Saturday, December 23, 2017


The time is 11:12pm on 22/12/2017. I was exhausted at 8pm, went to bed at 9:40pm, got up at 10:10pm to read my book after I struggled to sleep, felt dozy and went back to the bedroom at 10:40pm only to again feel too mentally agitated to sleep and came out to write this now. I hope a little writing of my thoughts will exile them to the page.

Today was the last working day of the year. It was a "half day" but it was always going to be a full day for me. Our school is moving. We've lost some staff and I needed to notify people on the results of the interviews. 

It was a tough day with a burst of frustration from a departing teacher. He was a little bit of an enigma: He came mid-year and had an excellent CV: He'd been a teacher trainer, taught all over the place and had written his own textbook. But also clear from the get go, he had a bit of fire about him. He'd had a frustrated previous employment that ended unpleasantly. We had a common friend though and he assured me that he was a good guy. And he was clearly the pick of the bunch and we took him on. 

And perhaps in some situation, with a different or better manager he'd be a productive member of the team still. Or not. He started class and immediately struck trouble. He told me the class was "dead". There was one student, "D", who wasn't responding, refusing to cooperate and he couldn't figure out why. He told me about her and I told him that D hadn't been a problem in other classes. I spoke to her when I had time on the fourth day he was teaching her. She said she was under stress because her accommodation had been a problem. He reported another student, "U", not responding to him and students were using their phones in class. On the Friday, two students including "D" came to my office to complain about his teaching. 

I got as much evidence as I could to find out what it was that he was doing wrong. He was following the departure of a popular teacher and it's not uncommon for classes to give a following teacher a hard-time. But this was pretty extreme - and it is my responsibility to evaluate the cases early on, because if there is a problem it needs to be dealt with. I spoke to him on the Friday afternoon of his first week. I believed the problem was he hadn't really created a good rapport from the start. He expected students to give him respect from the get-go, which is not a bad expectation but is not a given. He had a set of habits and idiosyncrasies (whispering), humour (sarcastic; sometimes mocking) and style (lots of his own materials, though often too varied) which wouldn't be a problem in themselves, but without rapport most of these would become annoying or distracting. I suggested toning down these distractors and upping the rapport side of things. 

Monday came round, he taught and at the end of the day, he came energetically into the office and declared either D was removed from his class or he wouldn't be teaching it. I was stunned. He described how she showed utter contempt for him and he couldn't bear it. He mimed her throwing a piece of paper back at him. I spoke with the student after and told her that all people deserve respect. She denied throwing the paper back at him. (Later he admitted that she hadn't thrown it back at him, but "she had the smug contempt as if she had.") I felt I was sufficiently hard on her in a meeting. 

But it wasn't much of a fix. In the end I decided to move him and another teacher around. He did better in this class but still drew complaints right up to the end of his probation. We put him on another three month contract, and switched his class around again. The class I moved him to was one that was the most difficult to teach, a monoculture beginner class, that my most reliable teachers had already taught and driven to their wits' end. And that was when he started to do well. The students enjoyed him. And that's when he gave notice. And soon as he gave notice, he lost the sense of professionalism. There are a good portion of people that once the end is near, they can't really "turn up". His classes were still fine as but soon as he was out of the classroom, he was out. And started getting ruder and sharper.

Today was his last day. And actually it was a half-day but paid as full, and without classes just packing and a last Christmas meal with colleagues at 1pm. But he couldn't wait to get out. Eventually he just came into my office, said that one of my early e-mails had said the half day ends 12:30pm and he had to go, then gave me a verbal serve, saying I was wrong in not telling him about the maturity level of our students when he joined, that it's a huge problem in the school and that I deny it; that I say they're good students. I challenged a few things but generally just let him get it off his chest. He said such things "mess with people's lives". For him one of the parts of this story had: he was looking to buy a boat but because he was only on short contracts while he was with us. He'd struggled long to buy one and it was obviously quite a frustration. He held it together to say goodbye to others and I shook his hand before he left.

The irony for that last bit was that if he hadn't given notice, we'd have probably given him a permanent contract. 

That is one of the many threads threading my brain at a time that I should be able to let it all unwind.

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