All Mary ever does is criticise

11th November 2005 at 00:00
I never became a deputy head in the expectation that everyone would agree with what I did. I know that my position makes me a focal point for staffroom complaints. I provide a convenient excuse when things go wrong.

Blaming me is an effective bonding activity. It brings staff together more effectively than anything else. I have not provided enough resources, teaching groups are too big, I did not exclude Dean. I do not find this difficult. I have never expected sympathy or understanding. It comes with my job.

But Mary goes beyond this. Everything that happens in school is my fault, according to Mary. She firmly believes that all my actions are designed to make her life difficult. I am to blame for staffing problems, pupil behaviour, resources and the weather.

She wants promotion of course. She has watched me closely and knows that she could do the job better. Release her from daily toil in the classroom and she will flourish. This is not an opinion that others share privately, but in conversation they nod agreeably.

There do seem to be lots of issues in her classroom, generally because she finds it hard to build constructive relationships with students. But naturally they would behave better if I was not so incompetent. I do not dislike her. But her constant refrain becomes tedious.

In her fantasy world, Mary would be a raging success, guiding the school with judgement and serenity. In the world she currently inhabits, a deputy exists merely to respond to her problems and then to sort them out. That is what I am paid for. After all, I caused the problems in the first place.

This is all well and good. But if you endlessly blame the leadership team then you will never improve what happens in your classroom.

Of course I make mistakes. But I always hope to learn from them and move on. By all means complain and slag me off. But it generally does not make things better. Because, to do so, you must question what you did. And by blaming me all the time Mary is refusing to examine herself. And that is what the best teachers do.

They look at themselves. What am I doing that I could be doing better? How can I get it right next time? That is how we will serve our communities.

The day that we stop being critical of ourselves is the day we stop being professional. Just like Mary.

Ian Roe is a teacher in north Wales

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today