AS Biology ... has failed to make the required improvements in spite of significant interventions.This was in this week's staff newsletter. A massive slap in the face from a senior member of staff, for every lecturer, administrator, support assistant to see, not to mention the ladies who run the canteen, the caretakers who check I haven't died at my desk late at night, and the lab technicians without whom I'd be lost.
I rarely criticise where I work. I don't want to do that (that way disciplinaries lie). I just want to wail about how hurt I feel about all this where I know I have a sympathetic audience.
I've been teaching for three years. I have been graded good or outstanding in every observation I have had (and I rarely put on a show for my observers because I want to be graded on the lessons I give every day). I took on a second AS group halfway through the year, and battled through the "we liked the other teacher better" criticism until I think, maybe, some of the group actually liked me and my teaching. I undertook a workshop to boost performance. I pleaded with the students who needed it to attend. I spent hours tutoring students after classes. I embedded literacy. I honed their bullshit detectors. I got them reading and citing peer-reviewed journals (and not just Biological Sciences Review and New Scientist).
In the end, this year, weak students just flopped. They failed physics, chemistry, maths, English, sociology, psychology, and so on. No student who failed biology only failed biology - they stuffed up everything. And yet here I am, as the only full-time permanent biology teacher, taking the flak in public across the entire college.
I am ashamed to see the people in other departments who I know. I can't bring myself to look them in the eye knowing that they'll have read that, and that they'll make judgements about me and my competence. Because they don't know that I eat, sleep and breathe this job. They don't know about the evidence-based teaching methods I use, about the high expectations I hold of my students, about the sheer energy I put into making damn sure the students understand the material. All they see is that I was apparently given "significant interventions" but failed to deliver.
It's enough to make me second-guess myself and my ability. Maybe I'm doing it all wrong. Maybe I've been lulled into a false sense of security by a history of good pass rates, excellent observation feedback, my name being passed around as "one to watch". Amazing students have got crappy coursework grades, and I'm scared a re-mark won't show up any errors of marking. Students who had effectively another block of A-level time for one-to-one tuition haven't performed any better than if I'd left them to teach themselves. I've been flipping between raging indignation that such words have been written about my subject, and self-doubt that I'm a mediocre teacher getting by on sarcasm and charisma, putting on a good show but lacking substance.
By Tuesday, when we return after the bank holiday weekend, I'll probably feel better. Maybe I'll play the video my BTECs made for me. Maybe I'll read some of the cards and e-mails I had over the years. Maybe I'll remember all the hugs from students whose lives I have apparently improved beyond measure.
But for now I'm hurting.