Welcome to my Blog which combines the unlikely topics of supply teaching with progressive rock. Here you will find my ongoing 'Diary of a Surviving Supply Teacher' and a variety of lists/ timelines/ articles on progressive rock.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Diary of a Surviving Supply Teacher: Last Days

Monday 4th July 2011

Clearly, Mary-Ann is not a tennis fan, because she phoned me at 4:00pm on Sunday 3rd July, during the Wimbledon Men's Singles Final, to ask if I could do a day's supply with year 4 in her school. She made a point of telling me to arrive early because the parking was difficult, ie. is in the road. Mary-Ann was the school's deputy head and thus responsible for supply cover, but she taught in the infant school which is on a different site further down the road. The headteacher, Mr Monarch, I had known over twenty years earlier, when he was a probationary teacher and I was a class teacher in the same year group in a middle school. However, I had already worked for him as HT in a different school a few years ago.

It was the headteacher who explained the work/timetable/routines soon after my arrival, albeit with a slightly critical tone in his voice when he mentioned the classteacher. For example, he told me the first lesson, finishing off a story in Literacy was, "Only finishing off." There seemed to be enough to keep the children busy from 9:05am until the assembly at 10:10, so it suited me. Registration was at 8:55 and was calm, apart from a child who was brought in by his mother because he was reluctant to attend without his regular teacher. We arrived late for assembly, which Mr Monarch took himself and then it was break at 10:25. Break finished at 10:35 and this was based on 7x tables work from the Abacus textbook series with which I was familiar. 11:35 was Guided reading, ie. individual reading, and lunch seemed particularly early at 11:55. Mr Monarch warned me of a boy who was lazy and slow to produce work, which appeared to be more his frustration than mine, and said he was available should there be any behaviour problems. Overall, the children were well-behaved as the school was in a university catchment. There seemed to be a number of dark skinned girls with dark hair in the class, who all looked the same, so I struggled with their names, but the others were easy to remember.

A teacher from another year group was supposed to explain the afternoon's Science task, at lunchtime, but he seemed to carry a chip on his shoulder and was awkward. The classroom assistant was very loyal to the headteacher, although he said he would have to lose her at the end of the year. She seemed a bit fussy over aspects of the plans and organisation which seemed trivial to me. 

Afternoon registration resumed at 1:05pm, followed by more Literacy, this time writing up the stories on computers, based outside the room in a shared area. As usual, some children claimed to have finished at the start of the lesson and had to be told to continue regardless. 2:00 was Science and writing phrases for the end of year reports. Throughout both lessons, because various unidentified adults passed through the area without apologising, I felt vulnerable as I was on show. The children were quite chatty too. Hometime was at 3:25. After marking and writing a letter to the class teacher, I found I could not get my car out of its parking space, due to students from the university parking too close. The mother of the reluctant boy walked passed and thanked me for being understanding with her son. Eventually, a sheepish looking student appeared, moved her car and I was able to leave.

Tuesday 5th July 2011

Mr Monarch had apologised yesterday for offering only the morning, but I took it as it was via the authority, not an agency. He said there could be future work, albeit relatively limited, but I have not heard anything to date. For literacy, I had to find a photograph at home to project onto the whiteboard and came up with one of pigs in a steeplechase race. Mr was hovering around as I commenced the lesson and he said, "You haven't taught quick write before have you?" He then took over and taught the lesson. It was clearly a pet project of his and did not seem half as impressive as he seemed to think.

Maths was further work from Abacus and multiplying the touching ends of dominoes. Guided reading was the usual independent reading, including some finishing some reports and stories.

The headteacher had several bees under his bonnet, besides quick write and lazy boys, namely battling the local council over the problem of parking in the road. I tried to reassure him by telling him that he was not alone, but he irritatedly said that he would not make the authority aware.

Originally posted on Friday 6th January 2012

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Thursday 7th, Friday 8th and Thursday 21st July 2011

Thursday 7th July 2011

Normally I write my blog entries within a few days of the events that I am describing, but these were written six months later. Not having much work meant that I was spending my time writing applications for jobs and therefore neglecting the blog. Ironically, because work was so sparse, the last days of teaching became more significant. One of the problems with writing from a distance is that it comes from a fading and unreliable memory, while the days described deserve a more detailed account than was given to those that were far less important. All three days were for the same school on the other side of the city.

On arrival, I discovered that I was in the middle of three side-by-side Yr3 classrooms. The regular part-time teacher who usually took my class was moved to the class on my right as the year co-ordinator was absent. She was therefore able to explain the work and routines before concentrating on those for her own class. She told me that mine was a good class, as opposed to the one she was taking, although this contradicted what I knew of the school as a whole. First lesson was maths in sets with what seemed like a complicated system for differentiation and self-organistation, but it worked reasonably well. Back in classes we worked on top trumps cards as a part of the year-group topic on monsters. Each child created a card for their own monster according to various criteria with a points system. What struck me about the children was that they were not badly behaved, but were inclined to be chatty and to call out. Neither of these endear me to children I do not know.

As the three classrooms were separated by glass partitions, it was clear that my mentor was finding her class tough and she kept a number of boys behind at break. Despite the punishment of losing their break, these children were not averse to arguing back. On the other side of my room was a young teacher, whom I also found myself asking for guidance on occasion. There was a classroom assistant with a European accent, who I learned was offered her services as a volunteer. At the side of the room was a terranium containing a number of butterfly chrysalises, some of which disconcertingly hatched during the day.

Friday 8th July 2011

Throughout the previous day, I had an inclination that something was planned for the Friday, but I could not put my finger on the event. When I noticed the teachers, and later the children, dressed in red it became clear. On the second day, the year co-ordinator returned to her class. She asked how my class had been, to which I replied (non-commitally), "They were okay."

Her immediate response was, "Only okay?"

I felt like telling her that I was being polite and they were very chatty and rude, but as she, like her colleague, seemed convinced of their angelic qualities, I remained non-committal. My second day consisted of more sets and work on top trumps. To her credit, the year leader removed a defiant child from her own class who had appeared in a maths set. By the afternoon, the other two teachers released the butterflies into the garden, as the insects would not have survived the weekend in the terranium. The whole school assembly was given over to a photographer from the local newspaper who arranged the children and staff for a group photograph, in which everyone raised a fist, while simultaneously cheering. I made sure that, as the only person not dressed in red, I was at the back.
Thursday 21st July 2011 

For day three, I was with the year leader's class, which made me wonder why I had been kept from them in the first place. The previously missing teacher returned to her class and was aloof and distant, ie. she did not thank me for taking her class for two days and would not explain the work unless I asked. Despite the space of nearly a week, day three was more sets and top trumps. The previous week's work was meaningful and the children had enjoyed the tasks, inlcuding the top trumps, but this seemed to be stretching the work a bit too far. During one of the sets, the aloof teacher removed the defiant child, althought I had not asked her to do so and despite the fact he was with me for the rest of the time. Although this was the penultimate week of the summer term, a number of children seemed to have a stomach bug (consistent with the absent teachers). No-one saw fit to introduce the young woman, present in the classroom all day.
During the afternoon the children were required to continue making a model of their monster, using felt, pipe cleaners, sequins and other art/craft materials. My defiant child continued to refuse to do as he was asked and, instead of making a model of his monster, kept making his own abstract creations, which he presented to me. Following the whole school assembly, I returned to the classroom to find the young woman, present all day, handing out jelly-type sweets to the class. Many of the jellies were on the floor and I did my best to add a semblance of organisation, before the chldren went home. Apparently, she was a foreign-language student and had spent the week with the class. As usual, I marked the work up to date and wrote a letter to the teacher. After making my way back to the front office, I signed out in the visitors' book and drove home. Although I was not aware at the time, this was my last day of teaching to date. Soon after, I felt the effects of a stomach upset, which lasted for several weeks until, and including, a holiday away.

Written on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd January 2012 and originally posted on Thursday 5th January 2012