What keeps me awake at night: experienced staff are ignoring my pleas for help

1st November 2015 at 12:00
What keeps me awake

I have come to dread every Wednesday that I spend at this school.

The system has changed and I’m not sure either myself or my subject can handle it. With the change in judgement on how a school is performing, from the percentage of 5 A*-C towards the levels of progress each pupil has made since primary, the door is open for any pupil to pick some of the most academic subjects in school. In my experience this year, pupils who can barely read or write are being actively encouraged to pursue GCSE options which involve more writing than they have ever been ready for in order to up our intake.

Further to this, my timetable this year leaves me faced with the prospect of a three-hour GCSE geography lesson on one day. In theory this is an amazing idea! We get nearly a day dedicated to our subject, we have more scope to take these pupils out for fieldwork and we get to know our GCSE classes better. For me it’s unsuccessful, it doesn’t work. For me this is a Wednesday. A Wednesday shared with some of the weakest pupils in school who, at the drop of a hat, transfer their inability to access the content into bad behaviours as a result of me refusing to spoon-feed or break down the work any more than I already am.

I am stared at blankly, told to repeat instructions five or six times to each pupil despite it being written on a worksheet or on the whiteboard, my teaching assistant is rudely spoken to and I’m given death stares as “they don’t need geography to get into college”, despite choosing it as an option willingly. They may as well be studying a foreign language as that is how useful three hours spent together is at present.

Last year I poured hours of my life into the high-ability, top set Year 9 classes as I was told that my "fresh out of university" teaching style would encourage them to take geography as an option rather than our competing subjects at GCSE;  I was rewarded this year with the lowest ability Year 10s who I cannot teach.

I don’t have the experience or training to deal with the vast array of special educational needs in just this one class and my desperate pleas to more experienced staff members seem to be falling short. So now I face the decision of how to squash these pupils into my way of thinking; I need to win them over, but more importantly I need help.

I dread Wednesdays, but what else am I supposed to do?

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