Calling all teachers

agslegs Member Posts: 28

I am a newly qualified teacher and I’ve just started work in a rather challenging inner London secondary school. I teach science and I am finding I am constantly on my feet all day. I am not sure how I got through the week, physically, but I got the feeling that adrenaline has carried me a long way through the week. I got to Thursday ok but by Friday morning I was feeling physically exhausted and this wasn’t help by the fact I had my not so wonderful Year 10 class that day.

Here’s a bit of background about me. I am 40 years old and I was diagnosed with RA in March this year. I was lucky that my RA was picked up quickly after the first symptoms and I am currently taking part in a trial where by my RA is aggressively treated with etanercept, Methotrexate and folic acid. This drug combination has worked well for me and the drugs have taken away most of the pain and fatigue associated with RA though I do have to take things easy.

I have two main things I need to find a solution with at my new school. First of all I need to find a way of dealing with my “difficult” year 10 class. They are bright group (second from top). They were mainly taught by a supply teacher for most of last year and they have not responded well to me. They refuse to listen to my instructions such as putting them in a seating plan claiming I treat them like kids then they go and behave like kids by telling me they aren’t learning anything, claiming they don’t understand any task I give them which then moves on to them walking around the class, clowning around and generally just not listening to me. I have raised this issue with my mentor but to date I have not received any real support from the department but I did raise the issue again yesterday. I have seen this class 4 times this week and after day one I knew they were going to be difficult. Anyway yesterday everything came to a head and the kids just refused to listen to me and just generally did what they wanted and I became white noise in the background. I was totally lost and left feeling very stressed. I worry that the stress is affecting my RA since I have pins and needles all down the lhs of my body. My left knee is aching and I generally feel exhausted. I have no idea how I am going to make it through to Christmas at this rate.

Fortunately, all my other classes are lovely and I get on well with them. They are not stressful but the kids are quite needy and I need to work on them to become independent learners. Anyway I had my year 7s sitting down doing work but I then noticed it was me rushing around the class going up to them as they put their hands up for help or as they chased me round the class wanting help (not easy trying to divide your attention between 30 kids). I was wondering if any teachers could give me tips on how to train them to sit at their desks and then put their hands up and then come to me when they need help instead of me running around the room. This would mean I could sit and rest up a bit whilst they were on task as I am sure this is not helping my swollen feet.

Finally I had to fill in a health questionnaire when I started work but I am not sure if this will give me an automatic referral to the OT or if I have to request one.

I am sorry this is a long post but I am feeling a bit tired and weepy today and I am off to spend the day at Hyde Park going to see the Pope. It is something I have looked forward to but now I am wondering how am I going to get the energy to get through the day.



  • Rainbow77
    Rainbow77 Member Posts: 275
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Ags

    Teaching is very hard work for a normal healthy person and especially at the beginning of the school year. Trying to sort out all your classes into a routine.

    Your year 10 class. I am sorry that you have not had any support from your mentor yet. What about the head of department?

    They sound very challenging. You need to stick to your guns and show no fear. I would line them up outside the classroom and do not let them enter the room until they are all lined up quietly and in proper dress etc. The classroom is your room, do not let them in there until they are doing what you want them to do.

    Seating plan - excellent idea. You need to do that. So after they are all lined up then let them in one and one and put them in their seats. Don't worry if this takes 1 lesson or maybe more. You will not be able to teach them until they are doing as you say. Then identify the few real trouble makers and get them removed so you can work on the rest. They will get fed up with waiting outside as that will be really boring, so hopefully you will get them sorted that way.

    I know it is difficult if they had a supply teacher, but they should not be taking that out on you. They are really testing you. Seeing what they can get away with. I would only punish those who are causing trouble. Not the whole class.

    Focus on a few of them - write down exactly what they doing, saying, not doing and photocopy their work. You can call their parents and send a copy home.

    You must praise those who are getting it right by giving out whatever the reward system is and also writing notes in their planners etc.

    Don't enter into any long conversations with them, tell them what to do and if they don't, just keep repeating it (broken record technique) until they do. They need to know that you are in charge.

    Have a good rest this weekend. Next week is a new week. Try and get some help before you have them next - other colleagues, head of department, so you have a battle plan!! You'll be ok - walk tall, speak calmly but clearly - you will sort them out.

    Year 7's. Tell them that in your classroom, if they need help, to put their hand up and then call them up one by one or in groups. You could also put the most needy nearer to you or around your desk so that you can help them more.

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and will be thinking of you next week.

  • agslegs
    agslegs Member Posts: 28
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00

    Thank you so much for your advice. I will take note and I will definitely talk with my colleagues again on Monday to try to find a way to manage this class. I have a lot to learn!!!

    Fortunately, my joints are no longer sore but I do still feel very tired.

    As you said new week, new challenge. I am happy to be a teacher but I need to manage all of this and minimise the stress on my body.

    Ags xxx
  • Rainbow77
    Rainbow77 Member Posts: 275
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Ags

    Glad your feeling better. The only other thing I forgot to add, is sometimes they need a good telling off!! Not, a you have totally lost it rant, but a telling off. They don't tell you that on teacher training but some children are not used to the positive, nicey nicey, reward stance as they don't get that at home!!!

    Take care xxx
  • speedalong
    speedalong Member Posts: 3,300
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Ags, lots of great advice from Rainbow so not much to add.

    Definitely working out who the ringleaders are is a must - and other teachers who have had this group before can help with this. You should be getting more support. Keeping them all outside the class and sending them in one at a time to the seat on the seating plan is a great idea - send in the "good ones" too - and leave the tricky customers to last.
    Decide on a signal for quiet, let peer group pressure work on the less willing ones. Reward good behaviour to keep the good pupils on side. Deducting minutes from break time for time you waste waiting for order can quickly show you mean business, especially if it is just a few you are waiting for each time. Definitely have the more pliable classes putting their hands up for help and coming out to you. Though it is still good to walk around once in awhile - to keep your presence known. A perching stool might be helpful if you are mainly based in one room - you will be high enough to be seen by everyone and to see everyone(!) but taking the weight off your feet.

    Teachers TV is a good source of info - and in an easily digestible form after a hard day - so take a peak.

    The autumn term is always the hardest - heading into winter, new classes to "tame" and new units of work to deliver. It will get easier. Be firm, you can always lighten up a bit later. Ask to sit in an observe other teachers too - you will see things you hadn't thought of (as well as things you'll think - I would have dealt with that differently.)

    I have had OA since mid twenties. It affects my hips and knees. I had a THR on the left aged 30 and now have a resurface-replacement on the right - done May 2010.
  • miss_l
    miss_l Member Posts: 138
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00

    Im a secondary science teacher and also have RA and OA!
    I had my hip replaced last year and until that point my work hadnt taken my issues seriously, i was told at 27 i was just making issues out of nothing. When i had 8 months off for the replacement and complications they soon changed their attitude.

    I would suggest asking to speak to OH, they helped me alot and put some regulations into place at school and provided me with a high stool with a back rest! (amazing!)

    I'm sure things will settle down as the term progresses, my classes are starting to test me now and push me a little too far .... had to enforce some seating plans today!!

    Here if you need anything,
  • gemmapetken
    gemmapetken Member Posts: 263
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    iam a secondary teacher with RA as well!!
    so many of us around!!! LOL
    Luckily my bosses understand that i need to sit down more than others and they are lovely.
    With your yr 10's I FULLY understand!!!
    Stick with the seating plan, make sure you keep on top of the behaviour. What is your department policy on behaviour? We use Dicipline with dignity - PM me for more details. But your school should have some dicipline policy. Ask a senior member to observe you with this class and they may have soem ideas. Remember they probably think your just as bad as supply and are going to go and leave them as well. Kids do think about that!

    Hope things get better!

  • msmungo
    msmungo Member Posts: 5
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I'm also a secondary teacher with RA. Things that have helped me are having a high stool for the front of the room so that I don't always have to stand and printing comments on labels for jotters to save on writing when my hands are bad.
    Discipline-wise remember never to threaten anything you can't follow through. I think seating plans are essential - make this the first battle you will win.
    I find it takes about a month to get new classes into my routines and then I am on my feet less as they adapt to a different way of working.
    Good luck!
  • mrbear
    mrbear Member Posts: 29
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi all. It is good to hear that there are many teachers still working and finding ways to keep in control. I have just been diagnosed with PsA., I can keep the pain under control most of the time but the fatigue is another thing. I spoke to a senior colleague and he just said we all get worn-out in this job. Not helpful and perhaps a lack of understanding, I am going to meet the head and perhaps ask for a meeting with Occupational Health. Although I am slightly worried about making this official as it may impact on my career prospects.
  • beowolf
    beowolf Member Posts: 88
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi mrbear and welcome to the forum :D:D

    sorry you've been having problems with tiredness, but I'm afraid that it's one of those little extras that arther likes to throw at us :?

    the only advice I can really give is to pace yourself as much as possible...not easy I know when you work full time.

    look forward to reading your posts

    Beo :D
  • smiley86
    smiley86 Member Posts: 1
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi all,

    Ags, i'm an NQT as well. I'm only 24 and got diagnosed with PA 3 weeks ago! I had my first batch of steroid injections yesterday, so i'm hoping that they work a little! This first half term has definitely been a tough one, especially with settling into a new school and getting to know all the different classes. It has been a good experience though, albeit, a very tiring experience.

    It's been an information overload right from the start. I can imagine what your going through with your year 10 class. I had a really difficult year 10 class on my PGCE! You just really need to show them who's boss! Make sure that you follow through all your demands, so they know that you are not going to back down! Try and stay strong! If you have them before break or lunch, make use of the lesson before. Tell them that your going to keep them behind for a couple of minutes (as long as it is in line with school policy). Let them know that actions bring consequences. if they are willing to waste your time in lessons, tell them that you are going to use their free time as an action. I found that this really worked for the challenging pupils. Another strategy I found useful, was dismissing the class one by one at the end of the lesson! Let the well behaved ones go first and so on. Have a word with the final few and tell them that their behaviour is not acceptable!

    It might be worth doing a lesson, where they have to do research from a textbook, internet etc and present a certain section to to the rest of the class. I find that these types of lessons work well and It might let you have a little time to rest in the lesson. If they ask two questions after their presentation to check the classes learning, it gives you a chance to assess their learning as well!

    In terms of your year 7. It might be work having a strategy, such as do the following three things before you put your hand up (check the textbook for further information, ask the person next to you, or the table in front / behind you). It gives them a little independence to try and enhance their own learning by others around them and might take the pressure of you a little bit!

    Hope these strategies help!!

    It's nice to know that there are other teachers out there in the same position, who understand the demands of the job and the effects it can have on arthritis. My school have thankfully been really understanding and excellent towards my condition. The staff welfare team have done a risk assessment, got me a new chair to help my joints and have switched my break duty, to save me going up and down stairs all the time. They have also offered to switch my classroom to the ground floor in the future if needed (Ags, it might be worth seeing if your school could do the same?)

    Hope you all have an excellent half term break :o)
  • sunshine75
    sunshine75 Member Posts: 14
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi all,

    I'm a 36 year old Secondary teacher, have had arthritis forever (!),

    the above advice is great so again not much to add.
    I often get students to come to me if stuck rather than me wandering round the classroom all the time, they'll get used to whatever routine you put in place. Also, last September I went down to working 4 days a week and having fridays off (my employer was great about this) and this helped with the tiredness and fatigue enormously. Worth doing if you can afford it and have an understanding boss!

    take care x
  • YellowFish
    YellowFish Member Posts: 33
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00

    I'm a teacher but at the other end of the scale - my class is Year 1! I'm finding work hard - it's so physical! Anyone else out there teaching Key Stage 1 - or Reception? Because to be honest the first term next year will feel more like teaching Reception - they're still so little when they first come in!
    My problem is mainly with my hands - getting dressed myself is hard enough let alone dressing them! One of the biggest problems is shoelaces. They can't tie them up and neither can I! Drives me mad that some parents haven't heard of velcro!!!! In the end I had a quiet word with a Year 3 teacher who's lovely, who teaches in the classroom opposite and asked her if I could 'borrow' a couple of sensible Year 3s during PE changing times! Don't like mucking up her lessons though . . . anyone else found ways of coping teaching little ones? Setting up the classroom in the mornings before school is killing me.

    Thank you!
  • Ankyspond
    Ankyspond Member Posts: 626
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00

    I am a secondary teacher of ICT, I have AS and RA most of what needed to be said has been said really some great advice been given. I had a group like this for two years they left this year, they wore me down and stressed me out and yes you are right stress will have a major impact on your disease. My advice to you (and most been given already):

    Line them up outside.
    Have a seating plan and isolate the trouble makers.
    Have a warning chart, three ticks on the chart and they leave the room.
    We have a time out room for naughty kids I used it a lot with them.
    Keep in contact with parents.
    Single the trouble makers out have a chat with them saying you know they can do it and you will not accept this behaviour so the consequences are now in their hands.
    Keep a note of things that happen.
    Do you have a subject report you can put them on?

    I went through everything with my class had the head in watching them, tried the nicely nicely approach, even had behavioural management therapist in to watch the class and only advise got from her was I was doing everything right but give them stickers or gifts as rewards (at 15) I won't go into the conversation i had with her about this. The two most important things are to get your mentor/head of year on side and learn to switch off. Do everything you can in the class to help but when they leave the class you leave them out of your head as well. Teaching ICT I am always helping kids but I have learnt to pull up a chair to sit next to them instead of bending over, most times the kids will have a chair ready for me now. I have gone to part time teaching and only teach n a tue, wed and thurs so I have a long weekend which is great but I know I am lucky being able to do that.

    I wish you well in the new term be strong, have boundaries and only get help. Xxxxx

    P.S sorry can't offer any advice for teaching primary unless any of the above allies to you, am sure others will be able to though. Xx
    AS Sufferer
    Live, love and enjoy life, live each day as though it's your last!
  • 80squeen
    80squeen Member Posts: 69
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I've taught Reception and KS1 for years, but have now moved up to KS2 (not through a conscious decision, just staff reshuffling!) Training them to do as much for themselves as possible is helpful - they seem to love crawling on the floor picking up bits of paper!! :grin: Having everything clearly labelled helps them to take responsibility and they rise to the challenge! I have explained a little bit about arthritis to my classes in the past (very simply of course) - this usually comes up when they see something visible like if I am wearing a splint one day, or they have sometimes noticed the way I walk. I have told them that if they crash into me in the yard or grab my hands that it hurts, and they respond well to this. If you have TAs, etc, use them effectively - could they set some things up in the morning?
    Have you had a chat with your head? I know it's not always easy, but if you don't tell them where you need support, they can't help. I've not taught PE for about 5 years now - someone else does it as my PPA. I've also been to occ health a couple of times - the first time wasn't much help, but the second was better. I've also had an assessment through Access to Work and got a different desk and chair.
    Sorry this is a bit long, but good luck, and let us know how you get on!
    Best wishes, Josie
  • Emily
    Emily Member Posts: 124
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    My employer is different they are a big multination one and have stores all over the world.

    I have been working there for 5 years. I have osteoporosis and osteoporosis my problems is my knees and neck and shoulder areas.
    My conditions got worse due to work conditions, I only had a high stool to sit on and that was damaging my condition.

    My employer knew about my condition since 2008 due to referral to OHA report but choose to do nothing about it

    Got Access to work involved last year and she was great done a very details report and said that I should have a special chair and sent an invoice to my company to purchase it.

    This chair was never purchase and I was sent to another floor of the store and was not even given the unsuitable chair to sit on, had to stand for 8 hrs. In desperation I took unpaid leave as I could not stand any longer.

    However before the leave was sanction by managers I had an accident at a panel fall on me from above my head. I was off work due to injury, but while I was on sick notes for that injury I got a call from manager saying my unpaid leave was sanction and not to go back until it had expired which was 9 months.

    Went back to work and the conditions got worse for me I had to stand all day long or sit on an unsuitable high stool that there was no room for where I was sitting.

    Been off work as a result of no minor adjustments made for me. Seen my GP and she wrote to OHA with a copy of Access to Work report and also the recent x-ray that I had for my neck which showed further damage to it. I had to send this to work and I suppose all have seen it. I did not know that I could have contact have contacted OH myself as work do this via a computer.

    My GP has sent me back to physo and am waiting for appointment from them.

    I am sure my employer will want to get rid of me as I am 66, but there are lots of people older than my age working in their stores.