20th December 2002 at 00:00
I help in class 2 once a week - I'm careful to avoid my children's classes - and I thought the teacher appreciated me and we got on fine. However, she has been a bit stressed recently, apparently over marital problems. She is sharp with the children and has really overstepped the mark with correcting them.

I can usually bite my tongue but last week she took a little boy's part in the Christmas play (which she produces) away from him because he was persistently annoying the girl in front by twisting her hair and untying her ribbon.

I waited till the end of the lesson and then said I thought it was a ridiculously hard punishment for childish pranks and she should not take out her domestic frustrations on the children. She went berserk and reported it to the head who has asked me to resign since I "clearly can't keep out of professional matters".

Surely parent governors represent local families and must see that teachers behave professionally with the children and give only fair punishments? Must I resign?

It is not for the head to seek your resignation, and it is not all that easy to get rid of an elected (as distinct from a co-opted) governor in any circumstances, except for non-attendance or breaking the law. It is also for the governing body as a whole (maybe through the chair) to ensure that members behave appropriately.

But that is not really the point - you have behaved inappropriately. Although not formally correct, the reactions of the head were very understandable, particularly as you were unwise enough to attribute the teacher's hasty action to personal problems - you know how we all hate that.

I think the punishment excessive and I hope the boy's parents say so, but I suspect that if you had not intervened the decision would have been reconsidered before the end of the day, certainly if it got to the head's ears.

The head will know that this teacher is behaving uncharacteristically and will be dealing with the matter in her own way. But it is not our job as governors to correct teachers or question their actions; managing teachers'

performance and conduct is the head's job, and even helping in the class does not give an individual governor any right to interfere.

The governing body as a whole does have a responsibility to formulate pupil behaviour guidelines in a policy which will guide staff in day-by-day decisions, and such a policy could very well include something about appropriate sanctions. This will provide a framework for managing the class, and the head must ensure that individuals observe this and any internal requirements.

If on a visit to the school a governor saw a member of staff doing something dangerous or illegal (like smacking) there might be a case for a quiet word. But not otherwise.

I don't really think this is a resignation issue and many governors will understand how the incident happened. Just apologise and regard it as part of the learning process. I doubt whether the head will think so badly of you on sober reflection. Remember she has to cope day-by-day with many problems, including a teacher who is under stress and behaving uncharacteristically.

The TES welcomes your queries, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205,or see

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