A kid can say whatever they want about you, make up any old crap and make an official complaint that must be investigated, that casts aspersions on your character and professionalism, all because you pissed them off.
What teacher can ever say they haven’t pissed a kid off?
And it’s not just the kids…some parents like to get in on the act too.
I know that these people have problems, I get that, but I am just a simple teacher trying to apply the rules of my school whilst pushing for the best outcomes for students.
Hell, I’ve got my own problems! Please don’t make me the problem, I am applying the rules to everyone, fairly and consistently. And knowing what I know about some of these people, I am aware that I really am not the central problem in their lives. So why am I being subjected to false allegations and downright lies?
It makes you want to jack it all in.
I wish I could laugh off such fabrications but at the back of my head is a little voice asking, ‘Will anyone else believe this? My colleagues? My other students?’ Is it right that I will now be reluctant to apply the rules to other students, and contribute to a slide of standards across my school? What if everyone is walking around thinking the same thing?
When you get to the point that you fear for your career when you tell a student off, surely it’s time to leave.
I think my colleagues are backing me but how can you ever know?
The only positive thing that has arisen from this is hearing how my students, called as witnesses, are having none of it. But it makes me sad to think that they have had to defend me, I should be their defender, their champion – I’m the adult.
Most people I know are in a union, but not because they want to actively campaign for reform in education; we pay our annual fees to protect ourselves! Because there’s always some kid out there who wants to bring you down.
They are the minority, of course. But there isn’t a teacher in the profession who hasn’t looked at a least one child in total incomprehension before. They are children, some don’t understand the severity of their actions but pandering to their spurious claims is not my idea of educating them.
When I was an NQT I inherited a very hostile year 11 class who it took a long time to win over. One boy in particular believed he was more intelligent than all of us in the classroom put together.
Anyway, the spelling of the entire class was pretty poor, so one day we practised the spelling of some words we would use in the exam. Predictably, he was unhappy and extremely vocal about it, but a lone voice in the class. We did the test and then went round the room to do the answers. When it was his turn, he did not spell his word correctly. The rest of the class lampooned him for his previous arrogance. I moved swiftly on.
However, he was embarrassed, understandably, and blamed me, in a letter of complaint to my head of department. This was how he dealt with it:
Head: I got this from …have a look.
Me: (confused…then outraged) What? I didn’t laugh at him! Everyone else did because he had told everyone else he was too good to learn spellings.
Head: Don’t worry about it, I’ll handle it.
After that I went around in a state. I was in my NQT year, would they terminate my contract? I felt guilty even though I knew I hadn’t laughed. I understood why he was angry but I had been trying to improve his spelling. And he obviously needed it.
A few days later I asked my head of department what was going on. He had forgotten about the whole thing. Apparently the boy had come to see him again. My head said to him that he had made himself look like an idiot and he needed to stop trying to pin the blame on other people. When the boy tried to protest he told him to shut up and man up. The letter had gone in the bin.
Although I’m not sure I would have handled it in the same way, I felt glad to be supported. And yeah, he did need to shut up. There was no investigation, lending more credence to the claims, it was thrown out because in this case he was a child being a child whilst I was a teacher teaching.
I’d like to think that no kid will ever get pissed off with me again, maybe I’ll become a doormat that avoids any confrontation with a student but I know myself too well.
This isn’t the first time some twisted adolescent has made up bullshit about me or other teachers..nor will it be the last, unfortunately.