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How bad is this and should I complain?

(42 Posts)
Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 20:49:32

First of all, let it be said that I am not a habitual teacher-basher. I know that the vast majority of teachers work extremely hard and that many go way beyond the call of duty in order to support and develop their pupils. I never once had cause to complain about teachers when dd was at primary school, and I am very happy with the vast majority of her teachers now she is at secondary school - most seem highly committed, professional and sincere people.

However, there is one teacher who I'm concerned about. Obviously, I only have dd's perceptions of what's going on, but she is generally respectful towards her teachers and a good judge of character. She has no grudges to bear against him either - he hasn't told her off, has graded her highly and given her a good report.

The problem is, he just doesn't seem to teach them anything. He is very good at clowning around and making them laugh - dd thought he was the bee's knees at the start of the year - but there is no balance. Most of the time, he tells them what topic they're doing and leaves them to find it in the textbook and read up on it. The kids then try to explain it to each other. Now, I'm all for independent learning, but I do think that the teacher should have some input as well? He doesn't really support them in their research either - dd says that he sits at the front texting, or sometimes he is on Facebook. Recently, he appeared to be researching holidays. There is no written feedback in dd's book since the start of the year - just a few ticks.

I know that teaching is stressful and perhaps this guy has other issues in his life. I really don't want to get anyone into trouble without good cause, but I feel that this guy is taking the piss. It's also really unfair on all of the brilliant teachers who do work really hard. Should I complain to the school on the evidence of a (fairly mature and reliable but quite judgemental) 11yo? Or should I leave it now, given that the year is already over?

OP’s posts: |
MooPointCowsOpinion Tue 16-May-17 21:10:48

Probably worth raising with the school, but just remember that your dd is probably elaborating a little so go in gently.

elevenclips Tue 16-May-17 21:36:41

I'd leave it personally. You dd presumably has just over half a term left at this school? Is she Y6? It's not great. Is it a core subject?

LockedOutOfMN Tue 16-May-17 21:48:34

Have you met the teacher at parents' evening? Has he written a report on your daughter yet this year? Maybe you could email him or ask to meet him or talk on the phone.

BarbarianMum Tue 16-May-17 22:28:17

Dnephew had a teacher exactly like this. My sister complained so he started being really unpleasant to dnephew. Unfortunately he rather under-estimated dsis, who then escalated her complaint via every official channel. Ended up with the school conducting some sort of internal investigation and the guy was sacked for basically fucking around on the internet all day and not teaching at all.

So, yeah, I'd not ignore what she's telling you.

ilovesooty Tue 16-May-17 22:31:12

She's apparently at secondary in Yr 7.
What subject is it?

PaleAzureofSummer Tue 16-May-17 22:42:27

Maybe the school can't get a teacher in the subject and he's having to cover?

Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 22:58:47

Thanks for the responses. She is in the first year of secondary so still has a few years at the school. However, he is not the only teacher of this subject so she may not get him again. DD has already declared that she doesn't want to do a GCSE in this subject in case she gets him as a teacher. Of course, she may change her mind, but even if she doesn't, I guess it's a valid choice.

It isn't a core subject, if that means English/Maths/Science but it is a subject that I would consider "important" and dd has several lessons of it in a week. I don't really want to name the actual subject - sorry.

We have had a written report, which was very positive. We also met the teacher at parents' evening, and again, he said lots of nice things, but I had the distinct impression that he did not really know who dd was. This was an interesting contrast with some of the other tutors, who saw her less often but clearly knew her quite well. He was perfectly pleasant, just came across as a bit insincere. He told the kids the next day that he had been on his best behaviour for their mums and dads. I'm inclined to think that this wasn't a joke!

I did consider saying something at parents' evening but was worried that he might take it out on dd in class - his behaviour seems a little unpredictable to say the least. I also considered talking to the Head of Year, but then I decided to hold back in case they thought I was one of those parents.

We're headed towards the end of the year now, so hopefully dd won't have him for much longer and we can move on. I guess I just feel that the school ought to know. They're (quite rightly) very strict about the children not using their mobile phones in school, even at lunchtimes, but what sort of message does it send if the teacher sits at the front of the class texting and sniggering at the replies? He doesn't even bother to turn off the sound on the alerts that tell him when a text has arrived!

Obviously, I'm aware that dd may be exaggerating, but she is pretty level-headed on the whole, and generally disposed to see things in a fair and balanced way. She clearly believes that this teacher is making no effort. I'm willing to accept that her perception may be wrong, but it's still concerning that she has that impression.

I know that what I should really do is address the matter directly with the teacher, rather than running to the school management without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. That would be the fairest thing. However, from all that DD has said about this teacher, I'm not convinced that he wouldn't "punish" dd for any complaints, so I'm a bit nervous about approaching him directly.

OP’s posts: |
Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 23:09:23

That's true, Pale, they may be struggling to recruit another teacher. I know that teachers are leaving the profession in their droves.

I guess that's partly why I'm asking the question, really. I know that teachers are under a horrible amount of pressure and it must be soul destroying to deal with demanding parents who expect the earth. I don't want to pile on the pressure by complaining about trivia but was a bit shocked when dd said that this teacher spends so much time on the internet. However, I don't know what the norm is - when I was at school, there was no bloody internet! If the kids are working independently, then perhaps it isn't a problem for teachers to check the odd work-related email or whatever. However, I'd still draw the line at Facebook or booking a holiday though. I'd be interested to know what other teachers think - especially secondary teachers because I can't imagine for a moment that primary teachers would be able to do this!

OP’s posts: |
PaleAzureofSummer Tue 16-May-17 23:17:20

How do they know he's on fb or booking holidays?

Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 23:24:27

DD knows about Facebook because from where she sits, she can sometimes see the screen - either on his phone or his laptop.

I think he actually told them that he was booking his holiday. It might have been a joke, but I'd normally expect dd to be able to tell if someone was joking.

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GinSwigmore Tue 16-May-17 23:31:36

First off, I have been out the profession (and the country) for a while things might have changed but I am surprised he has got away with books just being ticked. Thought there had to be written feedback on how to improve these days.
I knew someone like this: superficial charm, glib and lazy bugger who taught ICT, let the kids piss about on the computers and taught them to minimise screens if someone senior came in.
If there is a deputy in charge of curriculum/performance I might be tempted to have a word re books not being marked properly/kids following a textbook.
I have to be honest re patents evenings though...much as I loathe to admit it, with 240 kids to see every week, there was always one child whose name would escape me. I know how bad that sounds and maybe no one else will admit to it....if he did not refer to your DD by name or asked you to confirm your surname or tried to eyeball your appointment sheet then yes, he probably doesn't know her very well at all

GinSwigmore Tue 16-May-17 23:38:24


and by "following a textbook" I mean explaining they are practically self-taught (although I have seen this too sadly...turn to page such and such, but in physics/geography/history). Such a shame as the kids deserved better. I know learning styles was debunked recently but I still feel you need to do perform/use a variety of styles/get the kids involved if you want to engage them. I thought Ofsted meant you couldn't get away with textbook teaching (have to show progress within a lesson/peer appraisal/all singing and dancing elements). Maybe I am out the loop...
How old is the teacher?

Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 23:44:55

Thanks Gin. I get that about parents' evening and wouldn't hold it against a teacher if they didn't seem to know my DC or if they had a temporary blip. Might be worth noting that dd's friends' parents had the same impression about this particular teacher though, so I suspect there are quite a few that he doesn't know. DD's view is that he knows the "naughty" kids well but doesn't really remember the rest. Perhaps that's not that surprising.

The marking thing is interesting, but it seems to be quite patchy across the school as a whole tbh - some subject teachers mark frequently and very thoroughly, whereas the feedback in a couple of subjects has been minimal. Overall, I feel that it's a very good school, but this does seem to be a weakness. I thought perhaps my expectations (based on my own secondary school) were unreasonable, given all of the other pressures on teachers' time these days.

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ThreeFish Tue 16-May-17 23:51:31

I think you've enough of a reasonable cause there to speak to his head of year. Doesn't need to be a formal complaint at this stage.

Of course, if DD is "punished" you've got your answer and a complaint is justified imo.

Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 23:55:41

The teacher is probably mid thirties or thereabouts.

I think the teacher did give verbal feedback on a homework task once, calling up each child and speaking to them before giving back their book. However, his only comment to DD was that her work was very neat!

The textbook thing is weird, he doesn't even give them a page number, he just says that he wants them to find the right place in the book - so some kids spend half of the lesson looking.

DD is quite quick and a good reader, so she is perfectly capable of self-teaching, but as you say, that approach doesn't work for all of the children and DD spends a lot of time trying to explain what she has read to her friends. On the one hand, I know that explaining what you've read can be a great way of consolidating what you've learnt, so I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. On the other hand, I don't think the teacher should simply leave it to DD and others like her to explain stuff to their classmates!

I think I'd have less of an issue if he seemed to be monitoring what they were doing or bringing them back to a whole class activity at the end of the lesson to check understanding, but that doesn't seem to be happening - again, if dd's perception is accurate.

I will have a look on the school website to see if there is someone with a curriculum lead or similar.

OP’s posts: |
Brokenbiscuit Tue 16-May-17 23:57:23

I should have added - the teacher was observed one lesson and was apparently completely different, so he can pull it off when he is required to do so!

OP’s posts: |
GinSwigmore Wed 17-May-17 00:44:21

^ that boils my piss. Wish the kids had said: Sir, why aren't we having to look in the book like we usually do? Or some innocent out of the mouth of babes observation that senior management would pick up on (that the lesson was out the norm compared with the usual shite). I bet he's the sort to make a big deal of welcoming passing staff too in a distract-divert tactic. Colleagues have probably got his number though.
My DD has a similar teacher: Mr Popular as he never gives homework or detentions. But he spends half the lesson out the lesson grabbing a coffee. A colleague knows because when he came in to ask a question and found him not there, he said sarcastically I'll go and look in the staffroom next to the kettle! hmm
(This is not in the UK. The teachers submit their own class averages/set their own tests. Parents are complicit because:
a. Kids beg not to complain about him
b. Kids are pretty much guaranteed a pass in his class (he can rig it with an oral mark)
He is a nice bloke but his statement that he is a "premium teacher" is bollocks and the kids see through it after half a term.

KeiraTwiceKnightley Wed 17-May-17 06:48:18

Bet he teaches geography (taps nose).

KeiraTwiceKnightley Wed 17-May-17 06:50:45

It's not ok. I would ask to see his he'd of dept and take the exercise book as proof that little marking is done/ no evidence of a logical approach being tAken.

Drives me mad this - I'm an English teacher and when I think of the time I take planning and marking and how scrutinised I am....!

MaisyPops Wed 17-May-17 06:57:34

OP you sound very reasonable and it's clear from your posts you have no intention of teacher bashing or kicking off (which is probably why you'll get sensible and supportive replies).
That teacher sounds either lazy or like he's not sure what he's doing

Colleagues have probably got his number though.
Oh yes. There's a colleague at my place that has some of those traits from OP's post. We have him worked out.

I'd ask to speak to the head of department and calmly and politely say something like 'I'm aware I only have the word of one 11 year old but there's a couple of things that are concerning me. Do you have a minute to talk?'

Likelihood is he's already being watched internally. When I've had a call like that I do a sweep of books, learning walks etc and keep a closer eye on certain classes. Will also speak to staff if there's lots a miss.

hippyhippyshake Wed 17-May-17 07:35:47

Are secondary teachers allowed phones in class? At primary ours are only allowed in the staff room.

KeiraTwiceKnightley Wed 17-May-17 07:42:44

Not at our place. Nor should they be - if kids can't have them, staff shouldn't have them in class. Def shouldn't be on fb!

noblegiraffe Wed 17-May-17 07:43:48

It's taking the piss for a teacher to be on their phone in a lesson, and leaving kids to teach themselves while he arses around is unacceptable. He could argue 'independent learning' but really it's just lazy slacker. It would certainly be a valid complaint if you decided you wanted to bring it up.

Brokenbiscuit Wed 17-May-17 07:43:55

Thanks all. I really don't like complaining about individual members of staff, but it seems that the general consensus in this situation is that I should approach the Head of Department. However, I will do so while acknowledging that dd's perceptions may be flawed and that she may have misjudged what the teacher is trying to do.

OP’s posts: |

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