An empty shell without his job status

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Des was never the greatest teacher, and certainly never as good as he thought he was. He has never done much work, but the kids found him affable enough. But the wretched teacher and learning responsibility (TLR) business did for him.

In all honesty, his responsibility did need to disappear. It wasn't an important job, and he didn't do it particularly well. But it was the way he maintained his status in the school. What became clear was that his professionalism depended entirely upon his status and title. When the labels that wrapped around his job disappeared, the parcel inside was empty.

Des's ability to teach and his professional self-respect disappeared along with his status. Suddenly he could not sustain his attendance. And once he started being away from school, his colleagues quickly turned on him.

Turn up and whinge in the staffroom and everyone will listen to you. But stop turning up and no one will give you the time of day. Teachers are their own fiercest critics. He is viewed as having no interest at all in anything other than himself. It is sad how quickly his colleagues have learnt to despise him. Absence is indeed the issue that can undermine any of us.

Most teachers turn up to work and do their job. They know why they are doing it. They know it brings with it responsibilities. But Des was never any good. That's why they didn't give him a TLR. Sympathy has suddenly disappeared. He should stop feeling sorry for himself and do the job.

As far as Des is concerned, no TLR means no commitment, but his colleagues feel betrayed. Parents are also becoming unhappy and are starting to complain. And other things emerge - books are not marked and lessons are unprepared. Lessons are based on worksheets downloaded from the internet.

His colleagues can no longer share his disappointment and hurt about the TLR process. All they can see is a liability. He has no interest in doing a good job any more - for all the impact he makes, he may as well be stacking tins of tomatoes.

Our responsibility as a school is clear. We have a duty of care and we need to support Des as much as we can. But we exercise part of that duty by making sure he gets paid every month. The problem here is that we are getting nothing in return. We also have an obligation to the pupils, and when we put him in the classroom we are in great danger of failing them.

Is it the TLRs? Or have they just exposed something that was there? Certainly, there has been a shift in the mood. Des is now isolated. There is no earthly chance that his colleagues will ever take any action to support him. Successful teaching depends upon the performance of the team. And teachers get irritated if one of their number is not pulling their weight.

John Sutton is a pseudonym. He teaches in North Wales.

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