With a lot of the issues that I write about, a lot of the time everything comes down to evidence. Who can prove what and who has evidence against who, and also whether statements are just opinion or can be proven with fact.
A lot of the time I think teachers are treated as if they are in a court of law, having to find evidence that they are innocent of whatever they are being accused of be it poor performance or more serious allegations.
Evidence can be gathered on both sides, to defend and to attack you. I’ve written a few points about evidence here, and how it works and how important it is in education.
Evidence that can be used to attack you
I’ve written a list here of all the ways in which senior management can and will gather evidence in order to find more sticks to beat you with. My advice is to make sure you are squeaky clean in all areas to avoid a telling off of any kind. Of course, this would be near on impossible for the average person, so do as much as you can.
When you are presented with some evidence against you, at least you will be aware of where they are getting their information from and how they are forming those opinions of you. Some of it is quite sneaky and underhand, but is nonetheless perfectly OK for them to do.
- Student voice questionnaires
- Verbal questioning of students
- Senior management bursting into your classroom unannounced
- Off the record verbal only references
- Sickness record
- Social media
- Complaints from parents
- Complaints from parents on behalf of students
- Quizzing other staff on their opinion of you
- Last minute meetings with no agenda planned
- Engineering evidence by setting ‘traps’
Evidence that can be used to defend you
Here’s where you can fight back. You might not be able to change what a previous employer is going to say about you on the phone, but you can gather evidence that you are being treated unreasonably in the following ways:
- Get everything that is said in a meeting in writing, and insist that all parties present sign it. If you think something has been missed out or added that isn’t accurate to what was actually said, then don’t sign, and get it changed.
- Keep a diary, which is especially useful if you are being quite obviously bullied, of everything that is said and done to you on a daily basis, how this has made you feel, and how this has effected your work.
- Get the students and parents who have got something nice to say about your teaching to say it, in writing, or in front of a senior manager.
- Occupational health or your GP can give professional weight to your opinion that your working conditions are effecting your health.
- Ask that everything negative that is said about your performance be referenced to whatever criteria you are being subject to, e.g. Ofsted lesson observation grading criteria. Quite often an argument will fall apart at this point.
- Save emails and letters, and it’s also reasonable to record phone conversations, and if you’re feeling brave, face to face meetings.
- A regional union rep should be present at all meetings to ensure that procedure is being followed. Be aware that they ‘weren’t there’ for events that might be talked about, so you may need to explain to them why you believe procedure hasn’t been followed as they may not notice it themselves under all the SMT spin.
- You can request copies of references, and ask new employers what your old employers have been saying about you off the record. It’s a long shot, but I got one potential new employer to admit they hadn’t given me the job because of something that had been said on the phone, and they also told me off the record what it was. They refused to put it in writing so I couldn’t use it as evidence, but at least I knew.
- You could try to gather evidence against the person who is gathering evidence against you, providing you can pinpoint just one person rather than a whole senior management team. Also a long shot, but you could try some of the techniques they’ve used on you.
Teachers are bashed so much from all directions nowadays that knowing how evidence will be used against you is essential to having a successful career. Senior managers who have high turnovers of staff and who regularly put staff on capability proceedings are being praised, and this is happening more and more. Now, the more teachers you can take down, the better a head you are. Hopefully this will help you to defend yourself against it, and as always, if you want to talk in more detail, please email me.
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