It’s amazing how people experiencing the same events can have such different views about the events.

I recently had an impromptu meeting with several members of my department in which they aired grievances about which groups they teach and have taught for the last few years.

My perspective:

Year 1:

I have bottom sets in year 9 and 11 full of the very weak, the completely bonkers and gangster wannabes. I have second set year 10 who have had an ineffective supply teacher all last year. They know nothing, hate maths, behave appallingly for a term and a half and have to have after school classes twice a week to get their grades respectable. They should have been getting A and B. They were getting E and F grades. By the end of the year I have  them up to mostly C with a smattering on either side. My year 7 mixed ability class are ok. My year 8 top set are very nice. I have a reduced timetable so I can write the KS5 Scheme of Work. By some miracle everyone in my year 11 class gets a grade. Some of their grades are surprisingly decent.

Year 2:

I have kept my nice year 8 class and my difficult year 9 and 10 classes. I have a new bottom set year 8 that are truly dreadful, a nice year 7 and some year 12 teaching (the class is shared between 3 teachers despite my objections). My year 12 class is the laziest, least able and worst behaved year 12 class I have ever taught in all my years of teaching. I am now doing 1-2 after school classes every week with year 11 and 1 with year 12. I am also writing the Scheme of Work for A2. Halfway through the year it is decided that we will teach year 12 differently next year. This means the year 12 scheme of work also needs rewriting. The top set year 9 all get level 7 and 8 and pass the first module of their GCSe pretty well. Year 10 bottom set all have grades ranging from D-F which I’m delighted with. Year 11 mostly end up with B with a few on either side.

Year 3:

I have top set year 8, bottom set year 9 (who are if anything worse than they were in year 8 and require incessant detentions, breaking up fights, dealing with bullying, swearing, racism etc), no year 10 and an intervention group of year 11 students who theoretically are capable of a C. The highest grade in this class is a D. The child with a D was in the bottom set last year with me. Everyone else is underachieving by at least 2 grades, hate maths and have virtually no knowledge of maths at all. I am expected to work some sort of miracle. I also have a marginally less annoying year 12 class with 25 students in it and a nice but lazy year 13 class. I am again doing 3 after school classes every week. Having taught the A-level through I have the schemes of work pretty much done. At this point I am informed that they want to change the way it is being taught yet again. My year 11 class get grades ranging from B-E. My year 9s largely level 3-4. I move 3 of the better kids up a group. I receive three epic level halfwits in return. My year 8s are all level 6 and 7 and a joy to teach.

This year:

I have 4th set year 8. It’s full of nice girls and idiot boys. Most of the pupils are significantly more able than their levels would suggest. My year 9s have started the GCSE course and have grades between C and A*. Considering AQA further maths or OCR additional. Might do both. I have picked up a year 10 class full of bright, lazy pupils (again). They did 1 module of the GCSE in year 9 with their previous teacher. That experiment has been a disaster. Not only do they not know any of the year 9 stuff but their grades on the module they did were largely poor. They have to retake it in November. The grades are better but not good enough. They are moved to linear. They are delusional in their expectations of good grades without doing much work. After school classes begin again. Year 9 attend Year 10 largely do not unless I chase them up. I have also picked up a year 11 class from another colleague. This class is supposed to be C/D borderline. The highest grade in the class is an E. They are bright pupils, reasonably pleasant. Somone in charge ought to get to the bottom of why their grades are so dreadful. Nobody does. More after school classes, saturdays, residentials, mentoring etc.

I estimate that for the last 4 years I have had the highest workload (70-80 hours a week on average) and most demanding classes in the department and have been lumbered with cleaning up a lot of other peoples messes. I don’t choose my classes. I teach the classes I am given without (much) whinging or whining about it.

Their perspective:

I teach sixth form and they don’t. I have taught top sets regularly. Some of them haven’t. I am therefore engaged in some sort of sinister Machiavellian plot to give myself nice classes using my “influence”. The Head of Department is playing favourites by giving me nice classes all the time and it’s not fair. The fact that I have planned the A-level single handedly and have more recent experience of teaching A-level than everyone else in the department put together does not mean I should teach a-level. Anyone who wants to should get a turn.

As I listened to the self-centred, self-absorbed, self-interested whinging I realised that these people will never be happy with what they have. There will always be something that they want or something they haven’t got or some reason why things aren’t fair. They don’t appreciate help because when you help them with a problem they start focusing on the next problem barely acknowledging the help they have received or stopping to think about the work you put in on their behalf.

In the end their attitude is self-defeating. I have decided to reduce my workload by not bailing them out any more. Maybe when they have to sort out their own messes they might realise just how “nice” my timetable has been for the last few years. Some of them will get their wish to teach 6th form. They will then realise the workload implications of teaching groups of 26 not terribly bright, lazy pupils with high predicted A level grades. I will be neither sympathetic nor helpful when this happens.

Apologies for the odd mixture of past and present tenses. I’m tired and besides I teach maths…


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