Downs and Ups


I reckon that one of the reasons why I have not been blogging so much since September is the situation at work. The school I teach at – a French state school – has been going from bad to worse in the past few years.

Although we still have some great students, we also seem to have more than a fair share of rude, lazy, inconsiderate teenagers who spend their time texting from their phones and fail to understand why this enrages us.

Some colleagues are off-sick because they suffer from burn out or depression. Only this morning an experienced economics teacher burst into tears at 8 because of a violent incident that had happened yesterday evening and which meant she felt she could not face her class today.

I personally have an ongoing battle with a business class about coats (which they refuse to take off), textbooks (which they don’t bother to bring to class), note taking (which they try to avoid) and endless conversations (between themselves). I try not to give up because of what I believe a decent lesson should be like but it’s hard.

Dialogue with the administration is not easy. The deputy head blames everything on our inability to deal with students and is convinced that he would do a much better job if he were in our shoes. This obviously does not help and only creates more tension and frustration. The head is new, which means he is still very cautious in his dealings with the whole staff.

As a result, in December, we decided to unite and work together to improve the situations on several fronts. We made a list of the people who are sick and tired of the whole situation, asked them to email their complaints and organized a three-hour meeting (at the beginning of January) which 50 teachers attended and during which we drew up a list of problems and (suggested) solutions. This resulted in a short meeting with the administration yesterday where they agreed to consider our points and discuss them with us at the beginning of March.

So far we are not sure much will come out of this but the climate in the staff room has improved. People are more talkative and some colleagues now dare to share their problems. This is a small step albeit an important one in a profession where people are reluctant to admit failures and difficulties.

17 thoughts on “Downs and Ups

  1. I’m glad you wrote “ups” second. Does this mean that you feel better about the situation, for now? I’m glad to hear the staff got together. How difficult it must be to face all of those uninterested students. I admire your ability to get as far as you do.

    • Does this mean that you feel better about the situation, for now?
      Probably. I think I appreciate the new climate and the feeling that we are less isolated than we thought.
      Thank you for the kind words.

  2. I know exactly what you are talking about! I left teaching 15 years ago because when we moved to Rehovot from the north I was interviewed for a job in a boys school and the first question the interviewer asked was: “How are you with discipline?” I came home and said to my husband: “I’m going to look for a job as a secretary.”
    I think I might have felt differently if as teachers we could have united to bring about change and to support each other. I always felt like everybody else was better at ‘discipline’ than I was.

    • Thank you Risa for your support.
      The problem here is not always the discipline but its enforcement by our administration. For instance when we send them a student who has been disrespectful in one way or another, they usually send him/her back with no disciplinary measure.

  3. I am so sorry to read of your situation. I would hope that as well as the administration that you would also have the parents behind you. It seems to me that this is an issue that could/should be taken to the parent-teacher committee. I wish you the best of luck

    • We did wonder about involving the parents but some colleagues feared that exposing all the problems might frighten some off and result in their enrolling their children in another school.
      However their representatives will definitely be involved if the school rules have to be amended.

  4. Agh. My mum and step-Dad are and were (respectively) in teaching – the same sorts of issues arose for my step-Dad and so he took early retirement in the end. His school was a state school in a housing estate in an inner city area. He was a good teacher, but his school had similar issues with both the students and administration.

    I do hope that there are results (positive ones) following your meeting. But as you say, at least you as teachers feel more support from yourselves now, rather than feeling alone.

  5. Sigh, I really feel for you! I sometimes think the solution would be one of those “one way” glass windows and all of the parents should be forced to come and watch their offspring in action for an entire week. Then they would know what the teacher endures day in day out. Education isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and teachers should be respected, no argument, no discussion.

  6. Agh. My parents have been in teaching and my step-father experiences pretty much the same kind of situation you’re facing now. He was a head of lower shcool in his high school as well, so he was quasi-teacher, quasi-administration – the worst of both worlds. I have seen him in some pretty bad places (morale-wise).

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it sounds that the group action that you and your colleagues have taken has at least boosted collective morale and left each of you feeling less alone with it all.

    I really hope you get the results and support you need.

  7. Oh, wow. Teaching is probably one of the most underappreciated professions. I’ve had a little classroom experience, and just those few months were very trying. I hope that through banding together, you can all support each other and a solution can be found. Somehow, I think there is a general feeling of disinterest among youth on all levels, as I also see it in my piano lessons. Good luck!!

  8. Pingback: Double Weekly Review with Flower | Ilana-Davita

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