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Dear NQTs, when in crisis buy shoes…

A tale for NQTs

It was 1997 and I was a young, enthusiastic English teacher. I was teaching my mixed ability, year 10 GCSE class and was in my second term. 
As was usual at the beginning of my lesson, I was collecting in homework. Rob told me that he hadn’t done it and I gave him detention which was the same consequence as always. As I got to the next table, I heard him call me a fat, f**king cow’ and the class went silent. It took all my effort to remain calm and quietly I asked him to leave my classroom. With a loud huff, Rob kicked his chair and left slamming the door behind him. With my heart thumping and my face flushed, I managed a Jean Brodie style tone and asked my class to turn to the page of the text we’d been reading and I continued as if nothing happened.

Some time later, my Head of Department (HoD) popped her head round the door and asked if Rob could return to class. She must have read my face and when I told her to ask Rob why he was in the corridor, she nodded knowingly saying she would ask him to expand on the reason he’d already given her.

My lesson seemed never ending but I got through it without crying and the class, willing me on I think, behaved impeccably. The bell finally rang and I went straight to the English room. My HoD put her arms round me and explained that Rob was in isolation. I melted into her arms sobbing despite feeling embarrassed and stupid. It was lunchtime so the English teachers began arriving and I received hugs, sympathy and lots of tales of awful things they had experienced which became more extreme until we were all laughing; me through my tears. Mark, Rob’s Head of Year came in (another hug) to tell me that he’d rung home and the Mum was coming in for a meeting. He stated that I should get straight back into the classroom and not to let the incident put me off teaching. Mary, my HoD however yelled in her Kent accent, ‘No Mark, Jules is going to do some shopping therapy and buy a really expensive pair of shoes before she returns to the classroom, we’ll cover her lessons this afternoon.’ Smiling he left saying ‘bloody English teachers’ and assured me he’d see me tomorrow with news of the parent meeting. Next came the Deputy Head responsible for behaviour and the NQT programme. She was not the huggy type but after hearing what had happened came straight over to tell me that it was because I had enforced my rules consistently. While it was a horrible incident, she stated, I had done the right thing and it shouldn’t put me off teaching.

I felt showered in support rather than blame and left after lunch to Bournemouth where I bought (as directed) an expensive pair of shoes.

The next day I learned that Rob’s Mum had admitted she was not coping at home, her husband was in the army and was abroad and she was trying to manage a new baby, a toddler and her son was having to help out a lot at home. Rob’s life seemed to be unravelling fast and on further investigation, it turned out he was behind in most of his subjects. He caught a school bus home so it was difficult for him to stay after school for homework club but the HoY and his tutor arranged a support package to get him back on track. 

A few weeks later, Rob proudly gave in his homework as he had been doing consistently since the incident. As I moved to the next table I overheard him say ‘I think Ms Daulby has lost weight’. I hadn’t of course but I knew why he’d said it and I smiled to myself.

Rob, a C/D borderline student ended up with a grade B. He would now be a pupil premium student due to being an Armed Force’s child.

The HoY, Mark continued to think English teachers were weird.

Mary is now a fabulous headteacher in a school in a disadvantaged area which is unfairly graded by OFSTED.

Some take away tips 

Student’s behaviours are often triggered by things we know nothing about and can be a cry for help.

Consequences should always follow poor behaviour but they don’t need to be immediate. Support should follow if needs have been identified.

Pastoral care is vital.

Parent partnership is vital.

Don’t ever feel personally to blame. If you don’t receive support when things go wrong, find a new school. It’s not your fault.

And most importantly, buying expensive shoes are the best therapy.
Good luck and I hope you have a great year.

*All names have been changed other than my own*

4 thoughts on “Dear NQTs, when in crisis buy shoes…”

  1. Hi Jules – I got here via Twitter. Love the article – it’s so true that much if not most of pupil misbehaviour is caused by circumstances outside the classroom. It is so important for teachers not to feel alone when dealing with it. You had a very understanding HoD – with very good advice. Buying new shoes is a definite cure all. I was going to post you a picture of my latest acquisition but can’t – have you heard of Irregular Choice? If you haven’t take a look – I think you’ll like.

  2. The lady writing this article was my tutor from 1997-1999. She told me (I wasn’t interested in school) that it was never too late to start working hard. I scraped through my GCSE’s and then college and got a job. With Ms D’s comments still in my head, I enrolled with the Open Universiry while on maternity leave with my first child. I’m now proud to say I have my BA Hons degree and If it hadn’t been for Ms D’s few words – I’d never have bothered. She was the voice in my head, telling me that I could do it and it wasn’t too late. I’m a HLTA in a primary school and I have the option of doing one more year of full time to do my PGCE if I should wish. Ms D – you rock – always have done.

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