Wednesday 24 October 2012

How to Deal with Being Inadequate

It's been a while since I've written a diary-style blog post. Recently I've been sticking to maths and the odd bit of teaching and learning. I decided after finishing my NQT year that I would no longer discuss my CPD publicly, for the sake of my readers more than anything: reading somebody's moans can't be interesting. But then again I suppose most people wouldn't find absement interesting either.

But this week I felt the need to write something that is somewhat more personal. It's been a bad week for this QTpi. I've experienced something that I knew would probably come eventually, although I'd hoped it never would: I have had a lesson observation graded "inadequate".

In case you didn't know, I'm somebody who likes to do well. I liked getting A*s at school. I didn't like getting anything else. So it bugs me that I'm no longer a straight A student. I have just received my first ever U. I don't know how to respond. This does not compute. Syn error. 404 page not found.

I don't want to talk about what went wrong in the lesson, or anything like that. It's personal, and besides, it wouldn't be interesting. But I do want to talk about what happened after I received my "Inadequate".

I felt sad. Annoyed. Frustrated. Victimised. Like a failure. And after 10 minutes of all that (I'm a fast thinker), I started to just feel glum. What an amazing word glum is! It sounds exactly like the feeling. Glum. It's almost impossible to say glum without slumping your shoulders and sticking out your bottom lip.

This glumness, unfortunately, has lasted all week. It has hovered around me like a bad smell. I walked into lessons thinking "what's the point? They're obviously not going to learn anything anyway". And this made me so sad. I love my students. I want them to learn. I'm letting them down.

Things people tell you when you get an inadequate:
-It's not you who's inadequate, it was the lesson.
-It was only one lesson out of thousands of good ones.
-It only went badly because you were nervous about being observed.
-It happens to everyone.

At any other point in my life I would have said that those four things are all true. However, in my current state of glum, they all seem like the kind of cruel lies that parents tell their children (I ate my crusts religiously for years and my hair remained as linear as ever).

Taking these cruel lies one by one:
-You are what you teach, hence I am inadequate.
-All of my lessons are exactly like that. Hence I am always inadequate.
-I never get nervous. Literally never. Unless fire is involved.
-It does not happen to everyone. I can name someone it has never happened to. She is an outstanding teacher and her hair is nice and curly too. I bet she never had to eat crusts. I hate her.

As you can see I have reverted to my fourteen-year-old self.

So if these nice things my colleagues have said (I do appreciate it guys!) have failed to make me feel better, what will? The answer is this: time. That's it. I just have to get back on the horse, and stay on it for as long as it takes to forget I ever fell off.

Maybe one day I will be able to look back at this observation and learn something from it. At the moment I don't even want to read the feedback sheet. I'm not in the mood for learning from my mistakes. I'm in the mood for focusing on what I'm good at. Like integration by parts, and matching my shoes to my dress. My colour co-ordinations and calculus will always be outstanding.

Have you ever been told you're an inadequate teacher? How did you cope?

Emma x x x


  1. Elizabeth the Awesome24 October 2012 at 18:28

    Poor you! Well done for being brave enough to talk about it - I wouldn't! I have been told that inadequate/satisfactory/good/outstanding are pointless labels that say little about your teaching - inadequate certainly does little other than to quite literally make you feel inadequate! Wouldn't it be more helpful to have been told x, y, z were ok but chi, psi, omega were missing when they really shouldn't be?

    To cheer you up: I am branching into teaching via cupcakes. I made cakes for one lot of year 13's with greek letters on which they were only allowed to have one of when they had successfully identified it. I have plans for another class who have been hating trig identities which will be a paired "cake match" activity. It has the added advantage of pupils wanting to make you cakes too.

    1. Oh my gosh you really are unique! Can you take some photos (of the cakes, not your students!) and maybe do a guest post - as in, write about the activity for the blog?

      You know, I can never even be bothered to cut out the little Tarsia triangles, let alone bake flipping cakes!!!

  2. 2 weeks ago today I was told I am inadequate too!

    It has taken me the whole 2 weeks to get myself out of my slump! I was going to school feeling the same as you Emma - what is the point in planning and teaching as it will just be an awful lesson anyway! You cannot help but take it personally!

    Starting to feel a little brighter and hoping that I can learn from it!

    What happened after for you? Did you get observed again?

    1. Yes I got observed again, at my request. It was with the same group of students but a different observer. The main difference was that it was not Friday lesson 5! The lesson was much better and had good elements. The observer was very positive.

      Then a few months later I was observed by OfSTED and told I was Outstanding, so there you go!

    2. I have just come back from being observed and dissapointed in all of the ways you have mentioned. I think it is so painful: the mix of fear that you'll be a cause for concern, that you're letting the kids down and you completely question yourself as a teacher.

      I am considering just getting through the rest of this term. Perhaps having the same person observe me in a couple of week. Get Xmas hols done and be re-observed again after the hols.

      I am usually getting 3s and 2s
      What do you think? The other option floating wildly in my mind is to stop it all.

    3. As an "inadequate" teacher you are entitled to support from your school - so don't just ask for a re-observation, request for your observer (or another really good teacher) to plan the lesson with you. Lesson observations are there for schools to identify which teachers need support. If they're not giving you support, they're not doing their job.

      I'm now classed as "consistently outstanding" at my school. So don't worry, you can bounce back from this!

  3. I had an `inadequate` rating from a new HT. I went home, cried, swore and had a G&T. I have now given up teaching and am running my own business (nothing to do with education)...very happily and with great success. It`s a bit like children who are told, `you`ll never make anything of yourself,` and go on to great things. Not that I expect any Oscars or Olympic golds to be heading my way. Many of my friends work in commerce and are never deemed `inadequate.` If their work is not up to standard, they are given extra training or management support, not insulted by such a derogatory term. Teachers are human beings, with feelings, and should not be treated as robots.

    1. Yes, it's unfair how teachers can be called inadequate but in other professions they wouldn't use such a derogatory term.

    2. HI,
      I really like your post as this is where i would like to be heading. I was told today that my lesson and the quality of my teaching was inadequate- this is after planning for hours, levelled success criteria, levelled key word anagrams, and levelled questioning for the class. I agree, i had tried to put a lot into the lesson, but its always because if you dont, youre criticized. I genuinely thought a 2, maybe a 3 to the least- because i think everyone needs improvement! but i was gutted by 4- i feel gloomy, sad and determined to get out of teaching- i just feel so scrutinised.

    3. It sounds like your lesson was well considered and planned. I hope your observer gave you some useful feedback- something you can actually work on, other than just the dreaded "they didn't make enough progress".

      It's amazing what getting a 4 can do to your motivation. It rarely makes you determined to improve, you're far more likely to be determined to find a new career! Senior management should take note of this.

  4. Hey all, I got a 4 this week and wow how bad does it make you feel!
    I was so upset I don't remember what was said in the feedback 'lecture' that I had after; I was too busy thinking OMG I'm rubbish!
    I spent days planning, all weekend I ignored my family and for what, to be told it and I were inadequate.....where is the motivation in that to improve? what happened to the 2 good comments and 1 bad comment that we are told to give to our learners so as not to totally deflate them...Grrrr so annoyed with myself as I wanted it to be a really good lesson. one thing he said that really got up my kilt was that I was obviously nervous and I laughed too much and that was why my learners were disruptive (low level) Hang on, on the one hand have a good rapport and on the other don't be friendly....Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't. Seems the goal posts just get moved. Sorry all, I'm on a 'feel sorry for myself rant' I've only been teaching since September, you would think that they would be more helpful than destructive. Any jobs at Tesco's :((