You’ve spent a long time training to teach, and years honing and practicing your craft. What a shame if all that hard work were put at risk because of a simple mistake or misunderstanding. Here’s five bits of advice to prevent it ever coming to that…
Keep a Professional Distance from Your Students
It’s a sad fact that malicious allegations are becoming very much a part and parcel of school life, and you can never quite be sure who will be the target. When it comes to maintaining a professional distance the problem is rarely what actually happens, but more about the impression that students (and sometimes staff) get when you let that professional distance slip. Being whiter than white here is your best defence, leaving no-one in any doubt whatsoever. That can be challenging these days in the era of social networking, where it’s easy for pupils to find you. So if you do publish personal information online lock down your tweets and Facebook profile, or make it so that you can’t be identified, and block students that try to follow or friend you.
When the processes at school begin to get formal, whether it be for competency or any other reason, now’s the time to seriously consider keeping a diary. If it does come down to an argument about you keeping your job you need to be able to prove that you’ve done everything in your power to resolve whatever situation you’re confronted with. Often, personal memory can be seen as an unreliable guide – a record of the facts from the time is much more powerful. Really, this is just about protecting yourself and making sure that if your role ever is in question the people making the decision have the full range of facts before them.
Keep Your Cool
Losing your temper can be a quick shortcut to souring relations in the staffroom and can quickly make your position untenable, so always remember to take a moment when you get really angry. This can be literally pausing a moment before you respond, or leaving the situation and going back to address it after you’ve had a chance to calm down. People aren’t by their nature vindictive and more often than not these issues arise from a lack of understanding and communication. Returning to the situation later when you can discuss it calmly and resolve it will help you avoid any unsightly bust ups.
Use Humour with Caution
Everybody likes a good laugh, and I’d be the last person to encourage you to stop having fun with your colleagues in the staff room, but always bear in mind that people’s sense of humour can differ very widely and people have different opinions about what’s funny and what’s not. So if your wit is closer to Frankie Boyle’s than Michael Macintyre’s you’ll need to be careful how you use that humour so that people don’t misinterpret you. A classic example here is the risque joke sent on a round robin email. A misplaced joke there can end a career, so I’d steer clear of them. I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed reading them anyway!
Take a Break
Of all of these, what’s the thing that’s most likely to end your teaching career? Burn out. The stress of it all can get too much and you wake up one morning and find you’re not enjoying it anymore or worse that you’ve made yourself physically ill. If you’re in that situation I’ve written before about how to get a better work life balance and falling back in love with teaching, but the most important thing is just to take a break. Almost half the people who’ve qualified to teach no longer work in schools – don’t let yourself become a statistic. It’s important to not too that there are some great sources of support if you’re feeling the strain, such as the Teacher’s Support Network or your union.
It can all be a bit depressing, but these worst case scenarios are just that – worst case scenarios. It’s a difficult topic and I’d love your input on it, if you have anything to add or disagree with anything I’ve said. You can either reply below or tweet me @creativeedu