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Talking Shop;Problems

Q I have had a student teacher working with me for the past three weeks. During that time I have noticed that, on a number of occasions, items in cupboards have been rearranged and things in the classroom have been moved - while each week my literacy planning sheet has disappeared, only to turn up again the next day.

I'm beginning to feel a little suspicious and angry. How do you suggest I tackle the situation?

A Sensitively, and by thinking a lot before you tackle anyone about anything. The re-arrangement of items in cupboards and around the room could be the student's attempt at trying to help you by tidying up. He could have been looking for resources he needs or he could be finding it so difficult to teach in a classroom someone else has organised that he is allowing himself to be distracted from the core purpose of practising teaching.

I'm afraid you also have to ask yourself if your classroom is unduly untidy or if you have given the student enough time to engage with you as his mentor. The fact that your plans have disappeared and returned indicates that, whatever else is happening, there is no intention to injure you. It might mean that the student needs a copy for his own use but is just too shy to ask.

Sadly, however, it is not unheard of for some students to engage in entrepreneurial activities using curriculum plans, essays and the like, as marketable commodities. Whatever the motivation for the disturbances, you and your student must start talking to each other about the realities of your experiences. You should also get in touch with the college tutor assigned to your school.

Q I am a newly qualified teacher but feel really fed up and somewhat threatened. Over the past few weeks I have been pestered to the limit by a group of three or four older pupils. At the beginning I thought it was flattering to receive notes on my desk saying I was the best teacher in the world and that my clothes were "wicked".

However, the notes have become much more personal, although they remain friendly. Recently the pupils - who are not in my class - have taken to following me to the bus stop and waving. A couple of them are always waiting for me at the gate when I arrive. What can I do to stop this attention?

A Don't carry the worry alone. Tell everyone you can, including your mentor, your key stage coordinator and your headteacher. This will dissipate some of the threat you feel. They will support you and know how to handle the situation tactfully.

It does, however, seem to have got out of hand in that it involves a group, but this alone could explain the fact that the attention has been sustained for so long. The children could be feeding off each other, as it were.

It is not uncommon for youngsters to get crushes on their teachers, especially young, new teachers, but it does need nipping in the bud for, as so often with the young, those involved may have no concept of the consequences or interpretations of what they're doing.

Q We felt driven to write to you because we feel so aggrieved that a particular member of staff pulled out all the stops at our recent inspection and has managed to get good grades for her teaching when everyone knows this did not reflect the normal situation.

This particular teacher does not pull her weight in planning, curriculum development or in her management role, relying on the work of the rest of the team. What can we do to make her realise what the rest of us do?

A This is yet another glimpse of the hidden side of inspections. You must feel a great sense of injustice. If the situation continues then the whole team will underperform, standards and quality will deteriorate and children will suffer. The school will be put under a strain.

In the first instance the teacher needs to receive thanks for her efforts, which ultimately benefited the school and the children. Second, she needs to be informed of the effects of her inconsistent practice and that her overall performance is unsatisfactory. I would assume the head would deal with this, so you would have to speak confidentially with the head before the process begins.

It is useful to remember that the staff team is made up of everyone. Smaller teams, sometimes with short working lives, operate inside the main team. You can't have a team of one. See what each member can contribute and give opportunities for each to give and receive support. Allow it to happen.

The saddest thing is that the teacher couldn't see from the beginning that the children deserve the best teaching all the time, not just when an inspector is present.

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