Being Supported by a Year Head

March 25, 2007

End of Friday’s lesson, in my classroom

Miss Rush, the newly appointed Head of Year 9, has been assisting with one of my more challenging classes.

“How did you feel about that lesson, Andrew? There’s quite some characters in there.”

“Well I was a little upset that when I started teaching the main part of the lesson two of the students started yelling out to you that I don’t normally teach them anything. Lemuel started said that I normally make them do the questions on the board for the entire hour. Tara said that I normally just set them an exercise from the books without explaining it. Lemuel even claimed that this was the reason there was no work in his book.”

“Well I didn’t believe that. That’s why I told them to be quiet so you could get on with teaching them.”

“Well I’m afraid that did rather ruin my mood for the rest of the lesson.”

“Well you shouldn’t take it personally. They say things like that all the time when I visit their classes, they say ‘It’s not normally like this’ and complain about the teacher. But nobody listens to them”

“I had an observed lesson with that class a few weeks ago where Tara told an observer from the LEA that it was a bad lesson and Dean said that he’d learnt nothing. I’m still being hassled about that now, so yes I think that people do listen to them”

“I didn’t know about that. Well that’s something your head of department needs to look at. What I mean is that they don’t know that it’s wrong to do that sort of thing. Look, Andrew, you and I we had parents that told us what right and wrong were. These children don’t have those sorts of home lives. They don’t know what behaviour is acceptable.”

“They are in their ninth year of compulsory education. They might have picked it up by now.”

“They have to be reminded what’s appropriate because they don’t have that at home. It’s like when I came here and had my first ASDAN class. They didn’t know it was wrong to tell me to ‘fuck off’ so I had to tell them “that’s not appropriate” whenever they did that. The inportant thing is to be encouraging when they do something right. Did you see how Tara responded when I praised her work? She was all smiles. Lemuel just needs to be praised when he does his work.”

“He doesn’t usually do any work to be praised.”

“You just have to be encouraging with him. He doesn’t know what is or isn’t acceptable. Look you are obviously really good with the academic stuff. I could never do that. The important thing is that we keep trying in the lesson, keep on top of it. I’ll try and visit again next week.”

Wednesday, in a Corridor

“How’s it going with that class, Andrew?”

“Well I put a lot of time and effort into praising Lemuel. He did seem to respond slightly better than usual. However because I was spending so much time in that part of the classroom that I couldn’t spend much time dealing with Dean and he started doing football chants and throwing things and ended up being sent out of the room. I’ve moved him to the front of the class now.”

“Well I’ll come in and help for the start of your next lesson on Friday. Keep it up.”

Start of Friday’s Lesson

Miss Rush arrives with 8 students from my class she’s found in the corridor.

“Sit down everybody. Can you get on with your work please, Lemuel? Mr Old has put your folder on your table for you. Can you get your book out?”

“I don’t want to. I’ve got a headache.”

“Well just see what you can do. Stop that, Jordan! What’s the problem Dean?”

“I don’t want to sit here. I can’t see the board from here, Miss.”

“Oh. Well lets see. Hang on, Mr Old has printed out a copy of what’s on the board. Here it is.”

“I don’t want to sit here. I don’t want to do this work.”

“Well you need to hurry up and get started.”


“Come on, sit down and get your book out, please, Dean.”

“I don’t have a pencil.”

“Here’s one that Mr Old has just handed me.”

“I’m cold, I don’t want to sit here.”

“Just get on with your work. I’ve made a special effort to get here to help you.”

“I don’t want to sit here.”


Miss Rush exits abruptly, apparently not thinking about their difficult home lives.

Footnote: ASDAN is a special subject that less able pupils do when they are unlikely to pass anything that leads to a qualification. I don’t know what it is (although apparently they sometimes go skateboarding) and I don’t know what ASDAN stands for, although I have more than once heard it suggested that it stands for “Anti-Social, Delinquent, ASBO Nutters”.


  1. Sounds about the norm!!!

  2. I loved that diary entry- it completely exemplifies the HOY who gives advice they don’t follow themselves.
    I also love the sort of HOY who tries to make it about how YOU speak to the children- but they won’t tolerate what they expect *you* to put up with.
    I have excellent HOYs currently so I really am feeling the difference.

  3. We presently have two HOYs who are not and never have been teachers. They don’t presume to think they could manage a difficult (i.e. usual) class any better than you, and they manage staff and organisational arrangements very well indeed. They do discipline pupils but because they have no teaching timetable other than supporting teachers with particularly challenging classes in their Year group, they don’t carry with them the resentment that kids might already harbour about having to interrupt their social lives with a request for work.

    I like this arrangement but only because the two HOYs involved are sensible enough to not deliver counsels of perfection to the poor sods at the chalkface. I can see its potential to go spectacularly wrong.

  4. ASDAN is a coursework / vocational based group of qualifications. It involves the students organising & partaking in a wide range of activities, and then writing them up afterwards, cross-referencing to the standards they are required to meet, and short tests throughout the course. So, although there is no exam at the end, it is possible for students to gain a level 1 or 2 qualification (actually, I believe there are some level 3 qualifications available these days too).

    Unfortunately, students have the usual belief, as in all subjects, that they can spend as much time as they like doing bits & pieces, and consequently don’t end up gaining anything from it.

    No, I’m not a teacher of the course, but I used to work with students following it when I was a TA.

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