There is an episode of The Simpsons, which explains why there are no pictures of Maggie in their house. The upshot being that Homer has used them all to amend Mr Burns’ ‘DON’T FORGET: YOU’RE HERE FOREVER’ sign to read DO IT FOR HER.
During the more ‘trying’ teacher times, I used to think of my daughter and tell myself ‘Do it for her.’ I used to do it a lot. But what is the point of doing it for her, if you don’t ever get the chance to spend any time with her, or if you do, your mind is elsewhere? So I left and became a supply teacher again. Now at the end of the first week of supplying, I’m looking back and assessing if it was the right choice.
Over three days, I was in two different schools. The first school had “the worst cohort for six or seven years” (and where a four year old girl told me that her dad was going to “cut my face”). The second was a school where I was in Year 3 for the morning, in a disorganised class where the teacher finally produced the resources for the lesson, 30 minutes after the lesson began. Then, unexpectedly, I was placed in Year 5 for the afternoon. I’ve never taught Y5. I’ve never wanted to teach Y5. I’m not trained to teach Y5. The Y5 kids were horrible, rude, loud, disrespectful and, to be honest, I don’t know the right tone to teach them. I don’t know why I was put in there. Bizarrely, 9 and 10 year olds don’t seem to respond very well to the strategies you employ for children of 4 or 5. Strange that.
Between the teaching days, I had my dad days: I did the school run for my son, took my daughter swimming, read them stories, did craft and drawing with them, made my kids dinner and lunch, didn’t think about work and had a lovely time.
In summary then: teaching this week has been fairly horrible but the crap is just in passing as I know I’ll leave any unpleasant classes at the school. I can do it for her.
So, having not quite left teaching, yesterday was my first dive back into the nomadic world of supply teaching. I last supplied about three years ago and found it a challenge: not knowing where or what you were going to teach, if you were even going to be employed and what you’d actually get paid if you were. At least, this time around, I’ve got an agreement to get X amount of work in a week but today bought back a lot of the ‘joy’ associated with supply.
On arrival, it didn’t bode particularly well when, referring to behaviour, one of the staff said that “they’re one of the worst cohorts we’ve had for about six or seven years” and that there is no planning this week because they want to focus purely on working on that behaviour. Challenging-day-ahead-alarm! While you can to a degree, let that sort of thing wash over you, as you know it’s only temporary, it is hard when it’s clear the kids don’t give a flying donkey about who you are and that you’re just another face that doesn’t know their name and will probably have disappeared in a couple of days. It’s also really sad. In spite of all the challenges they present, these are kids that really need the presence of a consistent teacher but I’m not the one to give that to them. That way lies the very reasons I decided to leave.
I didn’t think I was going to write this blog to be bothered about likes and comments and views but it is nice to know someone occasionally looks at it and might form a passing opinion of it. “The Best Outcome for Our Child is When You Leave on Friday” post has dwarfed all the other posts on here, though. Which is a bit weird (I did mention it on Facebook but its gone well beyond just my ‘friends’). How lovely.
Someone else, who liked another posting of mine writes The Trying Project, evidently someone else who has also decided to quit teaching. And despite her being a Korean American, in America, pregnant and a woman, her experience seems somewhat similar to mine. Have a read of 5 Reasons I’m Happy I Quit Teaching, and 1 Nagging Reason I’m not and it kind of covers everything I’ve been prattling on about. All those people looking at my blog can savetime and just go and read that one post!
It’s all very well triumphantly declaring the desire to leave teaching (another thing entirely to actually follow through and do it) but that is what I’ve done but I still have a mortgage to pay, and children to grow, so what will I do to ensure I’m still vaguely solvent?
I’ll be honest, I’m not so sure what I want to do when I grow up but what I will do are the following:
Supply teaching. This is in the immediate. I supply taught for a bit after I qualified and, while I didn’t particularly enjoy it then, it will do for the moment. Supply teaching (and the associated experiences) is a whole separate blog post. Or ten.
Possibly get a ‘normal job’. This depends on how well point 1 goes.
So, as you can see, I don’t have anything hugely concrete but it should be fine supplying again. While it may not be ideal, I’m in a different place, both professionally and personally, from where I was three years ago. So, if it suits me personally, that’s what I want at the moment.
That is what one of the parents said to me on Tuesday. Seems harsh doesn’t it?
So, let me set the context to this rather forward statement…
I will put my hand up, from the off, and say I did something wrong. I made an unguarded comment to another parent about the child’s behaviour, and I used the phrase “Pot. Kettle. Black.” That was my stupid mistake, (even though, in the context, it was actually completely applicable and my wife, who works in HR says it was justifiable). I will let you decide if the child’s parents’ response was measured or reasonable.
The child in question is a pain to teach, let’s call him X.
His behaviour is disrespectful to the adults, rude to the other children and, in some cases, potentially harmful (deliberately hitting, tripping, pushing and in one case, poking another child in the eye with a pencil). If he is told off for the aforementioned behaviours, after denying he has done any of it, he will usually have a screaming tantrum about it, throw his weight around and lash out, often knocking into other children “by accident”. X may still be only 5, but unlike some of the ‘challenging’ children who I have taught in the past, who maybe have SEN or are still developing socially, X is very switched on, very bright and fully aware of his actions.
Any teacher will tell you that having to deal with a child like this, day in, day out and their unrelenting low-level disruption is very, very wearying. Couple this with similar behaviour continually demonstrated by another child in my class (who, in her defence, currently has a horrible home life, which is the cause of her behaviour issues) and it all builds up to a very draining and trying situation.
The particular incident happened at the end of a day of appallingly bad behaviour by X. He continued to make poor choices during the sharing assembly where parent’ are invited in to watch (flailing around on the stage on his back, for example, instead of sitting properly). At the end of the assembly a parent (not X’s) came to tell off the girl sitting next to X because she had been poking X and apparently X had been trying to get her to stop, for five minutes. I don’t believe for an instant that X is guiltless in this situation. At that point, feeling tired, stressed and frayed, I made the offhand comment “Pot, kettle, black, that child.” Which I shouldn’t have said but I sill stand by.
After school, one of the SLT happened to come into the classroom and I let off steam about the child’s appalling behaviour to her, which was fortunate, as I believe doing so gave me some grace the following day…
The next morning, having put it out of my mind, the child’s mum storms in and tells me “I’ve reported you for that incident.” Not sure what she was talking about she says that it is the ‘Pot, kettle, black’ statement and
“Why do we never hear anything good about X? Why is his behaviour only like this at school?”
I apologised for using the phase and asked if we could have a longer talk after school, which she said she couldn’t do and ‘if I was going to say something like that, it goes straight to the Head.’
Through the day, I thought what the appropriate thing to do was, I spoke to SLT, who were aware of what X has been like (thankfully, in part, due to the previous night’s conversation), admitted my mistake, explained the context and said I would try to make amends with the parents that evening. School, thankfully, were cool with that.
So, at the end of the day (which also happened to be the day it was announced I was leaving), I spoke to X’s dad and apologised again to which he grunted “You’ve said sorry, that’s enough.” I replied that it wasn’t and that we needed to put things in place to work out the best outcomes for X. Then he said “The best outcome for X is when you leave on Friday.” The shutters then came down and he would not hear anything more.
So, you may think I did something wrong (and I did) and side with the parent’s point of view. But let’s look at this objectively:
The parents were not present for the incident, so heard about it through a third party.
They did not come to speak to me about it first (which, even if they are justifiably pissed off, would be the appropriate course of action).
They went direct to the SLT, so they should allow me the right to reply and explain but they did not have the good grace to do that.
Having spoken to colleagues who have known the family for several years about it, the consensus is that X’s parents are unpleasant people who have (to quote one of them) “ruined that child”. There was an incident in F2 when X was having a tantrum that he shouted “My dad says I don’t have to do what the teachers tell me.” That sums it all up. If the parents think the sun shines out of X’s arse and are not on board with the school, it is fighting an uphill and losing battle.
The head, at one of the first schools I helped at, told me that ‘the parents can be the biggest children of all.’ It turns out they can also be the biggest arseholes.
Interestingly, a few days later, X’s big sister dropped him off at school and X was an absolute nightmare before registration: not making good choices, rolling around on the floor, doing other children’s morning jobs. His sister will have witnessed me speak to X several times and him ignore me each time. That afternoon, his mum, for the first time EVER, was interested in where X had ended up on the behaviour chart.
I don’t know if it’s related. I guess I never will.
After the cynicism of recent postings, I promised to write something more light-hearted. So, I present to you, one, two, three, four, five good things about teaching.
1. Every day is different.
This was one of the main reasons I left my job to become a teacher. I was stagnating in a job which was extra-ordinarily predictable. I knew Monday morning and Friday afternoon would be really busy and Monday afternoon and Friday morning would be quiet. I knew Wednesday would be somewhere in the middle and I knew that when I spoke to the bloke from Norfolk, that he would be an utter bum-head.
Irrespective of whether your class has regular a timetable with the same lessons at the same time, on the same day, I can say – at least in primary – that no two days are ever the same. It might be the something crops up and you suddenly have to switch phonics and guided reading, it might be that there is an owl handler coming into school so you shift Maths, or it could be that you have to manage the behaviour and learning of up to 30 children. Just as we’re not in the same mood every day, the children definitely are not.
The constant change is not always good and sometimes you just want something predictable (and therefore easy?) but you don’t get that in teaching. And for that, teachers should be (and I was), thankful.
2. You can be creative.
There is less opportunity for creativity in the new curriculum (if anyone can tell me how to teach children to
‘understand which letters belong to which handwriting ‘families’ (ie letters that are formed in similar ways) and to practise these’
in a creative, engaging and non-Victorian way, I would love to hear it) but while you are told what to teach you are not usually told how to teach (unless your school subscribes to something like Read Write Inc or Maths Makes Sense).
If you want your class to get an email from Traction Man to ask for help with addition, you can. If you want to teach story structure through Pie Corbett talk4writing techniques, you can. You can always make fun, topic based resources and interactive whiteboards. There will (I hope) always be opportunities for teachers to express their creativity.
3. Most of your colleagues are good people with the best intentions and children’s interests at their heart.
You would hope this was the case and it is usually true. If you didn’t feel that way and didn’t believe that you had the power to make even a little difference, why would you even go down the teaching route in the first place?
Of course, there are a lot of unpleasant teachers with misguided views who you don’t really wish to spend time around (I suppose, my colleagues may have thought this of me, who knows?) but in my experience, that’s the same in any job.
4. The kids can be the most lovely and delightful people.
There are troubled ones, there are smelly ones, there are ones who are nasty to others, there are the ones that you wish would have a sick day and not come in but the children you teach can be the most lovely individuals. When they try, when they succeed, when they learn, when they look out for their friends, when they spontaneously say “You’re the best teacher ever,” that’s what makes it worth it. It is a privilege to work with kids.
They also say some blooming funny stuff:
Child: “When I’m older I want to be on TV.” Me: “What programme do you want to be on?” Child: The Jeremy Kyle Show.”
During my PGCE, one of my tutors once said ‘There are no bad children, only children in bad situations.’ And it’s true. Even for the child eating crayons and licking the boy next to him just to get a reaction…in fact, especially for him.
5. You get the very, very, rare and occasional snow day!
I had my first one not so long ago, it was brilliant.
Can you think of any other reasons to love teaching? Feel free to leave them in the comments.