Friday, 12 February 2016

Secret Teacher - The secret world of teachers

I once worked in a school that had two areas within the staff room. We called one the staff room, the other, the area for cool people. In amongst us teachers were some of the administrative and computing staff members.  We loved our breaks and despised being disturbed! So, do not disturb a teacher during breaks unless it is a dire emergency or you have been asked to attend the staff room! Most teachers consider breaks sacrilege and feel the need to not be around students!

Despite that most students consider that we spend most of the time talking about students. That could be no further from the truth. One of the most common statements from students is “Oh Miss, I saw you in a shop at the weekend!” It is as if we are 24/7 teachers and we do not leave the comfort of a school ever, enjoy sleeping at school, and on a weekend stay within school walls. It is surprising to some that we have children, actually go to a pub – we really do try not to go to any pubs within the school catchment area! - go shopping or even have the audacity to walk down a road outside from school. Oh and teachers really do not want to talk about your nearest and dearest in the middle of a supermarket. We might pretend to be interested, but we would much rather just do the shopping and get back to more important things.

Never be in awe of a teacher, or when in a school as a parent, go back to short trousers.  Try to remember you are an adult too. I have met some parents who are actually scared of teachers! Unlike your child, we can never put you in detention, or give you homework. (Unless we are in a particular foul mood!)

And those holidays! Imagine working as an actor for up to 30 hours per week. Providing individual scripts and plays, providing exciting resources to stimulate your loved ones brains, and keep them from boredom, filling in registers, writing reports, sometimes in their hundreds, and attending meetings. Sometimes meetings about meetings. Sometimes meetings about meetings, that are about meetings. Some schools have very meeting orientated heads!  We need those holidays! One to refresh ourselves, but also to work. I do not believe any decent teacher does not spend some time at home, on an evening, or weekend, or during school holidays doing school work. So do not make jokes about holidays and teachers, we just don't like it!

And who is in charge? The Head. (With the exception of one school I worked at that the Administration team ran the school, but that's another story!) Unless it is very, very, very urgent or mega important do not go directly to the Head! Your best way in is through your beloveds Form tutor, or Primary teacher. If you do not get what you want, then go higher. In the case of Secondary Schools, the Head of Year, or Head of House – some schools have both, then if you need to go higher, try the Assistant heads. It is important to note that in some schools, they have turned heads of House into administrative positions, of people who are not teachers. OK? Then the Deputy, then if you have to.......The Head. Now the Head. Do not be scared of a Head. They may appear to your child as being the Devils own spawn, but most are approachable. Kind of. And don't forget that most teachers are terrified of the Head anyway.

If all goes belly up, then your point of contact is the school Governors.  Now they are an interesting group of people. What should happen is that they dictate what happens in a school. But some are just puppets of the Head.

If it is subject based, then go to the teacher. Then the Head of Department, then the Head of Faculty, then the Assistant Heads.

Some schools do differ from this, or use more fanciful titles, but remember it is all done to give teachers some prestige, and make it more difficult to get through the maze!


The best way of contact is through the telephone. Make sure that the message is taken, you do not have to say what it is about, but that you want to arrange a meeting, and you wish to be contacted when this has been arranged, the best time is straight after school, which gets a teacher out of a meeting........, or before school starts. Say after 6 pm when you finish work, then forget it!  (Told you teachers and meetings!!)

If you cannot get through on the phone, try writing in your child's planner or school diary. Do not accept from your child that they do not have such a thing, or that it is only for them and the teachers. Most Form Tutors will read a child's planner. Unfortunately notes and letters can be mislaid or lost. In Primary Schools try attaching a letter or note to the child's reading book. Or even posting it to the school!

Oh and don't get annoyed with the Admin staff. Most are under paid hard workers, make them a friend, and it makes your life as a parent so much easier! Be nice to them, and then they will make sure the message gets through. Oh and don't ask to speak to a teacher during school hours, the chances are that they will be teaching or in a meeting. (I once worked in a school that four out of five days a week, the staff were expected to attend meetings after school....) Meetings. Not a nice word for teachers.

Write down what you want to say, and questions to ask. Do not think anything is inappropriate or silly. After all it is your child you are concerned about. Not happy? Then go further up the ladder.

That said there are schools which are run by such dictators, oops I mean Heads that you are encouraged to go straight to the top. But be warned. This tactic is generally to gather information about the teacher themselves. Which is used bully the teacher about, so be careful what you say! After all it is not the Head that will teach your child........

And there are teachers, and there ARE teachers. Some teachers, even other teachers wonder why on earth they have chosen such a profession when they appear to hate working with children. Then there are the ones fresh from University, and then others who have had working experience in the big wide world, then go into teaching. Teachers will have various motives for becoming teachers, some that is what their family has always done, some that they think that the pay and holidays are great (Hmmmm...), some that the have been influenced by a great school teacher while in school, and decide to follow the profession, and some that actually enjoy being with young people and children, and enjoy the challenge of actually teaching, and assisting children to learn. I can promise one thing. That while your child is in the educational system, you will meet all of these. Some good, some bad, some who are a waste of space, some who say great things, but perform badly as a teacher, and some truly inspirational amazing teachers.

So the best policy? Be nice. We have our ways of getting back at children whose parents get at us.......

And alike the Queen, we all go to the toilet........

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