Well not strictly true that it is half-term. You see the supply agency I work for covers a fairly big area and this area has 5 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in it who have decided, in their infinite wisdom, to not share the same half-term. So, whilst it is half-term for 4 out of 5 of the LEAs, one of the LEAs had their half-term last week and started back at school on Monday. However, I have decided to take the half-term week as it is (I hope) very unlikely that the agency will find me work in the one LEA who is bucking the trend. They are one of the least used LEAs by the agency and I have worked in one school there (granted for 4 days) and I don’t think any work would have come up anyway. Plus, I am ill and need a week off.
The agency finally came up trumps a fortnight ago and has found me two consecutive weeks of work. Each week I have worked the Monday in one school to be put in a different school on the Tuesday and for that school to need me for the rest of the week. Here’s a round up of the work:
Week One (w/c 05 Feb)
Monday I worked in a school in a middle-sized town around where I live. The school takes in a lot of special educational needs kids and is quite a small school. I discovered I was to be teaching ICT (or IT as it used to be called) all day and was a bit dubious about this because the last time I covered an ICT lesson (in my first ever supply job) it was mayhem and the kids just all played games and tried to access porn sites. I was naturally quite scared. However, the kids, on the whole were nice enough and wanted to learn. There hadn’t been any work set but the assistant head of ICT spent the morning working away and eventually came up with some lesson plans at breaktime, which I was very glad of and made my life a lot easier. The one major problem was that as supply staff I wasn’t given a log-in name and therefore couldn’t access the main computer to check on the pupil’s screens and work, which also meant I couldn’t bar them from the internet if I found them messing around on other sites. Luckily I didn’t really need to have much discipline as they were well behaved and the only problem I had was in the last lesson where a set of identical twin boys kept swapping seats and trying to confuse me, which is quite easily done at the best of times! I got praised by the assistant head of ICT as she was amazed that I’d actually got the kids to do some work, as in her words “ICT isn’t the subject they try hardest in at the best of times, they see it as an easy lesson and especially with a supply teacher”. I naturally left feeling pleased and that I’d achieved something.
Tuesday saw me moving to a school which only teaches Years 7 to 9 (11 – 14 year olds) and located in a nice rural town which has a good reputation. I was covering a science teacher and was astonished by the behaviour of the kids as I just walked in, told them to sit down and open their books and they did… no arguments, no questions, nothing! The school asked me if I could cover for the same teacher on the Wednesday, which I did, with equally obedient classes (minus a few horrible 13 year olds) and then asked me if I could cover the classes for a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), who also taught science, on the Thursday and Friday. Luckily the NQT talked me through her classes on the Wednesday, drew me up seating plans and warned me of the naughty kids because her classes were hell. It just goes to show that kids get away with the behaviour they think they can get away with in front of a teacher, after all the Tuesday and Wednesday classes (who had a strict teacher) didn’t dream of playing me up, whilst the Thursday and Friday classes, usually taught by an NQT were willing to try every trick in the book. It didn’t help that apparently sex education is now no longer taught as part of PSHE past the 11 year old SATs and is then incorporated into Biology and guess what subject I had to teach the Year 7s? Biology, or more specifically sex ed and fertilisation. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was pretty hellish and made me glad that I’m doing a PGCE in Geography. As I left the school the cover co-ordinator said she was very impressed with my work and would certainly be asking the agency for me to work for them again if she needs cover in the near future. Another good impression made!
Week Two (w/c 12 Feb)
Monday saw me working in a large comprehensive school in one of the larger towns in this area, and although in a nice area it wasn’t a particularly nice school. I was down for general cover and believe you me, that is what I got. I taught History, Textiles, Music and English, all in one day! It was good experience though and the kids, although lively, weren’t as bad as I had been led to believe. None of them swore at me, when I heard other supply staff saying they had been sworn at and I didn’t have major conduct issues with any of them. I did have a funny incident in the music lesson though, which went along the lines of this.
Two girls came up to me, one called S and the other called B. B told me that she had a doctor’s appointment at 3pm and could she leave the class. I asked her if she had a note from her parent or guardian to which she replied that it was in her planner and she would just get it. I saw S and B walk back to their seats, find the tattiest piece of scrap paper ever and S began to scrawl a note for B. They then brought the note back up to me where I noticed that the note for B’s absence was signed with S’s name! I queried the authenticity of the note, took it off them and they sheepishly sat back down. At the end of the lesson they asked me for their note back, which I refused as I wanted to show it to a senior member of staff and they asked me if they were in trouble, to which I replied with “I don’t know, that is up to your head of year”. At the end of school I gave the note to their head of year, who was as amazed, as I was, with the stupidity of a) forging a note in front of a teacher and b) signing it with your own name. It’s just a shame I didn’t find out what their punishment was, although it is quite funny that the girls thought I would fall for it!
Luckily I found out on the Monday lunchtime where I was working on the Tuesday so it wasn’t the usual mad dash of a phone call from the supply agency at 8.30am, asking me to be at a school 20 miles away by 9am. It was a more relaxed pace and someone I know had worked at the school a few years earlier and so I had heard their (horror) stories of it, and they are a qualified teacher with years of experience. I was covering Geography (yippee!) for the Head of Department who was off ill. The lessons were chaotic, the lesson plans often had to be bypassed as the kids were so disruptive and refused to watch a video quietly, so I had to turn it off and try to get them to do written work. Things got thrown at me (usually paper aeroplanes but I did have the TV remote thrown in my direction), pupil’s got removed and sent to detention/isolation, senior members of staff came in to try and quieten them down (to no avail) and then finally it was the end of the day. Just as I thought I was escaping, another Geography teacher walked into the classroom and said “we’re impressed with the way you worked and very pleased that you are a Geography graduate teaching Geography. The teacher has phoned in sick until after half-term, you couldn’t possibly cover for the rest of the week could you?”. I could have refused, but then this was the first job I had got teaching my own subject and despite the kid’s horribleness, the staff support was fantastic, the way of dealing with disruptive kids was great (they didn’t question you, just removed the kid in question) and I had the money to think of. So I worked there Tuesday to Friday and I am still in one piece (just). I just kept thinking, if you can deal with this then anything they throw at you on a PGCE will be easy, which kept me going (as did the idea of a paycheck!
I should explain the title of the post. Headaches – I left the evil school last week most days with headaches and don’t seem to be able to shift them. Bruises – my thighs are covered in them from walking into the corners of desks. Laryngitis – what I have from screaming at the children too loudly. In the last school (where I covered Geography) I had a Year 7 class talking/screaming/laughing so loudly that I couldn’t make myself heard above them at the top of my voice, and I have a fairly loud voice.
Just have to enjoy half-term now and try and get well from this rotten cold and start of bronchitis (not self-diagnosed I have to add) before I go back to work next week. I don’t really know what next week will bring, except the school I was working at last has asked me to go in on the Tuesday to cover some staff absence so at least I know I have at least one day of work.