Bitchy form tutor - how to deal with

(22 Posts)
Muminwestlondon Fri 08-Feb-13 08:58:05

DD is in Sixth Form, her form tutor is new to the school, seems disinterested - can't even be arsed to read out the daily notices etc. She doesn't teach DD but DD is becoming increasingly upset by her. It is a highly selective school and behaviour is extremely good.

What is really bothering DD is the constant stream of bitchy remarks directed at DD and other class mates. For example, DD wore a skirt to school one day and was told it was too short (just above knee length she is very self conscious about her legs) and she was just wearing it to impress the boys (they have General Studies with a nearby boys school). DD was late for PSHE as she was helping her friend find a lost item, she was told that she is constantly trying to avoid PSHE (first time she has ever been late). She seems to particularly dislike DD.

Teacher has also been threatening the girls that she will write them poor UCAS statements if they don't behave but they are doing nothing wrong.

In my opinion teacher is quite young (27) doesn't seem to like teaching and has no aptitude for it. I doubt she will last (girls in her subject complain she is the worst teacher they have ever had). I would be inclined to just ignore it but the UCAS remark made me think that she is vindictive (and could easily damn DD with faint praise if nothing else) and I wonder if I should email the head of year - though he is new to the school and just started a few weeks ago. Should I just ignore it and do nothing?

IndridCold Fri 08-Feb-13 09:36:13

Can you talk to other parents of girls in DDs class? I would definitely want to know if there was substance to this or if it was my DC perhaps being over-sensitive.

If other parents are also unhappy I would definitely approach the school about this, it doesn't sound good at all.

racingheart Fri 08-Feb-13 15:34:01

I'd go straight in and question it. Leaving it won't help. Either talk to the teacher and get an answer as to how she can justify such remarks, or go above her and take your concern to the head.

Muminwestlondon Fri 08-Feb-13 15:45:43

Thank you both for your comments. I don't know other parents that well (the forms are mixed up for Sixth Form) and tbh the ones I do know are not the type to complain. The teacher does pick on everyone, though DD does challenge the teacher and say "no my skirt isn't short" etc which annoys her more.

I would grit my teeth and tell DD to ignore it if it wasn't for the comment about UCAS. DD is likely to apply for a very competitive field where all the applicants have A's and A/A* predictions etc and the UCAS statement might well be a deciding factor - I can't take that risk. I think I will wait until after half term and if there is no improvement contact the head of year.

slug Fri 08-Feb-13 16:11:48

Just a note of caution. As a teacher I was often accused by my student's parents of 'failing to teach' them. In every single one of these instances the 'failure to teach' was actually a student's excuse for their failure to turn up to classes on time, if at all, or their behaviour which would see them regularly asked to leave the class.

I'm not saying your child is a one of the holy terrors that used to be my specialty, but I would take some time to listen to the teacher's side of the story first. It's not unknown for 16 year olds to be a bit economical with the truth.

Leeds2 Fri 08-Feb-13 16:47:16

Are you sure that this teacher writes the UCAS reference? I know in some schools they are all done by, say, head of sixth form.

Knowsabitabouteducation Fri 08-Feb-13 19:46:57

You only ave one side of the story, OP.

Did your DD voluntarily mention all this to you or were you interrogating her?

Muminwestlondon Fri 08-Feb-13 21:34:41

No my child is a not a liar and the teacher is not always right..

DD is a quiet shy girl who has never complained about a teacher before. She has absolutely no behavioural issues, they are extremely rare and basically non existent in her school. She volunteered the information, she had been extremely upset by this woman's awful remarks, why would I interrogate her?

The woman does not teach her (except for PSHE) but is her form teacher and will indeed write her UCAS form as she is constantly reminding her and her classmates. She referred to the class as her "minions" today when criticising them for non existent behavioural problems and dress code violations, which is not acceptable.

squeezedatbothends Sat 09-Feb-13 15:51:51

All UCAS references are closely scrutinised by senior leaders in school before they go out and so I would expect that any poor ones (especially those without substantiation) would be sent back or adapted in the process. It is in the school's interests to ensure that as many pupils as possible get into the best institutions and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure the applications are excellent. Having said that, I would still go in and have a word because if nothing else, her comments are inappropriate.

floradora Sat 09-Feb-13 17:18:48

Just a thought but it might be an idea to approach the teacher along the lines of "I'm sure my DD has misinterpreted but she seems to have the impression you don't like her and are directing personal remarks at her, so i just wanted to let you know so that any further misunderstanding can be avoided". it is often a good idea too to tell the teacher your DD doesn't know you are speaking to her. Some teachers are blithely unaware of how their comments are taken by students - they may think they're being funny/ironic but don't realise the effect of the nasty tinge of sarcasm. If it continues then phone or email the head of year. If you are concerned about the UCAS reference, you can ask to see it before it is sent.

BooksandaCuppa Sat 09-Feb-13 17:49:19

It would seem weird for the form teacher to write a UCAS reference. In our school it's done by the teacher of the subject the student wants to study (or as close to it) at Uni. It might be worth your dd finding out if she can request one of her actual subject teachers to write it, seeing as they will know her academic potential more accurately.

Blissx Sun 10-Feb-13 22:09:50

I have read this thread with interest and as a sixth form tutor myself, I just wanted to add a few things:
<p>1. Your DD's subject teachers will write short references about your daughter's progress which will be put together and 'topped and tailed' by her Form Tutor regarding her extra curricular activities and any roles and responsibilities she has. It is quite common to point out that as UCAS is coming up, students will be told they shouldn't do anything to compromise the reference. This is a behaviour strategy as well as a prompt to get some students thinking about what they can be doing to help add more to their reference.
</p>
<p> 2. You say your DD is not a liar and whilst I don't want to get into an argument as I would never wish to judge someone I don't know-I would be a millionaire if I paid myself a pound every time a parent has said their child has told them something, only for a teacher's response with evidence to show that the child has been a little economical with the truth. I say this because it does sound like your DD had a pretty short skirt (you admit it was above the knee) and in my school, if it's above the knee, she would have been sent home. Is it the fact she was challenged about this or is it purely about the comment and pleasing other boys? Also, don't necessarily believe other students who say she is a terrible teacher - it is perfectly possible she is just strict and some students don't like that (obviously!). focus only on the issues involving your DD.
</p>
<p> 3. I think the advice that has already been given to you is sound-speak to the teacher, (try not to accuse though before you have spoken to her). This may clear things up quickly and have a positive outcome to put your mind at rest and make things better for your DD. it's lovely that you care.

tiggytape Sun 10-Feb-13 23:22:29

She has absolutely no behavioural issues, they are extremely rare and basically non existent in her school.

Whilst I don't doubt your DD is very well behaved, she has admitted to having breached a couple of rules (short too skirt and late for one lesson) so has been spoken to about this. Perhaps the tone of the teacher was unkind or perhaps DD is very sensitive to being told off (as many well behaved children, unused to being told off, can sometimes be).

I think though that you have to be careful about the pack mentality and buying into generalisations beyond your DD's own experience – the assertion that 'everybody knows this teacher is horrible / inept / can't be bothered/ bitchy/ the worst teacher they've ever had....' is an easy position to take.

If pupils take exception to being told off, even with good cause, they tend to compare notes and escalate their criticisms of the teacher involved until suddenly the stern teacher becomes the worst teacher in the whole world and her horrible unreasonable attitude gets reported back to parents – even of parents of girls who have not had any direct dealings with her.

No school, no matter how selective, has 'basically non existent' behavioural issues. The pupils may not be rampaging through the corridors or hurling chairs but breaching small rules, being late, undermining staff are all behavioural issues that need to be dealt with. You really need both sides of the story because it seems the girls are conducting a bit of a witch hunt amongst themselves and, if some parents genuinely think that no misbehaviour ever occurs at the school, I can only imagine the teacher involved is fighting an uphill battle and would welcome the opportunity to explain what has happened.
Of course she may be awful - I don't know. But the 'everybody knows....' opinion of a teenager who feels aggrieved is not the whole story

Copthallresident Mon 11-Feb-13 00:08:06

We had a similar problem with DD's sixth form tutor, again the first time in her entire school career she had encountered a teacher who wasn't supportive of her. She liked girls who were very confidant and would play up to her and clearly did not like girls who were quieter, she decided to pursue a vendetta against DD in particular because as all other teachers acknowledged the public bus service she travelled to school on was unreliable, most students arrive on school buses. Similar threats were made about UCAS references. However she had to take on board the glowing references given by her subject teachers and in the end the reference was fair. Whilst they may compose and edit it if they do not teach them then there is a limit to their input. Frankly, in any case your daughter's reference is unlikely to come under much scrutiny unless she is borderline or interviewed and uni tutors are really far more interested in the subject related information that enables them to decide whether they will be succeed on the course than all of the inevitable extra curricular stuff that appears on every private school application.

sashh Mon 11-Feb-13 02:52:02

What Blissx said.

With the addition that it would just take too much time and effort to be vindictive.

I've been accused of picking on a student.

The class were doing a health education poster and some asked if they could listen to music on phones/MP3 players.

I said yes, as long as they used headphones. One student didn't have headphones and apparently I was picking on her because everyone else was allowed to listen to music.

Comments such as, 'if you keep being late I'll have to put it on your UCAS letter' can be interpreted as, 'I'm going to write that you are always late to class'.

Muminwestlondon Mon 11-Feb-13 09:36:48

Thank you for your comments. DD is not inclined to exaggerate and has by the way a rather inept teacher for one of her subjects, which I decided to hire a tutor for rather than complain to the school. Other parents have also chosen to take that step.

I believe DD that the teacher makes the comments about UCAS forms -which she seems to do everyday. DD was late to PSHE once (never late to class) and was told she was "always trying to avoid.." it. DD was told her skirt was short and teacher didn't like it when DD pointed out it was within school rules - just over knee length while the rule is 6 inches above the knee. I think being called "minnions" is also unacceptable. Teacher is not joking (which I had assumed) but is quite serious and communicates with the girls through criticism. DD has been in the school a long time and all her previous tutors have been fine.

DD rarely complains and has a good relationship with her teachers, this is why the constant sniping and "don't give a shit behaviour" of this one is upsetting her so much

tiggytape Mon 11-Feb-13 09:47:52

In the case of the 2 individual instances, your DD's skirt was within the rules but depending on how she challenged the teacher, she may have received a rebuke that was perceived as unkind.
She was late to PSHE - not officially a class - but presumably something she's not supposed to be late for all the same?

And the exaggeration issue need to equal lying. For example if your DD complains to her friends in other classes that her tutor is a complete cow / mean / inept and was totally wrong to challenge her skirt length, it encourages those girls to enter into all sorts of confidences about how they too agree that said teacher is a complete cow / inept and picks on people for no good reason with lots of juicy and probably embellished examples.
Which your DD duly reports back to you. She isn't exaggerating - she is telling you exactly what the other girls are saying, it just so happens that in many cases pupils get whipped up into a bit of a state and are keen to share horror stories all about the same teacher.

It seems the UCAS form is routinely used as a tool to ensure good behaviour (6th form teachers here have said this is the case) so it is perhaps normal that pupils are reminded that what they do matters in terms of future outcomes. I very much doubt any sort of vendetta is behind it but it one way or another things have got out of hand and I think there should be a conversation with the school to move things on. The trouble is that once a child feels picked on, even if it is unfounded, they will be able to see daily examples of this from any teacher if they look hard enough. It is best to nip it in the bud.

tiggytape Mon 11-Feb-13 09:48:24

need not equal

sashh Mon 11-Feb-13 12:44:47

rule is 6 inches above the knee.

Seriously? Surely that's a mini skirt?

TheFallenMadonna Mon 11-Feb-13 12:46:59

Calling students "minions" will be a joke. Not saying it's a funny one, but it will be a joke.

Muminwestlondon Mon 11-Feb-13 13:39:50

Well, I have now complained to the school. And judging from the response I received mine hasn't been the only complaint. Also agreed that the use of language was completely inappropriate.

tiggytape Mon 11-Feb-13 13:59:40

Muminwestlondon - I think you have done the right thing. This does need to be investigated and rectified. If the teacher has made inappropriate comments or ill judged remarks then of course the school will agree that this is wrong. The teacher needs to know that pupils are finding it upsetting and be more considered.

Equally though, if a group of pupils have taken against a particular teacher for perceived strictness, or have whipped themselves into a bit of a state by comparing their complaints against her and reporting these (including third hand accounts) to parents, then this needs to be addressed with the pupils concerned as well. Aggrieved teenagers are pretty formidable in holding grudges whether they have reason to feel personally aggrieved or not.

I would hope the school will speak to the pupils individually and the teacher concerned as well - communication has broken down somewhere and now some pupils feel persecuted, they will perceive everything that teacher does as a slight, even if it is a justified warning or telling off or even if it is totally standard practice (warning them about UCAS reports etc)

I am not saying the teacher is blameless but I think that it has all got out of hand. The combination of parents believing that a tutor is actively vindictive and that behavioural problems in any school are nonexistent means she is liely to be unable to turn this around without the school fully investigating anyway. It may be your DD genuinely feels unfairly treated though and this will hopefully be resolved and a line drawn under it.

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