Ask Tom

11th July 2014 at 01:00
Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

I am just finishing my training year and have a job lined up for next year, but I fear I am going to have to turn it down. For the past few months, I have been placed at a school where only four teachers are permanent, everyone else is supply, where the headteacher is demeaning, bullying and awful to everyone, and where kids are being failed. I am on antidepressants and, to be honest, it has all got too much. I need a break to take stock. Will the six-week summer holiday be enough? I think the fair thing to all would be to turn down the job for next year and try to get myself in the right frame of mind. What do you think?

A teacher, via email to

Only you can tell if you have the mental reserves to carry on. But I would recommend you take the six weeks to recover and then start again. Think of it as rebooting your career. Make sure you take the six weeks and go somewhere chilled out and tranquil. There are good schools and bad ones, and you leave the latter for the former, we hope. Depression is sometimes best salved by activity and the distraction of a focus - such as a job - rather than the four walls of inactivity. I would also - if the contract is secure - tell your employer about your medical history, so that they can make adjustments for you. They would be in breach of their duty of care if they did not. And very good luck to you. I know you'll be a good teacher because you have the most important feature - you care about doing well.

I'm a male primary teacher in London in my twenties and, not wishing to sound arrogant, I have a problem with a lot of the single mums of the students coming on to me. I have been cornered in cupboards and stalked on Facebook, and a group of them have started quite publicly commenting about my appearance in the playground. It is undermining me, embarrassing me and it is not appropriate. What can I do?

A teacher, via email to

You poor thing, the struggle is real. I'm going to suggest that you step up to the challenge like a man and be direct with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Refocus any conversation back to business, and if anyone crosses the line, tell them they have. If there's a Facebook group, don't follow it and keep your security settings high. Ignore them. Don't go into any cupboards. Wear a cardigan. Wear a wedding ring. The choice is yours.

What are your thoughts on "What I am going to do in the holidays." tasks for end-of-year creative lessons at primary level? They tend to get the students engaged and are a lot of fun, but I know that some children in my class will be doing nothing and I am having doubts as to whether this task is appropriate.

A teacher, via email to

I think they're great. Some of the kids might be doing "nothing"? Hardly. Even if they aren't running with the bulls or planking with plankton at the Copacabana they're doing "something". They're chillaxing at home; building forts out of pillows; cotching with cousins; going for the record on Call of Duty; helping Dad with the dishes. We all do something. The heart of creativity is the art of finding the extraordinary in the anodyne, not just the narration of the fantastic or unique - that's the easy part. So set them the same task and scaffold it so that your actual aims and their methods are clear. You don't just want summerbrags - you want creativity. I'd say fire away.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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