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shutterstock_366448784 businessman sleeping at working place with his head on hand, open laptop in front of him, several glasses of coffee to the left, words 'epic fail' over his head. Concept of failure.

Jack Gulston

Jack writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective and is in his third year of teaching. He worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school for 3 years before going on to complete his education degree. He is currently teaching...
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How do teachers pick themselves up after a series of poor judgements?

This year hit me straight in the chest like a bull! I have reached the final week of my second year in teaching and what a roller-coaster it has been for me personally.

Requires Improvement!

Working in year 2, we have seen the rise and fall of SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar); trickier tests and a lot more work thrown at me and my year partner then we could ever imagine. This, as well as being in a car crash and working with an extremely tricky student. However, we have battled through and have made it to the end of the year. But the thing I am most proud of, is getting ‘requires improvement’ for my planning folder twice, ‘requires improvement’ in my marking for literacy and numeracy once and a lesson observation  in which I received ‘requires improvement’. I also applied for a new job and I was unsuccessful!

Maybe proud is the wrong word, but I am proud of the person I have become because of this.

In my NQT year I was incredibly fortunate. I had a fantastic class, a supportive mentor, and received either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ for all my lesson observations, planning folders and the marking of students’ books. We had been fully moderated by the local authority, observed by OfSTED and achieved the best results for key stage 1 SATs our school had ever seen!

I felt as if I could just continue on the upward trajectory and continue doing what I was doing. I hadn’t faced any adversity, so personal resilience wasn’t what it should be.


Then, this year hit me straight in the chest like a bull!

Requires improvement, then another requires improvement. What was I doing wrong? My confidence took a dip and then the ‘requires improvement’ judgement for my lesson observation came along too and I fell to my lowest ebb. Colleagues rallied around me, but I felt worthless, rubbish and most of all, I was failing the children I was there to care for.

The students deserve better than a teacher who ‘requires improvement’, right?

So, I asked for advice from the teachers across the school and from people outside of the profession.

  • How do you respond to a setback?
  • How do you build up your resilience?

shutterstock_110296901 young businessman having heart attack or chest pain

Image: Shutterstock

I took these knock-backs as an opportunity to discover who I was and what teacher I should be.

How do you respond?

I took them for what they were, merely other people’s ‘opinions on pieces of paper’. I looked at the targets I’d been set, looked at myself and made the commitment to push myself and achieve even more for the children in my class. I stuck the ‘requires improvement’ forms up on the inside of my cupboard at home and looked at them every morning. It made me determined to prove others wrong and to show that my last year wasn’t a fluke; that I can be consistently ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Over time, I was observed five more times and received ‘good’ once and ‘outstanding’ during the other four occasions. The one I was really proud of was from the headteacher; it made me feel like I had proven her right for taking a chance on me when I graduated from university as an NQT.

I suppose what I am really trying to get across in this blog, is that setbacks happen and it depends on your resilience and how you respond to them.

Teaching is a tricky profession (from what I have experienced in my two short years) and I feel that as teachers, we are great when the ‘chips are down’. We naturally rally around one another and if support comes, then only good things can happen. If you suffer a setback, show that your willing to learn from the advice given, rather than stick your head in the sand and not listen, then it’s only a matter of time before things start to improve.

Advice can come from anywhere – even if your school is still grading NQTs and lesson observations – and it all depends on what you do with it that makes the difference.

Jack Gulston is a second year primary teacher and writes for Teacher Toolkit.

You can read more of his articles here and can follow him on Twitter at @JGulston90.

3 thoughts on “Failing

  1. What a great post. We spend so much time promoting the values of growth mindset and resilience and grit but how often do we really understand what that means. I started a new job in September that has turned out to be a disaster- the school is in dire straits and the head can’t or won’t see it and even as a deputy I do less than when I was a teacher. Leave- everyone tells me – he’ll never change. But I would feel even more of a failure. Now I’m trying to decide whether to speak to the governors or phone OFSTED before next term. My resilience and grit will be truly tested then. But this is about the children …. Good luck.

  2. Great post, lovely sentiment. You may wish to amend the stray apostrophe in the heading before the grammar police catch you. All the best for your third year teaching.

  3. Pingback: Top 10 @Teachertoolkit articles by Stress Free Teacher – Stress Free Teacher BlOG

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