What keeps me awake at night - The judgement and prejudice of teachers

26th July 2013 at 01:00

Ask any teacher what their training was like and their response will be peppered with words such as "tiring", "stressful" and maybe, if you (and they) are lucky, "exhilarating".

Unfortunately for me, the low points of teacher training greatly outnumbered the highs. After a first placement where the teachers who should have been observing and assisting me took the opportunity to get on with admin in the staffroom, I had higher hopes for my second placement after spending a day there before I started and finding it a welcome contrast.

However, a few days before I was due to begin at the school, I was shocked to be told by my tutor that the mentor at the second placement had lodged a complaint against me after less than a day in my company. He didn't think that I was "suited" to the school.

Remarks I had made with genuine enthusiasm had been interpreted as arrogant and dismissive; my excitement to teach challenging students had been interpreted as judgemental.

When asked by this mentor about my educational background, I had replied honestly that I had gone to a private girls' school and then attended the University of Oxford. In his letter to my tutor, the mentor wrote that my background wouldn't equip me to teach students on free school meals.

My tutor informed my mentor and me that it was too late to find a new placement school and that we'd have to grin and bear it.

So began months of being ostracised by my colleagues. I wasn't allowed in the department office and had to spend my breaks in the sixth-form common room; I was used as a teaching assistant and taught only three hours in total over the whole placement. My tutor asked the school to let me teach, but to no avail.

The irony is that I attended my private girls' school on a full bursary, and chose to go there to escape the merciless bullying I experienced at my mixed state primary school. I was on free school meals. I could relate to these children's broken homes and turbulent backgrounds.

When asked why I left the teaching profession before I really got started, I answer honestly that the judgement and prejudice of fully grown adults drove me away.

The writer is an ex-teacher from the East Midlands of England

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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