This is going to be a very long post and quite dark. I’m sorry, but I’ve always liked to say what’s on my mind and because it’s my blog, I’ll rightfully just do so.
Two and a half years ago, I came to Manchester with lots of energy, big hopes and very positive. In a short while, I’ll leave this place mentally broken and exhausted, anxious and quite negative. This is how a working place and surroundings can change you in such a short while…
Before you jump to any early, wrong conclusions, you must know that I love my job, I love what I am doing. I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years and will continue to do it, but working with children in one of the many academies of Manchester Academy Trust, broke me to pieces.
It all started when the management changed and a young less experienced assistant head, became head teacher. He has all the qualities to be a great leader, but it was a bit to soon to get this role. And in less than a year everything went downhill.
This primary academy is situated in one of the most dangerous and deprived areas in the UK , where hundreds of crimes are reported every month, therefore the behaviour of the students is expected to be a bit challenging. Truth to be told, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I accepted the job. This place changed me and I don’t know yet if for the better or worse.
Having the word communication in its name should be something to be proud of, but that is what is lacking there. Communication between SLT and staff members, teachers and TA’s, thus everything becomes a blurry incomprehensive mess.
When I started in 2017, the first year was a bit challenging, but I loved it. The children were great, my colleague was fun and the atmosphere in the class was always good. Behaviour was good, we only had one or two minor incidents during the year. But that didn’t last long.
Before I move on in this story, please do listen to me and never choose to work in Year 2. It is a nightmares, with stress from SAT’s, annoyed children for having less playtime and angry parents. It is by far the hardest, of the primary years. And here I was, three years in a row, in year 2.
The problems started in 2018, when the new Assistant Head Teacher decided to introduce a new system, untested before (this turned up to be like a game of Poker, where we have a shitty hand, but still bluff). The system based on “nurture” sounds good, brilliant even in theory, but if you don’t apply in the right ways and miss the whole concept, things turn ugly. And that’s how they did.
You must know that up until the age of 7 children usually copy behaviour. That is how they form their personality. After this age, they copy to be more interesting or get attention. Therefore a bad behaviour gets the attention much needed and it created a domino effect. To stop that from happening, you have to have many strategies into place and none should include restraining children. But more about that in a short time.
2018 started with some tears, some anxious days, some few miles runned around the school after children, with a Team Teach training in how to restrain an agressive child ( why didn’t that make me think more?) And extensive hard work. 2018 was a hard year, I’ve experienced the shock of seeing my colleague being punched, by a student, in the stomach and grasping for air in the middle of the lesson, I’ve seen the looks on the other children’s eyes, their shock and terror. The only thing that got me going was my wonderful colleague, a very experienced teacher, who kept her calm through it all and managed to last until the end of the year, when she moved to another school. She could not take it anymore. The lack of support from the SLT members, the incompetence of the behaviour management team and the stress of SAT’s and moderation got on her and she had to quit.
I knew that I couldn’t last long myself, but I needed the money and was not ready to give up. My breaking point was at the begining of September, after being hit, sweared at by students and generally stressed out, I had a major nervous breakdown. I had reached my breaking point, the point of no return. I was prescribed medication and was signed off sick due to work related stress and anxiety. I knew from then on that I don’t want to go back, as it will destroy me. I am the type of person who can’t deal with conflicts and when one starts my brain goes on flight mode and I need to escape. If only things were that easy… I had to mediate all the conflicts arrised and then I had to do my break duty and back to teaching a group and try to keep the calm in class.
2018 – 2019 was an exhausting school year. I had no morning breaks and rarely I had a full lunch break. I had to deal with any behaviour issue happened on the playground and had to deal with behaviours in the classroom whilst teaching and try to help students to thrive academically. During all this time, none of the SLT members seemed to notice the struggles, nor did they care.
But when all is said and done, I’m glad I got out. The only thing that still bothers me is that my former colleagues still have to struggle with that. They the that place, but have families to feed and can’t leave that easy. At this point, I don’t even know which type of authority should be notified. There are so many things at stake that things like this should not be ignored. Several members of staff have left the school due to anxiety of the work place, members from the secondary school who came in to help, left after few weeks in shock. Who is in charge of checking behaviour in schools? Does anyone care? Or is this just a game of money and power? What about those children who witnessed violence in class? Are we thinking about their wellbeing? Or the ones who struggle with behaviour issues, what are we doing to help? Because my dear readers, this primary academy which happens to be a communication one, is not doing what they should…