Monday, June 19, 2006


Have decided not to post this week after now, but to give myself a bit of space to get my life back together. Relax, breathe, work out how to face next term mentally and then next week I'll think about planning etc.

It's a beautiful sunny day, which makes me feel more positive about everything and means I can get out of bed and get things done (although this morning was hard with the staying up 'til 4 am to watch the world cup match between Brazil and the Aussies...).

The last week of school was really hard and promised support didn't eventuate and now I feel apprehensive that nothing will happen to help me next term either.

So here's where I'm at now:

  • I reckon there will be politics and annoying people wherever I work.

  • The main motivation for fighting for more support for myself is that if I don't it will be the kids I teach that don't get a fair go. They deserve better than I can give them with no help. (That sounds professionally responsible rather than wimpy...)

  • I need to do something difficult for once and not run (ie. grow up)

  • I actually care passionately about the kids in that school and the work I do (which is really unusual for me and a bit scary) and want to make the place better than it is.

  • I am probably in a good position to make change happen in the school if I can work out how to do it.

  • Am I arrogant or what?

  • The problem is now that I don't trust admin to let me have what I need or my own strength and conviction in fighting for it. I am too much of a wuss to stand up when I don't feel 100% on top of the situation. I can't see myself as someone who can create change right now, I feel weak, scared and powerless. ... and tired so very tired.

So my plan for the holidays is to clean my house, get a cat, see the psychologist and try to work out a way of getting through this, catch up with people I love, rest, watch the football/soccer, plan for next term, ride my bike, get my life back together... That should be achievable.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Thanks to those who posted words of encouragement. It meant a lot to me and made me aware of the communitarian possibilities of the blogoshpere (I may be making up words here, but I hope you get what I mean).

My school is filled with beautiful caring people who have helped me get through the last few weeks encouraged me to find solutions. I would have been nice if 'mentoring' had worked and functioned as it is supposed to but we have all learnt things from this experience.

Things I learnt:
Anger is better than misery.
I can use my anger to make things happen.
Crying too frequently is a bad sign, not something normal that happens to everyone. It shouldn't.
My mentor wasn't.
Admin have very little idea of what happens in the rest of the school.
Admin like me and were very upset that I wasn't being supported.
Admin can accept responsibility for getting it wrong.
I am the first really new staff member for a very long time.
I am not responsible for everything.
Communication is sometimes difficult but sooooo important.
Ego is the biggest barrier to admitting I am not coping and need help.
It is professionally responsible to ask for help.

So, to fill in what actually happened... I was struggling and felt like I was failing. Many teachers other than my 'mentor' were picking up the pieces and I started to realise that I wasn't really being mentored at all. After another weekend of tears, I got angry, really angry. On Monday I got even angrier and typed it all out. Wednesday my 'mentor' finally asked how I was going and decided we needed to talk. I wasn't in the mood by then (too little too late) and she couldn't read the signals that I was giving to get the h*ll out of my face. Thankfully, Wednesday is the day the psychologist is in and I took her my 1000 words of anger that I had typed out. She took it to the principal (and AP) for me and they were quite shocked, upset and determined to make it better. I felt better than my pain had been acknowledged and the psychologist told my mentor to give me a bit of space, something I am incredibly grateful for. Admin were away for a conference but scheduled a meeting for Monday which I was very wound up about over the weekend. But I managed it and didn't cry. They were quite emotional too which was kind of nice that they actually care. I asked them for my ideal world – 2 days a week with a team teacher/mentor preferably the temp who has been in the room next door. I wont get that, but will get a couple of different people over my hardest days. It looks like they want me to work with B2 which will upset my mentors apple cart just a wee bit but the AP is willing to take the fall out over that (I don't feel any need for revenge or wish anyone harm, but anything that will upset B1 seems to make everyone else happy... that worries me in it's own way). I told admin the areas I felt I needed more knowledge in and the kinds of support I felt would get me through. They promised me team teaching for next year, but I am not thinking about that yet. They said that they see me as the future of the school! That scared the crap out of me and to cope I cracked a joke and asked when the violin music would start. At least they get it when I'm joking.

Other things I should talk about are:

Work experience/community involvement kids


Maybe later...

1000 words of anger

This is what the Principal and AP got to read, and a couple of my collegues (who nodded a lot and couldn't think of anything to add).

Names have been changed.
It is unedited and some of the sentences don't quite work.

29th May

Last Friday I considered not coming back to this school. I was so disheartened and felt so much like a failure. After processing a lot of feelings and things that people have been saying to me, I turned a corner and now I’m angry and frustrated. I don’t want to leave but things can not continue as they are. I now feel that I have done the best I can under the circumstances and it is the school that has failed me.

Things that have made me angry (in no particular order):

The mentoring process is non existent and the one meeting to discuss it talked solely about the VIT process rather than the concept of any of our expectations of mentoring or whether I was actually getting any. By the time a regular meeting was offered, I had been seeking support from other staff who are much more amenable to the task. I feel I can not be true to myself and honest with B1 as she reacts very strangely when I am open and forthright in asking for help. I feel like I am shocking her.

Almost every other teacher has offered to take one or all of my students on a regular or ad hoc basis if I felt I needed it or it would help the student’s individual program. After talking with a speechie about more appropriate program for one of my students when the idea was brought to B1 it was completely out of the question because “We couldn’t possibly have 11 students”. This shocked me, considering the support I had already had from other staff, that she is my mentor, and it is supposed to be a team supporting the prep transition.

When I am occasionally asked if I need anything I find that B1 doesn’t understand where I am coming from. My stress does not come from being disorganised or unplanned but from not having the underlying knowledge base to have a variety of plans, assessment structures and management experience to meet my student’s needs, moods and behaviour. I haven’t had time to get my head around teaching as a whole let alone in a special setting and with small children and those in their first years of school. These are unique challenges that I had and, unfortunately, continue to have.

My prep students and I have been hugely disadvantaged at an important time with our lack of Speech therapy. The supply of a speech aid for one session a few weeks ago, bringing our total up to 2/3 scheduled speech input. With my lack of experience in communicating with these children and their unfamiliarity with the school environment this has been unacceptable. Unfortunately, there has been no offer of support in this area from others with more experience working with preps, it had been considered to be admin’s responsibility.

The pregnant co-worker was a regular presence in my early days at the school and a great support in practical matters in establishing the classroom and discussing ideas but should not have been considered an adequate substitute for proper mentoring and continued support.

Team teaching would have been an ideal situation for this year so I could actually learn from someone whilst on the job. In the small amounts of time I have spent with my students and other teachers I find this a very valuable way to see how others teach and interact with the students, especially with managing behavioural issues amongst my class. I feel like the learning opportunities that would have supported me in the beginning were overlooked despite full knowledge of my lack of training and experience. In the next three weeks I will endeavour to make opportunities to do this in other classrooms.

Program and reporting support has been provided in a ‘here’s what we’re doing, you can alter it for yours’ fashion rather than by teaching me how to understand the students in my class and plan for their needs. I am not learning by this and often find the approaches given do not work for my students who require more stimulation and behaviour management. When I asked for someone to come and see how they interact I was offered a session where the video was put on and we planned the program.

I understand that I need to ask for help and have many questions for everyone, but what has distressed me most recently is the realisation that I can not, in my ignorance know all the things that I need. When I was pushed by other staff to give them one thing I was worried about that they could discuss with me, I chose assessment as an area I felt was beyond my grasp in this situation. They asked me was I doing X and Y and I had no idea what they were talking about, apparently common assessment techniques for this kind of setting that I was completely
unaware of.

Level 1 team does not exist with me as a part of it and I am left to capitulate or find y own way. Most recently was talk in PS staff meeting about the upcoming assembly with things to be done in levels and a song to be chosen. What level one were doing was given as an example and it was the first time I’d heard about it.

Whilst my class are adorable, they are very hard to manage and from other people’s observation this does not seem to be a failing on my part. To have given me such a disparate class with so many differences and behavioural issues, it seems like an unfair expectation to expect me to cope or do the job to my own satisfaction. I don’t know how to train preps or what they need and how to interest them, I have a student who is well in advance of the rest of the class and has done it all before and deserves to be extended more adequately than I can manage whilst keeping the others in their chairs. The other ‘grade one’ also needs extending but in different ways due to her attention span and physical difficulties. At my level of experience I feel I am under staffed to cope with these challenges.

It is now too little too late… I am very angry that when I have been at my lowest everybody except the person who is supposed to be supporting me has seen it and asked how I am going. Perhaps I would have been too honest. People ask me how I’m going and I tend to tell them.

I’m not sure what to do now. I love working with these kids and the possibilities in this type of education but I can’t see me wanting to stay for he next half of the year if changes are not made somehow. I want to learn and grow in this profession but without increased support I don’t think this school is the environment for me to do it in.