What keeps me awake at night - My TA is a classroom bully

20th May 2011 at 01:00
Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a supply teacher in London

When do you report a colleague? I have faced that dilemma, and because I am a supply teacher I wasn't sure what to do about it: report the colleague and risk the opprobrium of my supply agency, or keep quiet and hope the situation might blow over.

I had been given a great job, covering a class for an NQT every Monday at a faith school with a fantastic reputation.

At the same time my regular supply days started, the school employed a new teaching assistant. The school, which was predominantly Asian and in an Asian area, had a number of white teachers, including the TA.

The term started well and the Year 4 class I had was a delight: always respectful and really hardworking.

But the TA insisted on giving the pupils a verbal flogging all day. The reprimands were out of all proportion to the crimes: dinner money handed in that wasn't in an envelope, a forgotten library book, the failure to use a hanky when sneezing.

I no longer looked forward to Mondays. I felt terrible that the children were being victimised and I wasn't sure what to do. As a supply teacher you aren't there to comment on the way a school is run or how the teachers behave.

The worst situations arose when she was meant to be "teaching" a group of SEN children in a small annexe next to the classroom. The children sometimes ended up in tears. The TA loved humiliating them, putting them down and ridiculing their work. In maths she shouted at them repeatedly, saying "This work is rubbish" and "How could you have got that wrong?" until she was red in the face. It was painful to witness.

After eight months of this, we were having a playtime chat over a cup of tea and I asked her how she had found the move from the countryside to inner-city London. She said it was difficult as she hadn't met many black and Asian people before. She never spoke to her Asian neighbours as "they weren't her sort". What she said next took my breath away: "I was quite racist before I came here, but I've become even more so now."

In confidence, I approached the class teacher. She was reluctant to make a complaint because she was new and had to work with the TA. So I went to the head of year. He said he was aware of her strange behaviour, but wasn't sure what to do about it.

By the following week, he had done something. As I walked into class, the TA was smiling and greeting the children with: "Morning, my little darlings." I was told that the school was monitoring her classroom behaviour. I felt glad I had done something, but wished I had acted earlier.

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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