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Tricky decisions

August 25, 2008

Hello again,

A question I was asked recently concerned the issue of firing an inefficient teacher. To be honest this is always a tricky situation. It is not an open...

... and shut case as, for example, it would be, if the teacher had committed some obvious breach of contract.

Before trying to take this drastic step, which might well have repercussions if the teacher took legal advice, it is better to look at the situation from a broader perspective. First the definition of “inefficiency” needs to be clarified. Is the teacher inefficient because s/he does or does not do something that conflicts with the school’s guidelines? Is it a question of student complaints? Are the exam results poorer than they should be? Does the inefficiency consist of unacceptable behaviour such as lateness, missing classes, losing or failing to mark homework?

In other words, the inefficiency needs to be pinned down to specifics. If, it consists of lateness or absence, then the procedure is straightforward. According to your staff disciplinary guidelines, you should be able issue verbal and written warnings and, if there is no improvement, then the teacher can be fired.

However, if the teacher is performing badly in the classroom, you may have to look at your responsibility for the situation. Why was the teacher hired? Was a probationary period served? If yes, then you need to find out when and why the deterioration began. Has your school got adequate teacher support and professional development? Are there factors in the teacher’s personal life that are affecting work? Is the teacher having problems with a particular group of students? Is the teacher aware of your concern about classroom performance?

It may be that if these issues are investigated you can agree an action plan between you that helps the teacher through a bad patch. A classroom is not a factory. The dynamics of teaching vary from group to group, from day to day even so that a teacher’s performance may vary quite considerably. It is important surely to be mutually supportive in a situation of this kind: you need to help the teacher and the teacher needs to be willing to make the effort to improve.

If you can agree an action plan with milestones for appraisals then you will have a fair and measured approach that will see you through the challenge with an outcome that you can both accept. Either the teacher can up his/her game or, at the end of an agreed period, you can agree to part.

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  1. hamed Says:

    Hi ,
    I thank Brena for pinpointting the remedy for both teachers and employers.Giving the teacher a chance first then judge or the last decision is to fire her/him.

  1. Brian Caulfield Says:

    Good post Brenda,
    Sometimes it is just a question of a bad fit. In the situation where a teacher fulfills their duties and is dismissed at the end of a term to avoid paying the breach of contract fee to them is a common theme in this profession. Sweep the school clean before bringing in the five new teachers.
    It is nice that people can sit down and reach and equitable arbitration , but as the Chinese proverb goes " The view is better from the mountain top" Or the administration has the upper hand in these matters in being able to paint a bad picture of any teacher. In this case it is the teacher's fault for not researching the school before entering an engagement with them.

  1. Pat Says:

    Never mind if you get the bullet.

    Your ego might suffer a little but there are plenty of other jobs to go to...the world is a big place.

  1. Brian Burleigh Says:

    Interesting comments from Brian Caulfield, exactly in line with what an administrator would say.

    What about the teachers? Is there enough support for them? Are they given sufficient tools to help them do the job? I've seen this far too much for it to be random or out of the ordinary, where a 'suspect' teacher gets put under the microscope and is subjected to interrogations of their behaviour and performance that would make the CIA cringe. Watching as adminstration overburdens young teachers with demands for more detailed lesson plans and more work outside the school makes me sad and not a little peeved. If you want a teacher to meet your expectations, first you must evaluate your expectations, then YOU MUST MODEL IT. Far too often have I seen teachers wracked with frustration over the ambiguities an adminstration forces them to deal with unsuccessfully. What do they want? How am I supposed to give it to them? What part can/does my individuality play in the teaching? Watching teachers get chewed up and spit out by adminstrations that demand more paperwork, more checking, and more interference makes me sick.

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