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AIBU to want to leave before completing my NQT?

(28 Posts)
nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 08:19:26

Hi everyone - can I ask your advice on my current situation please?

I’m an NQT in a secondary school, teaching a shortage subject where the school has had a lot of problems recently. There was lots of absence in the department last year, poor GCSE results this summer and there still is low staff morale from what I’ve gathered from other teachers. I’m doing maternity cover and I’ve been here since the start of September.

I hate it already. The behaviour at the school is poor, in a sort of insidious, low-level disruption way but with a large handful of students causing problems for their teachers and the rest of their classes with no real consequences. Even the good students routinely talk over me, answer back and ignore me – I can ask kids to pick up their rubbish from the table when I’m on break duty, and they look at me and walk off like I’m not even worth their time. They take no responsibility for their behaviour – if you try to send them out of a lesson for disruptive behaviour, they refuse to go because they don’t see what they’ve done wrong (even if you clearly explain and give them prior warnings).

Furthermore, there’s no coherent behaviour system to back teachers up. There are about five or six steps involving moving students around your classroom, parking them with other members of staff and so disrupting their lessons instead, etc. I’ve been given an old-fashioned ‘bottom set’ Year 9 class which the head of department described as having all the characters in it. It’s literally all the students who most likely need one-to-one support and specialist intervention, but the budget doesn’t stretch to that, so they’ve stuck them all with the NQT.

My form group are supposedly some of the nice lot but there was an incident on Friday when they and other students in their year came into my room while I was in a meeting – a light fitting was knocked off the ceiling by students repeatedly throwing the board rubber at it and they graffiti-ed the board as well. I dealt with it as best I could myself by letting them know the consequences of their behaviour (they’re no longer allowed in my room unsupervised) and took names to the heads of school and my head of department, thinking at least they’d be put in detention or something for damaging my classroom, but there’s been no follow-up because ‘they were just having a game of catch’!

I dread coming in to work every day because of how awful the classes are. Nobody listens to me or cares about anything I do or say – lessons that I spend my mornings, breaks, evenings and weekends planning are wasted because I can’t get them right for the kids, they just play up. Somehow in my training, I got graded ‘outstanding’ (I think I had a particularly nice mentor!), but I certainly don’t feel it! I’m so fed up with having to shout over thirty children to even be heard, I hate being a strict, telling-off teacher and I can’t bear it that the nice kids ‘feel sorry’ for me (they’ve actually come up to me and said this!) None of this is remotely why I came into teaching and I feel like I’ve completely bought the ‘making a difference’, ‘most fulfilling job in the world’ marketing lie!

Essentially, I want to leave the school before my NQT year is finished, because I think my mental health is suffering that much. I got upset a couple of weeks ago and ended up crying in the office in front of my head of department (which was so embarrassing and I never cried in school at all during my PGCE) – but she just said to make sure not to do it again and gave me a game to play with the worst-behaved students. There’s no coherent plan for anything and I’ve been left to my own devices with Year 11 too, like trying to schedule and plan a mock by myself because they haven’t had one yet. They didn’t even know what exams their GCSE will be made up of. SLT are also keeping a close eye on this subject because of the poor results in the summer so I feel particularly under pressure.

I’m questioning whether I’m even suited to teaching. I feel like I have to put on a performance every hour of the school day and it just isn’t me. It’s wearing down my self-esteem and my confidence and I feel like a fake and a fraud.

If I were to leave, I have other work I could go to for a while in order to make ends meet and to give me the time to assess whether I really want to be in teaching. But I feel like I’d be letting down a lot of people – the school, the department (especially as they had so much disruption last year), the kids, particularly the Year 11 class I’ve got. It also feels like giving up! But the thought of actually not having to stick it out here for the year is such a relief. If things don’t improve, I’m thinking of giving my notice at Christmas, so staying until February.

Sorry for the ramble! Thank you for reading if you got through all that. Does anyone have any advice?

OP’s posts: |
wwwwwwwwwwwwww Tue 25-Sep-18 08:37:50


Sympathy it sounds like you are in a very tough environment. Obviously I'm an ideal world you would stick out the year but nothing is worth your health. I seem to remember when I was training qts could be gained by term. So one term in one school two terms in another. This was a long time ago though. I'd look into it.

Don't give up on teaching if you liked your pgce. Find a school where you will be well supported.

wwwwwwwwwwwwww Tue 25-Sep-18 08:40:14

Ohh I'd look for another job starting in January if you are going to move more come up. So notice at 1/2 term. I

stargirl1701 Tue 25-Sep-18 08:40:35

Which Union are you in? Make contact with both your school based rep and a paid Union employee.

What have you tried in terms of behaviour management?

nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 11:16:09

Thank you both for your replies!

wwww exactly, in an ideal world I'd stick it out so that I'd be fully qualified by the end of this academic year, but it's really having an impact on my mental health having to deal with the low-level disruption day after day. It's harder to decide what to do because I know that there are much worse schools out there - my DP worked in one a couple of years ago. I feel like I'm making a meal out of it, because things could be worse, but at the same time the environment is really horrible. In today's lesson, I found that some of the boys had drawn a picture of me exaggerating certain features (glasses etc), and when I threw it away, one of them came up and took it out of the bin? They're exhausting.

I think at the very least, I need a break to consider whether teaching is really for me. I enjoyed my first placement in a 'strict' school with a two-strike behaviour policy that had been in place for a few years. My second placement was implementing the same policy and it was fairly chaotic and unpleasant in places. The school I’m at now doesn’t have a terrible reputation but it is declining.

I don't know whether I'm the right sort of person to withstand the sorts of schools that my last two have been. I’m letting the students down by not being resilient enough. I resent having to spend my days trying to appease students who have no interest in the subject I teach or even in behaving civilly in a classroom towards me or their classmates.

stargirl1701 I’m with NASUWT and I’m not sure who the rep is. I know the NEU rep though. Is it worth getting the union involved in this? It’s so pervasive but it’s low-level stuff. I’ve tried moving students, putting names on the board, giving behaviour points, sending students out of the room so I can talk to them one-to-one, sending them to work outside the head of department’s room, giving detentions, asking what I can do to help them do the best they can in lessons. It feels like I’ve tried lots of approaches and they all take advantage of the fact that I’m new and haven’t quite got everyone’s names yet, although I’m getting there on that front.

I’m also not teaching my degree subject – I did a foreign language at university and I’ve been employed to teach two languages that I didn’t study, although I have an A level in one of them. I knew this at interview and the school new that I wasn’t a specialist in either of the languages I’m teaching, so I can’t fault them on that front. However, when my timetable came out, I was also down to teach English, which nobody had ever discussed with me. That might be more of a union issue but I don’t want to put people’s backs up because the English staff are really sweet and I feel like, as an NQT, I should suck it up.

Thanks again for reading flowers

OP’s posts: |
stargirl1701 Tue 25-Sep-18 11:18:22

You pay your union dues for support. You need support. It doesn't need to be formal in any way.

Have you phoned the parents?

nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 11:21:50

Thanks, stargirl, I'll give it a go. I've spoken to the parents of one boy, yes, which seems to have calmed him down a bit. I've also spoken to the form tutors of other particularly poorly behaved students.

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Tue 25-Sep-18 11:44:47

Wow the problem isn’t you, the problem is the school is shit.

Firstly, as an NQT you shouldn’t be given a bottom set full of characters, or an unexpected subject to teach.

Secondly, the behaviour management system is shit

Thirdly, no one has your back.

Pupils will always test NQTs. Always. But you should have support in dealing with them. It creates far more workload, but get onto each parent. Email if necessary to save time and just change the name. Follow up behaviour, look up behaviour management techniques - Tom Bennett videos or buy a Bill Rogers book. You say you’re trying a lot of things. That’s good, keep at it, they will not work instantly, but they will help over time.

And when you look for your next school, ask what their behaviour management system is and ask staff if it is implemented.

nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 12:01:38

Thanks, noblegiraffe! I'm worried that I'm complaining too much or seeing things as worse than they are. Everyone else seems to put up/shut up and I seem to be the only one struggling in this environment! I feel like I should be able to do it and because I can't, I'm failing.

Life's too short to spend it somewhere like this, isn't it? I think I'm going to start looking at other options and working out when would be a sensible time to move.

I expected to be tested by the kids but there are no consequences for them. They don't attend detentions, some of them walk out of lessons if you try to keep them back and nothing is ever their fault.

I thought really hard about taking this job, to the point that the headteacher let me wait a weekend to think about it, which I know is really unusual. I thought that it reflected really well on him as a person, and he seems really lovely, but ultimately the school is without any really serious discipline or behaviour policy.

The more I think about it, the more I want to go and do a quiet job where I can focus on my specialist subject and maybe go back in to teaching a bit further down the line. But, as I say, I feel selfish thinking of doing that. In the meantime, I'll try all of your suggestions. Thanks so much for your advice flowers

OP’s posts: |
castasp Tue 25-Sep-18 17:08:57

If your school is a normal state school (academy or LA), then your leaving dates will be Xmas, Easter or August - you won't be able to leave at February half-term.

For Xmas, you'll need to hand your notice in by end of October, for Easter it will be end of February and for August your notice needs to be in by the end of May.

Check your contract - notice period/leaving dates/handing in notice stuff will be in there.

You say you're doing maternity cover, which suggests it's only a temporary post anyway, in which case the notice periods may be shorter (sometimes as short as a week, or sometimes 4 weeks). I did a maternity post once and the notice periods increased the longer I stayed there.

nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 17:10:37

Thanks, castasp, I actually found that out this afternoon when I was googling resignation! Thank you for pointing out the maternity cover notice periods too, I'll have a look at my contract. smile

OP’s posts: |
hollytom Tue 25-Sep-18 17:16:46

Some good advice given above.
In my experience a lot of teachers now just accept things even if they know they are not right.
It is totally unacceptable that the pupils received no sanction for damaging a class room. I can’t say I’m surprised though the same thing happened to me last year, a glass door was smashed and no sanctions.
Also you can’t give your notice in at Christmas to leave in February there are 3 set points for notice basically around each of the half terms to leave at the end of term.
As you are in a shortage subject surely you will be in a strong position?

nqtomg Tue 25-Sep-18 18:23:30

Hi hollytom, thank you. That seems to be what's happening at this school - the HoD said today that so many new policies have been implemented and things changed, but the pupils' behaviour has never improved. It's not hard to see why, when there are no consequences. She said that she finds often that the threat of a punishment works better than an actual punishment, but surely not if the students work out that they're just empty threats...?

In theory I'm in a strong position re. finding another job, but my area is particularly sought-after and it can be tricky to find teaching jobs generally around here. I think I'd like to hand in my notice by the October deadline so I can leave at Christmas and see whether there is anything out there for January. Thank you for clarifying re. the leaving dates too, I hadn't realised before today that there were only three set points for leaving, I'd thought it was just a half term's notice. Thank you smile

OP’s posts: |
clary Tue 25-Sep-18 21:56:54

What languages OP? I ask because I am a graduate in German but it's not easy to find a job teaching German, more and more schools want Spanish teachers. Would you find a job teaching your degree language?

Lots of good advice on here. Your school sounds insufferable, I'm sorry

Goldrill Tue 25-Sep-18 22:00:48

I'd be out of there like a shot. I've just completed nqt in a very inclusive comp in a small town where the top two sets go to the grammar. I had some pretty bad classes but got lots of support from department and smt. Made it possible to learn to deal with them.
Even with that support the nqt year was quite horrendous. If I'd not had support I don't think I'd have carried on.
Good luck with job hunting!

nqtomg Wed 26-Sep-18 08:13:45

clary, yep, it's German! <waves to fellow Germanist smile >

So many schools seem to be cutting German now sad even doing my PGCE, the training provider struggled to find placement schools around here that taught German, so I trained mostly teaching Spanish. It's unlikely I'd find a job teaching German, unless something came up at one of the local private schools perhaps, but I'm considering tutoring as well to earn some extra money. I did start off doing some translation when I was at university, so I'm looking to use my contacts there to get some extra work using my German too.

Goldrill sorry your NQT year was so tough but super well done for getting through it! It's really tricky being new to everything, isn't it? I'm not sure if my HoD thinks that her way of working is being supportive and it just isn't coming out quite right or if they don't really care. I think I could probably mix with other teachers a bit more but there's so much to do that I'm always in my room. And by the time I've seen all my classes, I'm all people-ed out and just want some peace for a bit!

Fairly sure now that I'm going to hand in my notice in October and look for a new school for January. That gives me five weeks to get my act together and make sure I'm setting up something to go to after Christmas! Thank you all for your help and advice flowers

OP’s posts: |
clary Wed 26-Sep-18 09:07:03

I love German, so sad it is being phased out.

I retrained as a teacher a few tests ago and like you, struggled to find a, placement school. Luckily I got a job there but German is so under pressure. My school was starting to look unusual in nit offering Spanish. I did Spanish O level in 6th firm (yes ago!) so would struggle to teach it beyond yr7.

I do feel for you - I also have a level French but when I wanted to leave my school there were so few options for me. In the end I left teaching, tho lack of possible jobs was not the only reason haha. I could have written a lot of your posts. Good luck

clary Wed 26-Sep-18 09:08:30

Sorry for typos my phone doesn't like the word years!!

nqtomg Wed 26-Sep-18 13:32:37

Me too, clary, it's such a beautiful and misunderstood language! It's a real shame that it's still got a bad reputation and a bit of a stigma for being 'aggressive-sounding' hmm

Can I ask what you do now, if you don't mind? Just interested to hear what fellow German specialists are up to smile

OP’s posts: |
hollytom Wed 26-Sep-18 13:42:26

Re the punishment I agree kids are not stupid the threat works with some, usually the children who don’t usually get into trouble but for the persistent offenders of course it doesn’t work! You sound like you know what you are talking about so don’t let them grind you down! Easy to say I know.

cansu Wed 26-Sep-18 17:22:12

I think the NQT year in a secondary school is hard going. You need to seek the support of your colleagues if you want to make it through the year. You can then decide whether to try somewhere else or stay. FWIW it often gets easier when you have been somewhere a while as the kids just don't test you in the same ways.

I would see if you can observe some other teachers. You will pick up some good strategies.

Try not to show too much stress or anxiety. When I had tricky classes, I found myself preparing myself and getting stressed before the lesson. Result was I was on edge and it didn't help.

Good behaviour management systems are essential but it is surprising how many schools don't have them. Sometimes behaviour in the schools which don't have tough reputations can be worse as they don't acknowledge or really deal with the poor behaviour in the same ways that schools in more challenging areas have to.

If you are v unhappy then only you can judge whether you can stick it out though. I remember disliking my NQT year intensely too. The other thing to remember is that you are still learning. The first few years of teachig are a bit trial and error whilst you get to grips with the job and find your own style and way of doing things.

ZombieHunter Mon 01-Oct-18 01:17:07

Hello from another Germanist!

When you mentioned languages, I had a feeling it would be German. I've seen the decline happening before my eyes. I started back in 2002 (now I feel old...) and German and French were the two main languages taught at schools. In my early days I had no problems finding a position and moving schools when circumstances changed. Then I noticed Spanish creeping into the curriculum and at first it was one of those 'out there' subjects. By 2012 things had changed dramatically. Spanish and French were suddenly the sought after subjects and I wasn't qualified / good enough in either. I was made redundant as they were phasing out German in favour for the other two. Next school same...

You wanted to know what others are up to. Well, the decline in German plus the decline in the system / behaviour of pupils made me leave the UK and I've been teaching abroad since 2016 and I haven't looked back since. I teach pupils who want to learn, and languages are a popular choice as these kids are all multi-linguals due to living in an international environment.

For now, I suggest to leave at Christmas as the school sounds like a hell-hole, complete your NQT year somewhere else and if interested start looking for teaching abroad. Let me know and I can give you more info. Definitely worth considering!

ohreallyohreallyoh Mon 01-Oct-18 22:34:58

Have you tried the positive behaviour stuff? Positive comments to kids who are sitting up and looking at you when you’re trying to deliver something - well done, X, for being ready to work (name on board under smiley face). Then merits/commendations/e-mails home to reinforce the positive. I saw a student teacher once turn behaviour around with a massive Easter egg and raffle tickets. Students got a raffle ticket for the smallest of things in the first lesson which she pulled back lesson by lesson for real effort, good questions etc. with the egg on constant display. End of term, all the tickets went into a raffle for the egg.

nqtomg Wed 31-Oct-18 10:51:32

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to update you in case anybody's interested - I've got a new job for January! I had an interview yesterday at the school where I did my first placement last year. It was so lucky that it came up when it did.

I do feel guilty for leaving the department in the lurch when they had so much disruption last year but it's such a relief to know that I'll be leaving here at Christmas, it feels like a weight off my shoulders.

Thank you for all of your support, MNers flowers

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Wed 31-Oct-18 13:23:42

Oh well done for getting out, and hopefully if it’s where you did a placement you know that it will be better!

Don’t feel guilty, in teaching we have to look after ourselves - a teacher happily teaching in a new school is better for education than a burned out teacher who has quit entirely.

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