Careers clinic

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Our experts answer your questions

I'm petrified.

Last term went really well; so well that my mentor has said that I don't need regular meetings any more. She's told me that I have to learn to stand on my own two feet. Although I started the term confident and raring to go, now I'm petrified. Can I really go on unsupported like this? I'm tempted to just jump ship and leave.

A: Don't panic. It would be madness to leave when everything has been going so well, and it's certainly not worth disrupting your pupils and your progress as a teacher - or spoiling your employment record.

You are doing well and should trust the faith that others have in you. However, support from your induction tutor should continue throughout the whole year.

Induction isn't just for people who are struggling, but to help all new teachers be the best that they can be so that their present and future pupils learn well.

So ask for meetings to continue, albeit for a shorter time or fortnightly instead of weekly. Be specific about what support you need and from whom. This should be related to the objectives you are working on to help you meet the 41 core standards. You are doing well. SB

I feel anxious about being graded on everything.

My school is going into overdrive on monitoring. I've had to endure nine observations on top of my planned ones with my induction tutor. My plans and children's work books are being scrutinised too. I feel anxious about being graded on everything when it was agreed initially that my first year was about me experimenting to find what works for me. Is there a legal limit to the number of observations that new teachers should be subject to?

A: No, there is no maximum number of observations, just a minimum of six during your induction year. Share your feelings with your induction tutor, whose role it is to co-ordinate observations so that you develop. Try to be positive and see the monitoring as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

Observations are probably the most effective way to develop, if they are done well, so make clear what helps and what is proving counter-productive. The feedback from your observed lessons, work scrutiny and planning should relate to the core standards. Grading new teachers against the Ofsted criteria is unnecessary, can be inaccurate and can damage their confidence - and this is usually counter productive to children's progress, which should be everyone's prime concern. SB

I want to beat bullies.

I am in my early 50s and have been at my current school for almost 20 years. I am now a head of facultycurriculum manager. In recent years, the management of the school has changed: new head, new deputies, new management structure. They seem to think I am no good or too old. My face doesn't fit and the head and deputy have both used tactics I would describe as threatening and bullying - I think they want me to leave.

I love my job, and I don't want to leave, or pursue a pastoral role. I simply want to continue to do my job here without feeling unhappy and dreading work because I don't know what will await me each term.

A: Talk to the Teacher Support Network about your predicament - sadly it isn't all that uncommon. They can offer practical advice and support.

You need to document everything that takes place, in case the situation turns ugly from your point of view. Since you have been in the area a long time, you may know someone at local authority level, perhaps an adviser. An off the record chat might be a good idea.

Eventually, if you feel you are being bullied, you will need to talk with your professional association, at a level higher than your school representative.

I am sure you have done a good job for 20 years and it must be unsettling for you as this stage of your life.

Teacher Support Network:, 08000 562 561. JH

I lost my husband - I am an RE teacher.

I lost my husband and have not worked since last March, but now I want to go back to work. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

A: I am sorry to hear of your loss. You don't say whether you had resigned from your job to look after your husband or are returning to a school that has kept a post open for you during a period of compassionate leave.

If I assume the former, then now is the time that jobs will become available for September, and I am sure that your break in service will not count against you if you make the reason clear in your application.

Between now and September, you may have to rely on supply work and depending on where you are in the country, that may be difficult to find. You might see if you can use the time to undertake some professional development, or look into your eligibility for a Farmington Award, a grant for RE teachers. JH

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training. He is now a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University.

Sara Bubb was a primary teacher before becoming a teacher trainer. She is now an education consultant, lectures at the Institute of Education in London and has written on induction and professional development.

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