fail their GCSEs; just like a six year old who can read the word voip without any problems is not automatically going to be a NASA scientist. It’s all irrelevant.

The phonics test measures nothing apart from how well a teacher can ‘teach to test’ and get her class of children (who, by the way, should be learning through play and experiences in year 1) to pass another pointless test.

The test is that pointless that I honestly will not care if my child passes or fails the test, it means that little to me. In my previous school a middle class teacher’s son had failed his phonics test the first time around and had to retake it in year 2. She said ‘how they expect the children of our inner city Yorkshire school, with 90% EAL to pass this phonics test, when my son who speaks English fluently and is at an outstanding little village school still can’t pass it.’ And that is the thing- the phonics test does not matter about ability. It does not prove that a school is a good one just because it has a high phonics test pass rate, just like it does not mean a school or a teacher is ‘inadequate’ if they do not get all of their class to pass the phonics test.

So, in good ol’ fashioned Teacher Tantrums style here are my bullet points on the problems with the Year 1 phonics test.

  • It puts pressure on Year 1 teachers. I was told that I would not make pay progression if my target of a 72% pass rate in phonics was not achieved. The year before (when I had been on maternity leave, may I add) Year 1 achieved 42%. The stress and panic I felt after receiving my targets was unbelievable. Could I possibly achieve 70%? What happened if I didn’t? Should I start doing mock phonics test eight months ahead now? What will I do if I am denied pay progression? I’m not afraid to say that I had a few sleepless nights worrying about this issue.

 

  • You start to ‘teach to test’ from around February. In my school we were told (and knew he just had to, to get the results) that we had to stop teaching all topic work in the afternoons- geography, history, art etc.- to put in extra phonics sessions. Teachers were expected to teach extra phonics during assembly times, breaks, lunch times and for ‘just 10mins’ before the end of the day. It was so soul destroying hearing 5 and 6 year olds groaning when you announced that they were going to be practising their real and nonsense words. They just wanted to play!

 

  • The test itself has many flaws. It is not regulated, so how do you know that stressed, pressurised teachers are not just ticking yes that their children can read certain words correctly, when they haven’t? Who is ever going to check? The test is done in a room with just the teacher and child- teachers could hear the word read incorrectly and help and guide the child into reading it correctly- who would ever know?

 

  • The test seems to try and deliberately confuse and trick children. Some ‘nonsense’ words are extremely close to familiar real words; when I did the phonics test my children kept pronouncing the nonsense word ‘broun’ as ‘brown’. Lots of the children were high ability who could read fluently and were just using their prior knowledge to try and make sense of the words in front of them.

 

  • The test is difficult for EAL children. They are struggling to understand a new language and are just learning how to read real words that they can comprehend- then next minute here comes a bloody ‘alien’ word that they then have to decipher. Try explaining what a zoit is to a six year old kid from Yemen who keeps asking ‘what is zoit?’. #realsituation.

 

  • The test has taken away the fun, enrichment and experiences from year 1. Once Decemeber is out of the way then there is no time for choosing, free play or using the role play corner. Making Easter cards? Are you mad?! That’s 45mins that could be spent going through the jolly phonics songs and playing Obb and Bob for the sixty millionth time.

Myself and my TA worked tirelessly to help my old class have the best chance to pass the phonics test. On finding my new job one of the things I was pleased about was getting out of having to do the phonics test. However, I still wanted my class to do well for my sake. I left at the Easter term with only 5 weeks to go before the children took the phonics test, so I knew that I was still responsible for the children’s results, the teacher who had taken over my job would not be held accountable and my new school would be contacting my Head to enquire if I had met my targets. So I was still worried and thought about my class on June 13th when they took the test.

My former TA texted me at the weekend to tell me the results. My class had got 82% definitely and if the pass rate remained at 33 like like year ten it will be 85%. I was absolutely, genuinely over the moon! But I was even ore over the moon that I will not have to go through all the phonics bull crap next year.

What happens when you get ‘The Call’ from the Big O?

I am finally getting around to writing about my first OFSTED experience. The first and main thing you will be pleased to hear is that it’s actually not that bad. Honestly, it’s really not. And in a weird, strange way, I kind of enjoyed the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased we’re only subjected to inspections every three years, but I survived my first OFSTED and it wasn’t too bad.

Our school had been ‘over due’ an inspection for over 12 months, so our school was already in OFSTED mode. We were constantly waiting for ‘The call’. We were having constant reminders and emails and memos where it got to the point where everyone was actually wishing for OFSED as the pressure from waiting was getting too much. ‘When OFSTED come… OFSTED will be looking for…we’ve put this in place for OFSTED….OFSTED will want to see…’ The build up was actually much worse than the actual inspection.

We eventually did get The Call  on a random Tuesday at 12.15pm. I was happily eating my lunch in the staff room and as sod’s law would have it, was talking to a work colleague about how my baby had been up all night and so I would be leaving at 4pm dead on the dot as I was exhausted. Suddenly the door opened. I thought someone had died on the premises as the Head suddenly came into the staff room at 12.45pm with the assistant Head and other SLT members, followed by other members of staff who had eaten their lunch and then left previously. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked. The year 6 teacher next to me whispered that we’d had the call and mouthed the word ‘OFSTED’ and I just remember saying ‘Oh, you’re joking?!’

The Head was very positive, calm and collected and gave a good prep talk. ‘We all knew this was coming…’ She then said that school would be open until 9pm and everyone knew that no one was going home anytime soon after 3.15pm.

There was a buzz around school. Widened eyes, shaking of the heads, stressed out faces, laughing. A text message was sent out immediately to the parents and so they were aware of the situation by the time we let the children go at sometime. Then it was preparation time. Luckily, I knew what I was teaching for maths and I decided to jazz up my literacy lesson. I was fairly certain that I would only be observed in literacy and definitely in my afternoon phonics group as our year 1 phonics results test last year was shocking. I rang my mum and told her that I wouldn’t be coming home to pick up the baby as we had OFSTED the next day. I actually laugh when I think about that now- talk about priorities! I was more concerned about OFSTED than actually seeing my own child. (I’m so glad I’m out of mainstream and can put my family first again). I was also very lucky that I could do that. My mum didn’t even bat an eyelid, she just said good luck and to let her know how it goes. (Thank you mum!).

Anyway, once the children had gone it was a great atmosphere in school. Everyone came together and there was a real Dunkirk spirit about the place. My TA was an absolute star, she stayed until 4.30pm checking the displays and helping tidy up the classroom. She apologised profusely that she had to go, but she too has young children and she had to go and pick them up. I then concentrated on getting everything ready for the lessons the next day so that I could just come in and not worry about anything. I stuck worksheets in every books, made sure the books were in the correct groups for the tables, made sure the were layer out correctly and good to go. A huge tip I would say to anyone who is due and OFSTED, is to keep up to date with your marking- this was the most time consuming thing for me, marking books that I had fallen behind with.

Around 7pm is where I got a little disheartened. It was silly really, but I suddenly felt, dare I say it?, a little lonely. As I had explained in a previous post, my work bffs were not in school; one had left to go to a different school at the end of our NQT year and my other one was luckily for her, on maternity leave. My school is very cliquey and I could hear other staff members making plans to go and get a Nandos take away, others were driving to McDondalds, others were chatting behind closed doors and I just remember looking down the empty corridors and feeling a little lonely. I was starving and had mentioned to a few members of the staff that I would come to get dinner with them, but they had obviously gone without me (cue violin music lol). Anyway, I was looking at the displays when I suddenly heard ‘right, what do we need to do next then?’ My amazing TA was back! She was changed in sports clothes and ready for action. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I nearly cried for joy. She had returned as soon as she had put the children to bed- she’s a star, and I’m pleased that we’re still in touch. It was a great morale boost and I spent the next hour and a half chatting, discussing the plans for tomorrow, going through the lessons.

I eventually left work around 8.40pm, my TA, bless her, was still there fixing up displays. I passed the Head’s office and she was sat at the back of her room eating a McDonald’s with the assistant Head.

I drove home, thankful that I had managed to set up everything for the next day, thankful that I had parents who would look after my baby over night and thankful that I had handed my notice in, as I felt like the pressure was off me.