Some clips of Flight of the Conchords. "Business Time" and "Jenny" are partcularly great. Two very talented and funny Kiwis!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mr Andrew Kirby (formerly of Harrow House, Swanage)

A story of woe from almost 10 years ago, but mercifully the gutless bullying dickhead (i.e., the Principal) in question no longer works there. My thanks to Lolwhites for this pleasant little item.

The Principal of Harrow House, Swanage, Mr Andrew Kirby, took me on as a teacher at the end of March 1997. During my time there I volunteered for the "staff revue" i.e. some short plays about teaching, performed for the students in our own time and paid for with a few beers afterwards; I was happy to do this in order to get to know my colleagues a bit better and earn a few brownie points.

As well as teaching, we were expected to give up one (paid) Saturday every couple of months to take the students on some organised trip. When I took a group to Oxford, a couple of them failed to show up for the coach home (everyone else had the right time and place) and we had to leave without them; they complained to the school and I was told off for not having phoned the school to say what had happened, which was fair enough as it goes though I had never been advised what to do in such circumstances until after the event.

In any case, I was trusted to take another group to Brighton a couple of months later and that passed off without incident. Unless you count the fact that when we went to the Pavilion, they hadn't heard of us, in spite of assurances from the Events Officer that we had been booked in and were expected - the students had to pay their own entry and get reimbursed later, but I'd rung the school and cleared it with them first.

Apart from that, I had no indication that anything was wrong with my work, until one day in June/July (I forget exactly) when the ADoS walked into my class and announced she was going to observe it (no advance warning, so no detailed lesson plan). Now, I admit the lesson could have gone better - if the video in the room had been working properly it would have certainly helped - but at the end the ADoS rushed off and didn't answer me when I asked when we could meet for a feedback session.

The next suspicion I had that anything might be wrong was on the Friday afternoon, when I noticed that my name had been removed from the timetable on the wall in the staffroom. At midday I'd been pleasantly surprised to see I had a very full timetable the following week and was down to teach every session, but by 5pm my name had vanished.

After the weekly staff meeting, Mr Kirby took me to one side and asked if he could speak to me in his office for a moment. As soon as we were alone he turned round and told me that it had been decided to terminate my contract. He then gave me the letter to say that I had one week's notice but was not required to work for that week. When I asked why, his exact words were "I don't want to go into details except to say that it was a management decision". In other words, "You're sacked and I'm not going to give you any explanation".

I later found out that he'd done exactly the same to another colleague on the same day - apparently he gave her 30 minute to clear her desk, no reason given. Incidentally, I'd read Harrow House's policies and there was something about the right to have a colleague present at meetings with the Principal; I can only conclude he tried to be as discreet as possible in front of the others so I wouldn't know what was coming and ask for a colleague to come with me. So the guy ignored his own rules.

As it was summer I found work fairly quickly elsewhere. The following year I worked at another school in Bournemouth where the DoS was so happy with my work he wanted to extend my contract past the summer (though by then I'd already made up my mind to leave TEFL and do a PGCE). While at this school I was observed by someone from UCLES for the practical half of the DTEFLA, which I passed.

The upshot? I can't see that there could have been anything wrong with my teaching. If there was, a professional manager would have told me what the problems were, and what I should be doing about them, not fire me without warning.

Now I've seen some dodgy outfits in my time but I can safely say that I have never seen anything more shoddy, unprofessional or downright gutless than what Andrew Kirby did to me and my colleague that day. I'm not saying "don't work at Harrow House", especially as he is no longer working there - but watch your back [if you ever cross paths with Mr Kirby in the future].


Inspector McHammered of the Lard

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