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Struggling in a job I am massively overqualified for :(

(52 Posts)
MeantToStopAtTwo Sat 10-Sep-11 22:28:40

To cut a long story short, I left my job in finance this summer after 15 years. The politics there had turned nasty and it seemed like a good time to downshift and spend more time with the children. I ummed and ahhed over whether to do a maths PGCE. It was late in the day to apply though and, with zero classroom experience, I decided as an interim step to take a job as a teaching assistant in a primary school for the year. I rather liked the idea of having little responsibility, very reasonable hours, and no take-home work so that I could focus on my little ones whilst they are still young.

Yet ironically, two weeks in (although only one with the children back), I am absolutely bloody HATING it! Despite being massively overqualified and having taken a substantial pay-cut, I feel like I am frankly crap at it. I am OK at interacting with the children but dreadful at the practical, organisational aspects. I have done so many stupid things this week, e.g. piling-up artwork before the glue had dried properly so that it all got stuck together and had to be thrown out (I could have cried). My first attempt at a display board was an utter joke (not that anybody found it remotely funny, mind you) and it took me at least three times as long as it should have done to get the backing paper to the correct size. Then, when asked to cut circles out of paper, I began cutting them one by one, rather than folding the paper to make several at a time like anybody with half a brain would do. All this from somebody with a natural sciences degree from Cambridge! It wouldn't surprise me if they start making enquiries this week to check that my CV isn't a work of fiction. I should be shot really, shouldn't I?

Perhaps, not having had a new job for so long, I've forgotten what a steep learning curve it is even when the job is fairly low level? I know there are different types of intelligence. Perhaps practical intelligence just isn't my thing and I should go back to something more theoretical? Or perhaps I should ask my GP about a neurological assessment because I truly do find this level of stupidity quite disturbing?

Any thoughts welcome.

doublestandard Sat 10-Sep-11 22:38:33

I was expecting from your thread title to find you'd gone from CFO to accounts assistant or similar but you've gone into a role completely unrelated to your previous role with zero experience. I reckon that lack of experience is your problem. You need to stop thinking this job is easy and beneath you and start taking it seriously.

Fwiw I wouldn't be a teaching assistant as I don't have enough of the suitable soft skills nor the patience or inclination to do the role. Senior management suits me fine thank you!

fanjobiscuit Sat 10-Sep-11 22:48:52

Nope -you havent chosen an easy job at all have you?

Yes, I know it 'looks' easy -all you have to do is mess about with paints and stuff and then go home at 3pm?
Ha!

Once you get the hang of the practicalities it will become easier -but unless you get the thought out of your head that you have traded down you will not do well at this job.

Ask for help -repeatedly-until you learn the tricks of the trade, dont refer to 'my last job' and most importantly, give yourself time. 2 weeks is not enough time to find out about the myriad facets of a good TA. Watch and learn.

And no I am not ,nor have ever been ,a TA although I have worked with some fantastic ones.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Sat 10-Sep-11 22:48:56

Ach, you're only two weeks in, give yourself a little time to learn on the job.

colditz Sat 10-Sep-11 22:50:36

Just because a job is low paid doesn't mean you don't need to be intelligent and have a certain skill set. Your previous employment and education has done nothing to prepare you for the job you are doing now, you are basically at the same level as a sixteen yearold school leaver. This is why you suck. You don't have any experience. But your problem is that you seem to be expecting your degree to make up for the years of experience it takes to get good at this job - and it won't. It wasn't even a degree in anything to do with children!

You have, unfortunately, gone into this "little job" with quite a large degree of hubris which you are now suffering for. It's not a little job. You are partially responsible for the education and welfare of children.

And yet I do feel very sorry for you. It's incredibly stressful to completely change direction. What I would suggest you do is talk to your TA colleagues, tell them you are struggling, and ask them how to get up to speed. Then, next time the local college is enrolling, sign up for a child development course. You probably know very important things about maths, but you need some soft skills for teaching or they won't listen to anything you have to say.

BlowHole Sat 10-Sep-11 22:51:40

Just because you've got a good degree, doesn't mean everything you do will be easy for you. Just give it time, and you will learn the new skills required for your new job.

MaeMobley Sat 10-Sep-11 22:53:48

Hi, I don't think you are massively overqualified!! It sounds like you lack any real experience of this specific type of job. Be kind to yourself but stop seeing yourself as "overqualified". It is a new job in a completely different field.

I work in finance and I would really struggle working in a school.

colditz Sat 10-Sep-11 22:57:38

And PS you are NOT massively overqualified for this role - you aren't qualified at all.

Hassled Sat 10-Sep-11 22:58:57

Being a TA is not an easy job. It's about way way more than the ability to use a glue stick. Take it seriously, listen to the teacher, find out how the curriculum is taught, be interested in the children. And give yourself more than 2 weeks.

And maybe learn to let go of the past a bit. You've moved on - I think you might have some regrets, and that's fair enough, but that's going to affect your ability to do yourself justice at this school.

kickingking Sat 10-Sep-11 22:59:46

I think you have made the mistake of thinking that working in a school is easy, but it's not. You need to learn all the skills from scratch.

Things like stacking up the artwork before it had dried is just a mistake anyone who had no experience of that might do.

Display boards are hard! I'm a teacher of several years experience and I still struggle with backing paper blush.

My suggestion is don't mention your old job (if you were) and just watch the experienced people like a hawk, and learn from them.

Sandalwood Sat 10-Sep-11 23:01:35

As colditz says. This isn't a job you're 'massively' overqualified for.

leicestershiregirl Sat 10-Sep-11 23:02:19

The most important thing in your job is working well with the children i.e. having good interpersonal skills and being able to facilitate learning. As long you are ticking those boxes you are doing well. (Said as a former TA who also has little 'practical' intelligence). A basic Level 2 course in supporting teaching and learning might boost your confidence. And you could just stay for stay for one school year, then go do your PGCE - it is common and acceptable for degree-educated TAs to do that. It's early days, I'm sure it will get better with time.

MeantToStopAtTwo Sat 10-Sep-11 23:42:31

Thanks everyone. It's good to know that none of you think this is premature dementia setting in and that I'm not the only one who struggles with backing paper.

I agree that my expectation that this job would be relatively straightforward and stress-free after a long spell in a high-pressured city environment is a major part of the problem. Although, in fairness to myself, the management team who hired me seem to have taken a similar view. Consequently, I've been offered zero support so far and just been left to figure it all out for myself.

I've been paired with an NQT who makes no secret of the fact that she thinks me a total klutz and is utterly exasperated by all my mistakes. Despite being nearly ten years younger than me, she talks to me in an even more condescending tone than she uses with the children. Often, as soon as I've finished a job, she'll immediately go and do it again herself as I do not meet her standards.

I do honestly wonder how long they're going to put up with me and whether I should perhaps jump now before I'm pushed....

That said, I don't think anybody could complain about how I am around the children or parents. I interact with them well and confidently, always managing to stay calm and cheerfully carry on whatever happens. I'm certainly not lacking in patience or interest.

Most TAs have gone on a TA training course to learn how to do the job before going into the classroom. The mistake you made is not uncommon as many think that anyone can teach or be a TA - the reality is different.

I feel for the NQT - she has been trained, but is still finding her feet and has been paired by someone who doesn't have any training or qualifications to do the job that they're in.

Get thee to your local adult college and get yourself onto a TA course in the evenings. It will stand you in good stead if you do decide to go on and do a PGCE later.

Out of interest, teaching is long hours and hard work. If you are expecting it to be a step-down, take on board the difficulties you are having now and times it by 10. You have to be really dedicated to be a teacher. I know. I taught and then moved back into business as it's a hell of a lot easier.

LovetheHarp Sun 11-Sep-11 11:50:45

Well I am in a fairly senior role in a major international corporation and I wouldn't be able to do a TA job at all. I can't cut properly either, I am rubbish at drawing, still count with fingers (use excel/calculators at work) and I could just go on forever!

I think teaching/TA is a completely different skill from what you had before, so you need to give yourself a break. Are you not enjoying it because of the mistakes you are making or because you really don't like it? I think it is very hard to start again, esp after having held a high brow position as you don't like being back at the bottom of the ladder.

Hope this helps and good luck!

MeantToStopAtTwo Sun 11-Sep-11 12:12:28

NeverKnowinglyUnderDoug, thank you for your post. I do very much appreciate your honesty. You have made me realise that I need to resign and I am now going to do so first thing tomorrow morning.

I feel for the poor NQT too. She has every right to have treated me as she has done, given my lack of performance. I'm sure she is a lovely girl deep down. She deserves much better.

TheMitfordsMaid Sun 11-Sep-11 12:18:39

Now now, do get a grip. You need to give it at least 6 months before you can know whether the job is for you. Deep breath, go in tomorrow and see it as a new start. Think about how you would have inducted new employees. You wouldn't expect them to know what to do from day 1, would you?

In the absence of your own induction programme from your manager, think critically about what you need to learn over the next 6 months and then think about how you'll get that knowledge. Is there someone in the TA group that could act as a mentor for you?

doublestandard Sun 11-Sep-11 12:23:48

Come on OP! Buck up! No need for dramatic gestures like resigning.

Yes you need a bit of help but mostly you have to have the will to do it. Maybe a bit of planning and practice would help? Talk to your supervisor they may be more supportive than you think. After all they did give you the job so will have seen something to work with.

Nobody likes a martyr wink grin

SilveryMoon Sun 11-Sep-11 12:30:55

I have read this thread with interest.
I am a TA. I am unqualified, I haven't done any training or courses for it, but apparently I am quite good at it, and was told at my last school (was tehre for 6 months) that I am a natural and was one of the most intuitive workers the head had seen grin <blows own trumpet>.
Although I am told that I work well, that I am good at it etc, I always feel that I could do better.
I started at a new school last week and seem to be settling in ok.
I have no qualifications at all, just a few low level GCSE's.

The thing is OP, it is not an easy job, and you do have a huge responsibility in that you are responsible for the children's education and wellfare as part of the team. The children (depending on age) may not understand you are 'just' the TA and will view you as their teacher.
It's good that you are confident with the children and the parents too.

I think that resigning may be a bit extreme at this time, you aren't the sort of person who just quits when things get a bit tough are you?
Thought not.
What I suggest, is tomorrow morning you tell the teacher that you would like to have a chat with her at the end of the day.
Then when you sit down, tell her you are aware that you have made some silly mistakes over the past few weeks and that you are hoping it is just nerves.
Tell her that you want to do this job, that you want to be good at it, and you want to learn. Tell her that you would appricate her feedback on how you perform and you are open to tips and constructive critisism(sp) in order to develop your skills within this role.
When I first started in my old school, the teacher used to talk to be through other people, she'd say things like "Sue, if you back the board silvery can laminate the pictures. Is that ok Sue?"
She'd never talk to me directly and she always looked at me funny. After the 3rd day, I grabbed her at the end of the day and said I wanted to learn and wouldn't be able to do it without her help and feedback, and yes, had to be a bit arse-licky, but from that moment on, things changed, she took time to explain things to me, and when I did fuck up we were able to laugh.

Don't give up, it is a very rewarding role, but you need the passion for it.
But like others have said, you can't think this role is beneath you, because it;s not and take a moment to think of the NQT, she has alot to prove in her role. She may be completely overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork she has to do etc.
You really need to be a strong team in the classroom. Is it just you and the NQT or is there another TA too?
It's not going to work if you all can't communicate properly, f you don't help each other and don't trust each other.
Good luck

coccyx Sun 11-Sep-11 12:31:10

How are you overqualified?? not in the present job as you are rubbish! Bit too smug

doublestandard Sun 11-Sep-11 12:43:59

Coccyx no need to kick her while she's down!

RoyalWelsh Sun 11-Sep-11 13:00:04

I think a new job is Always going to be difficult, especially as its completely different to your last one!

I wonder if you could talk to your twacher about how you re feeling? You never know, she may well be mortified that you think those things. I know all through my teacher training we were always told to treat the TAs like royalty because they often have a wealth of information about the children nd their families that you, as a NQT, wont have. Id be surprised if she honestly meant to make you feel bad - she will be under an enormous amount of pressure as well don't forget! It'd be nice for you both to be able to grow into your new jobs together. I'd certainly be more excited about a new TA than an 'old' one as I would feel much less like I was being judged against another teachers standards!

Sandalwood Sun 11-Sep-11 13:06:05

It sounds like you could do with building on the relationship with the teacher a bit. She sounds a bit tricksy to work with and a big part of the job hinges on your relationship and communication with her.

I help (just as a volunteer) in my DC's school. I find the teacher there tricksy too. Like, she once showed me what she wanted me to do with a group while she was busy with something else - she showed me the first sheet, explained, I let her know I understood....next sheet, how it relates to first, yes I understand, this bit, that bit, yes yes all clear....then she walked away with the sheets.... and hid them!
I'm sure she didn't mean to hide them they were in an obvious place to her (under her chair where she keeps such things). But I felt useless having to disturb what she was doing to get hold of them.

I think given a bit more time it's just a case of learning each others little ways and learning how to get on.

ggirl Sun 11-Sep-11 13:14:29

yup agree with others
you are massively under qualified for this job
give yourself a break
we all learn by our mistakes things will get easier

I'm not suggesting you resign! You're obviously capable of learning new skills or you wouldn't have been able to do what you did before. What I'm saying is that you need to get out there and learn them - doing it on the job is fine.

As another poster has said, watch the teacher and the TA and learn from what they do.

You've been there a week. At least give it until Christmas so you have a chance to get into it, get over the culture shock and find your feet.

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