Teachers must be more than human to deal with assault

9th March 2001 at 00:00
Like Mark Harris (Friday, February 16), I too have been assaulted by a teenage pupil. I was suspended and accused of gross misconduct. Three months on, suspension over, I'm now off sick with a stress-related disorder, wondering if I will ever have the confidence to teach again.

My suspension was a neutral act - to remove me from a stressful situation - but I was told to hand in my keys and not speak to anyone else from the school.

During the next three weeks, waiting for the knock of the police on my door, my career flashed before me: giving up engineering, back to university for two years, and six years of teaching.

After being exonerated for assaulting the boy, I was "found wanting" for events leading up to the incident and was told I could have handled it better. But I would challenge anyone to stand in that classroom and show me how to "handle it better".

I am a good teacher - I have just passed the pay threshold application and in November was offered a salary point after turning down a head of department job to stay at a school that I love. o how does this happen? Staff shortages, and a lack of discipline and backing from senior management are, I feel, partly to blame.

After the dreadful handling of the whole incident I was left in no doubt that senior management thought I was in the wrong for allowing a situation where the boy felt he should hit me.

I was - and still am - devastated by it all. I have had lots of support from pupils and teachers, but I still feel alone with no faith in the system.

I appealed against the decision of "found wanting" - and my head threatened dismissal if I went through with it. In the paranoid world of teaching, heads are scared of publicity and feel they must show the world that children's rights are being protected. The same head has been quoted as saying "to act human is to be unprofessional".

Teaching was and still is, I hope, my career, my vocation. But everything I had faith and hope in went in an instant when I was assaulted by a boy who knew all his rights but not one of his responsibilities.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous

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