Not coping.(23 Posts)
I'm an NQT at a large comprehensive. I re trained last year and I'm 38, married with 2 DC. DS is 7 and DD is 4.
I'm not coping. I find the workload enormous. The school had an inspection at the end of the summer term and it didn't do well in the Core. As a result, there's a huge shift in focus on all staff. We have to provide an enormous amount of planning and incorporating of new teaching methods (don't want to say which in case this identifies me in RL). Behaviour is also a huge issue in this school.
I'm on my 3rd and 4th observation from Senior Management this coming week. It unnerves me in a way I didnt expect - I'm older, quite calm normally, and having gone through really stressful work and home situations, I thought I could deal with most stress. I can't. I find I'm constantly thinking about work, constantly working and planning, making resources, and constantly anxious too. Friday night is my only respite during the week and that's because I down a couple of gins to force me to relax. Saturday morning, I wake uptight and snappy because of all the work I have to do.
DH is not able to support me more in the house. He works away an awful lot with a really responsible job (again, don't want to say what just in case I'm outed) so I can't rely on him to have the children more.
I cannot approach the senior leadership team with my concerns. I've been told time and time again not to complain as they will not re-new my contract. I cannot approach my NQT mentor either for support, as he's a part of the senior leadership team. The Head really unnerves me; I feel constantly in the wrong, no matter how hard I try.
Even now typing this, I'm close to tears and nearly hyper-ventilating. I think I've made a massive mistake retraining to be a teacher. My kids are suffering because I'm never relaxed and happy. Every night I'm working or marking and I cannot sustain this pace. I feel like seeing the GP for something to help me relax. I'm just not enjoying life at the moment. I never imagined it would be like this.
Sorry for the long post. I feel so low.
I really feel for you. I am in my third year now, and having a weekend a lot like yours. I am not sure FT teaching is compatible with family life. However, your NQT year will probably be the toughest you do, so if you can get through it, things will get easier. And your DCs will be older and more able/wanting to do their own thing. (I do a heck of a lot of marking while in car parks outside gyms, music schools etc!)
Looking on these boards, it does seem like a semi-decent work life balance is possible in secondary. Hopefully your school will drop the ridiculous demands once it is seen to be "improving". You have put in a lot of work (head and heart) to get this far, so I hope things start to seem brighter soon. Getting the first term's NQT paperwork signed off is a milestone - look forward to that and a break from school and SLT nonsense over Christmas.
Re. The head unnerving you.
If the school has done badly in an inspection, the head is not all that. Don't let him/her intimidate you. They haven't done their job properly.
An unapproachable SMT means they are at fault not you.
Are you in union? If so, speak to your rep in confidence. The union may also have an advice line you could call. What about friends you met when you were training - can you talk to one of them? Is there someone more experienced in school but not in SMT you could speak with?
FT teaching is pretty full on with a family. Can you get a cleaner for the house? Set up online shopping for groceries? Hire an au pair? Send out your ironing to be done? Drop off your laundry to a serviced laundrette?
The first year is the hardest. What you are feeling is within the realms of normal.
Why are observations stressing you out? Are you spending an unreasonable amount of time preparing for them? Do you get constructive feedback? Do you feel you are being judged behind your back? I don't think anyone likes observations, but there is some good in them - you are so well prepared, that there is little scope for things going wrong, badly-bahaved students turn into angels, and you get feedback to help you improve.
Can you make a list of things you feel you do well, things you need to improve, parts of the job that make you feel happy and parts where you feel stressed? It helps to get it all into perspective. You haven't mentioned how you get on with the students/behaviour management, so that is probably a positive.
It's hard to be in a school that is in the headlights, but all you can do is deliver the very best lessons you can, and let someone else worry about the politics. Your students need and value you and they do not understand what is going on outside of their lessons.
NQT year is a massive workload- there is no getting round it. Find an 'unofficial mentor' someone whose teaching you like and ask them to help you. Stick with it, it does get easier but it is so hard at the beginning.
Thank you, all of you.
I do spend a lot of time preparing, and I cannot seem to speed up. I agonise over things, so preparing power points and worksheets take over my life. I also don't have much support outside of school so everything is done when the DC are sleeping, and I'm already on my last legs by then myself. I'm constantly knackered, irritable and anxious. I can't seem to snap out of it.
I need to get help too, but money is tight. DH is on a good salary but for reasons I don't want to state (I'll be more identifiable) lots of our money is already committed. I feel like I should be coping, after all, thousands of other women manage it, so why can't I?
Behaviour at the school is notoriously bad - they're city kids and very, very street-wise. I'm firm and fair and have managed to build bridges to the most difficult kids but getting work out of them is another matter. That said, it's the kids that keep me at this school - they're great. I wish I could get them all to do the work, but I can't. I'm certain, that should I stay at this school, then getting the kids on board from Yea r7 onwards, would ensure that I have them exactly where I want them by the time we get to Years 10 and 11, but I fear that I won't last this long.
I don't want to approach my Union - it sounds daft, but I just don't trust the SLT to not find out and to question why I've not approached them. I have spoken to the other NQT at the school and she feels the same way as me, so I know I'm not alone.
Your union work for YOU not your school! And you can contact them in complete confidence.
Make sure you use a non-work email address / phone number to do so. Most of the big teaching unions will have an evening helpline you can call in the first instance so you can call them when you are off school premises.
There is just no way your SMT would find out that you had chosen to talk to your union unless you told them (or told a loose-lipped colleague!) so please don't fret on that account.
And don't worry about not having your contract renewed, i was on a temp contract for my nqt at a really rough school and found it pretty much like you, only started flying when i got a job at a different school. NQT year is notoriously hard, just keep your head down, keep plodding on and complete the year. Keep up with the friday night gin, and plunder tes shamelessly for lessons
I am finding it tough too. I spend a lot of time thinking about work and worrying about what I might have forgotten. The anxiety level is enormous.
My post could be yours almost fact for fact. However, I do take ADs - started with PND & never stopped them. I think they are massively helping me get through this year. Trip to GP might help things?
It will get easier. I promise. Use TES, try to adapt lessons and resources rather than starting from scratch. Have a cut-off time each night and stick to it. Take some St John's Wort, herbal remedies etc. Hot soapy soak and try to get a good night's sleep. Have a daily 'To do list' and try to prioritise. You can do this OP. Keep us posted.
I agree that this will be your hardest year. Stick it out and do well enough to get your NQT year signed off, but I also think there are some 'corners' that you could cut. No every single lesson has to be whizz-bang. Steal resources from wherever you can.
What about looking for a job in an SEBD school for September? It would be the type of kids you like but the school would be on a smaller scale and, TBH, fewer kids means less marking! (There are other, much better reasons for teaching in SEBD, of course). I found it to be very rewarding and finding my 'niche' saved my teaching career.
Hi OP, I have been teaching 10 years and have had patches of feeling like you do. To be honest, your school sounds shit. Not the kids, but the management. If you are scared to even speak to your union rep, that is bad.
In terms of 'work-life balance', it's always hard in your first year as it's your first run through, you're starting from scratch.
So- my advice: mark as you go. Go round the class, marking as they're working. Ticks a lot of boxes and saves you time later.
Don't over-plan. Creating the powerpoint/resources shouldn't take longer than the lesson lasts.
What subject do you teach? Can you plan a couple of lessons a week where the kids are working independently and you can 'potter' around them- fixing displays, marking, cutting out resources etc?
Plan for your tiredness. For example, I plan lessons straight after school and leave book marking to do when the kids are in bed in front of the telly. Obviously if it's coursework I do it earlier.
Give yourself one day at the weekend where you do absolutely nothing. I don't work on Saturdays. This makes a MASSIVE difference to my life.
Finally, are you making the most of the internet? Most lessons and resources are out there somewhere, just needing a little adaptation for your own pupils.
It will get easier!
(BTW- I'm off sick today, in case you were wondering how I have time for the essay!)
It will get better.
SMT sound crap; don't be intimidated, they're worrying about the report, not you.
You will get faster, you'll be able to reuse exercises, worksheets, you'll devise ways of marking as you go, peer marking etc.
You haven't mentioned practical home support- perhaps its all sorted.
Having resisted internet food shopping until very recently I could weep at the time wasted. I get a delivery between 6-7 am, an early night, and by the time I've had my morning tea, a whole week's shopping is sorted.
I agree with others- most people find it very hard- I don't know how you cope with a family. It isn't you- anyone would be stressed.
My first year was very tough and that was before kids. I take my hat off to the NQTs that have done it later when they have family commitments too.
Definitely use the Internet and share resources with other teachers. I quite often put a plea on Facebook to my teacher friend's for ideas and resources. There is no point reinventing the wheel.
SMT are concerned about the report, not you. You are just on the receiving end of the backlash. Not fun. I've been there but you just have to remember that it isn't you.
Sounds like you are doing a great job if you are getting the kids on board and engaged.
Also try and cut down marking by going round them as they work. Mark as a class by getting them to swap books and discuss answers.
You will get there, promise.
It gets sooo much better after your NQT year. All these plans you're doing now can be used again. Your reputation with the kids will begin to go before you.
That said, the school doesn't sound great. You sound great though! Maybe keep your eyes open to see if anything comes up?
Anyway, you have done the worst part. Autumn term is so long! Spring and Summer are much shorter, 6 weeks then a half term.
The NQT year is the worst, as previous posters have said. It sounds like the school you are working in operates on a culture of fear and bullying. Your union is the best source of power to help you stand up to this kind of thing with confidence. The work load gets a bit better, as things which take ages to work through (lesson planning, fiendishly confusing mark schemes, report writing...) in the first year become second nature after a while, and also you develop ways of dealing with difficult behaviour. I remember in my first year I found working with challenging students incredibly stressful, as young people can say and do terrible things - once I worked out that most of it was better dealt with away from peers and through relentless kindness rather than public confrontation, things started to get easier on that front. That said, I still find myself weeping about the marking workload on a regular basis (I teach a lot of A-Level and the coursework is horrendous), and any kind of audit or inspection leaves me a nervous, sleepless wreck for days (posting on MN at quarter to 2 in the morning...) There's no getting away from the fact that it is a difficult job (this is my 11th year). I just focus on the holidays (yay!) and those lessons where everything falls into place and you see a whole class enjoy a poem or understand passive syntax and you come out on a high. And the fact that if good people get bullied out of teaching, then only the bullies and those willing to meekly jump through crappy OFSTED hoops will be left, and then god help the kids! Sorry for long post - I did mention I was insomniac...?
Get some peer marking and self assessment done. You are meant to use a variety of assessment. As framey says you are almost there. The autumn term is the worst. Next year will be easier
Your schoo does sound crap and I would focus on getting this year out of the way and then look at moving on.
Having said that as a teacher during term time you probably will find that even in a less challenging school your life will be dominated by work during the week. However you should be able to relax on a Saturday.
Good advice about not reinventing the wheel , use TES resources etc. Are there not more people in your department, if so you should be sharing resource that you can tweak rather than all planning from scratch.
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