Porsche convention… at the local station?

Completely unrelated to teaching but as it is half-term I decided to take myself off to the parentals for the week. Now being here has been OK and on Friday I decided to get the train to London. So I drove to the station and parked the car at the car park (which is on 2 levels). As I am walking to the stairs to walk down to the station I spot 6 Porsches (mainly Boxsters but a couple of Carreras).

6 Porsches on one level of a car park, plus a Ferrari and a couple of nice looking Jaguars. There’s obviously too much money around this area!

Headaches, bruises and laryngitis… thank goodness it’s half-term!

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!

Post title

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.

Paid! (And not an emergency tax code in sight)

I got paid for the day and a half work I did for the supply agency a few weeks ago and I was delighted to find that they had taxed me properly. I was a little worried about the tax situation because the P45 I handed over was for a part-time job I had at uni where I got a ‘BR’ tax code meaning I paid emergency tax at 22%. I managed to claim the tax back in the end but it was an awful lot of hassle and docked me a lot of pay at the time. However, getting the money back was very exciting as getting a cheque from the Inland Revenue for a few hundred pounds had me dancing round the room. Until a friend pointed out that it was my money in the first place and they owed me it, so why was I getting so excited? Anyway, they have given me a ‘proper’ tax code and only taxed and NIed me what they should.

It’s sod’s law that I decide to go away for a week, because I figured that the supply agency hadn’t found me any work, and when I ring them to say that I can’t work this week they then tell me that they have found me a job for Wednesday (i.e. the one just gone) and could I work. The answer was ‘no’ because Ive just told you that I can’t work this week and I will be 300 miles away trying to have a break, although given the fact I haven’t exactly been working hard I’m not sure what it is a break from. Doing nothing can be extremely exhausting!

This is typical of the supply agency because I also told them that I couldn’t work the 24 January because I had to go up to the university (for the Occupational Health appointment,  but I didn’t tell them the reason). I told them this on the Monday when the appointment was on the Wednesday, so on the Tuesday afternoon they rang me and asked me if I could work tomorrow morning. Sometimes I don’t actually think they listen to what I say, or I could be getting paranoid over it!

The OH appointment went absolutely fine and the doctor is going to sign my PGCE form off and put me as a category B, that is that I have a pre-existing medical condition or disability that will not affect my ability to teach. The interview was actually a total waste of time. He didn’t appear to ask any constructive questions, didn’t really want to know what had happened and why, and the outcomes and basically treated it as a formality because I had put a few ‘yes’ answers down on my questionnaire. He gave me a questionnaire/survey to fill in which proved nothing (just that I am perfectly OK to teach) which was pointless in itself because it would have been so easy to lie on the questionnaire as it was only a case of ‘tick the answer you feel is the most appropriate for yourself’ and manage to fool them, but I was a good girl and answered the questions honestly and am therefore fit to teach in my own right, not because I lied.

Next week sees me trying to get some more work to get paid and if the supply agency doesn’t find me any work I will not be impressed, especially due to the fact that I could have had two extra pieces of work if I hadn’t had a week’s break and had to see Occupational Health. Let’s keep the fingers crossed, if only for my bank balance’s sake.

Inland Revenue Hell

I got a letter this morning, from the Inland Revenue. It was posted out to me on the 1st December but due to my ex-flat-mate not forwarding it onto me as my present address that speedily I got it this morning. The upshot is that they aren’t demanding any money from me in the near future however, as I didn’t pay enough National Insurance contributions for the tax year 2004/05 then I am entitled to pay voluntary NI contributions so that  get a state pension. This payment has been estimated as around £350 (I can’t remember the exact figure) to be paid by April 2011.

That’s right, April 2011. £350. For a tax year when I was a student. I feel like ringing the Inland Revenue and stating that they can take £100 off that for the amount of money I was taxed in the summer and they can stop taxing me now because although I am no longer a student, there is no way I will earn £15,000 by April. Also, these are voluntary contributions, which means I don’t have to pay them, but if I don’t then I won’t get a very substantial state pension.

All this is to do with a government white paper in 2006 stating that the amount of state pension people were receiving was minimal if they hadn’t earned enough in the years they were classified as being of a working age because they hadn’t paid enough NI. Or that is what the government would like me to believe. They would like me to think that they are helping me out by making me contribute to my pension at 21.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Gordon Brown plundering the pensions of people to spend on other causes has it? Or is that just my cynicism?

Work… at long last

The supply agency (number one i.e. the one I have a CRB check through) finally found me some work last week, admittedly only one morning and a full day but it is better than nothing. Trouble was on Tuesday they found me a whole day of supply teaching, in one of the worst schools in the country, teaching English. The school hadn’t been told that I wasn’t a qualified teacher, there hadn’t been any work set for the lessons and the kids frankly didn’t want to be there. None of them would do any work for me and just kept shouting at me or telling me that there was no point in them working for me as they had no work set and anything I would set had no relation to their coursework/curriculum. It was a fair point. I also had the added problem that I am a Geographer, that is the subject I studied at degree level and that is the subject with with I am fully acquainted. I did study English at A-Level but that was back in 2001 to 2003, almost 4 years ago and I had such an airy-fairy English teacher that I have no idea how you would actually teach the subject.

I also got reduced to tears by a Year 7 class. I looked at the afternoon timetable in the staff room (as some child stole my timetable, registers and cover sheet in lesson 2 – although god knows what they wanted with it except to cause me hassle) and thought I had an easy afternoon, Year 7 followed by Year 11. The Year 11’s were fine, although they had no work set they just sat quietly and either read through their poetry anthology or played noughts and crosses. Personally, I was at the point of not caring if they did any work or not so long as they did it quietly. However, the class I had presumed to be the sweet little Year 7s turned out to be a group of beasts. One child ran out of the lesson and tripped over my foot in the process (the classrooms were so small that I didn’t have enough room to teach at the front of the room without practically sitting on the front desk of pupils) and then accused me of tripping her up deliberately. I then followed her out of the classroom whilst having her abuse thrown at me to collide into the vice principal of the school who stopped the girl and myself and asked what was going on. By this point I had suffered enough abuse, misbehaviour and obnoxiousness from the pupils and started to waiver, so much so that I walked back to the classroom (without the girl who was being ‘spoken to’ by the vice principal) almost in tears and the Year 7 class picked up on this and started taunting me with “miss is crying”. In the end, I retreated to the stationery cupboard and cried, whereupon I was rescued by another teacher and taken to the staff room to calm down.

The morning’s work on Thursday was better. It was just invigilating a GCSE and GNVQ exam at the new city academy in this area. Very nice new school and well behaved pupils. Not one of them tried to talk to another one in the exam and I only got a few stupid questions asked of me in the course of the exam including these gems:

“miss, this exam is too hard… could you do it for me?”

“miss, if the question says list 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages, is it OK to just list 2 disadvantages?” to which I replied “I think it’s better to write something rather than leave the question blank”.

“miss, can I go to the toilet?” which was asked about 3 minutes before the exam ended.

Aside from finding more work this week, so I can possibly pay my phone bill next month, I also have to attend the occupational health department at the university on Wednesday. This is because I was fairly honest (although not totally open) on my medical declaration form for the PGCE and now the OH dept want to ask me some questions about my history. I am quite nervous about this, and without going into too much detail on this blog, I don’t want to talk about it with people. I am also nervous because I have to see the OH doctor, not just the nurse which makes me think they are going to be fairly thorough about waht has happened in the past. I know the only thing I can do is be honest and say that everything I worte on the form is behind me and I haven’t had it interrupt my work or life for nearly 8 months and since I left university and returned home I have been coping fine. Of course, this may beg the question by the doctor that it was uni that started all the problems, but I know it was my weird flatmate that caused a lot of the problems and I should never have lived with her in the first place, we just weren’t compatible.

I guess the best approach is honesty and putting my point across calmly and clearly, as well as convincing the doctor that the future is much more different from my past.

Being led up the garden path

I am sick to death of the supply agency. I went in yesterday to read them the riot act about taking £40 off me for the CRB check and when I initially registered being promised that I would be found work within the week and 6 weeks later still being £40 down and jobless. Unfortunately I got fobbed off with a whole load of crap about how this time of year (i.e. the first week of term) was very quiet for supply work and how next week things should pick up. They also suggested I registered with another agency so I went along to register with them, only to find out that I am being led up the garden path by the original supply agency.

The woman from supply agency 2 gave me a much more honest viewpoint of why I wasn’t getting any work. Naturally when a school rings a supply agency they firstly want a qualified teacher, if they cannot get one of these then they want an unqualified person with shed loads of experience, then they move onto the dross like me. This is why I aam not getting any work, because I have little curricular knowledge of working in a school. I have helped out in an extracurricular role (in fact for an entire academic year) but this is of little benefit to a school wanting classroom experience. The woman from supply agency 2 suggested that I go off and find some voluntary work within a school, as she needs a minimum of 6 weeks experience before she can look at placing me in a classroom environment.

So here I am, typing a general cover letter explaining how I wish to observe lessons to gain experience for the PGCE I will be starting in 9 months time, and updating my CV in the hopes that in 6 weeks time I may be able to earn paid work. Trouble is, for the next 6 weeks or so I have no idea how I am going to fund myself… minimum wage bar jobs and general dogsbody work looks my only option. Plus I have the student finance company breathing down my neck to let them know how much money I am earning so I can start repaying my loan in April.

It’s a fun life being a graduate!

The new year starts with a mission

I have made a resolution to myself. Not a New Year’s Resolution, because I hate those and always feel obliged to make silly one’s that I know I will be able to stick to rather than the much larger resolutions that I should make in my life because I always think I’ll break them (or usually do end up breaking them) and then feel terrible upset and sorry for myself. No, this is more a mission, an embracement of my power and also a necessity.

I need to find a job.

There, said it. Not that difficult at all.

When I say job, I mean anything that will give me payment. Whether this means putting a rocket up the temping agency and telling them that now I have a CRB check and have been accepted on a PGCE course, “could you pleeeease find me some work, any work”, although that does sound a little desperate. Or maybe looking for a permanent teaching assistant’s post in a local school. Anything that will give me an income because my finances are as such this year that I need to do something before I become overdrawn.

Preferably I would like to do some form of teaching work, rather than slaving my arse off as a barmaid for the minimum wage, and I would prefer to work as an instructor through the temping agency because at least they accept that I have a degree and the experience to manage a group of pupils (well, not school based experience but I helped out the the CCF as an assistant training officer for a year so can do ‘authority’ and ‘commanding respect in a classroom’ when it is needed). Whereas if I work as a teaching assistant I know that I will soon get bored with picking up pencils and handing out paper.

The trouble is, I want to teach and unfortunately until I get the little letters PGCE after my name then I cannot work as a full-term, contracted teacher. As a teaching assistant though the small letters BA (Hons) after my name seem to mean nothing as all schools are interested in now with TAs is whether you have an NVQ in teaching assistant-dom. Never mind the fact that I spent 3 years at university earning a degree, I don’t have a NVQ and therefore cannot apply for a large proportion of the jobs I have seen advertised. I also don’t have at least 6 months experience teaching in a school, which also counts me out for a lot of the job adverts.

In short, I’m screwed looking for a full-time job, so it looks like I may be borrowing a rocket launcher for the temp agency and firing a rocket at them (down the phone of course) tomorrow.

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