All good things come to an end.

All good things come to an end.  And while I might not be ending the blog, I feel like there has been a significant shift, personally, from my perspective from when I began it, back in February 2015, to now.

The main difference, I feel, is that I am far more settled into the role of supply teacher…sorry, freelance teacher, and I no longer feel half as embittered as I did back when I left full time teaching.  Maybe I’ve just gone through the processes of grief, from anger, denial etc all the way to acceptance.  Maybe it’s that I’ve recently got involved in another pet project that occupies a lot of my spare time but I don’t feel the inclination to write so much any more and I’ve certainly not the inclination to go on Twitter and get any sort of following there.  Twitter just seems to be a mire of people shouting opinions and insults or ranting on about the debate of progressive vs. traditional education.  A debate, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced voiced in the ‘real’ world (ie, an actual school).

As an aside, the trad/prog debate mostly seems to be people on the internet shouting that anyone who doesn’t follow a certain dogma of traditional education must be a ‘progressive’ who isn’t interested in teaching kids anything except how to discuss feelings (I’m obviously being belligerent, don’t bother responding to it.  I do find traditionalists to be appear quite reactionary if you say anything contradictory to their education worldview).

Maybe it’s because the agency I’m with have been great and got me placements in good schools that I don’t feel as pissed off about the whole experience.  Maybe I’ve accepted the different pace and work/life balance is much better for me and my family this way.  Maybe I enjoy going into difference classes without having to worry about being judged everyday, deal with some idiotic parent or attend an interminable staff meeting about marking in different coloured pens.  Maybe I’m just enjoying teaching, without having to be a ‘teacher’.

Whatever the reasons, I don’t feel I can or have as strong an urge to dedicate the time to the blog that I once did.  Back in September, I resolved to post an average of one post a week, something I’ve kept up with since then, during term-time (apart from an occasional issue with auto-sheduling), and intend to round that off as we close down into the end of July.  But after that?  I don’t know.

I’ll still post stuff but mostly silly stuff (you may have noticed that my last few months of posts have generally been frivolous or short silly things, not ‘comment’ [translation: moaning]) but I doubt I’ll keep to my personal deadline of one post a week or produce as many heavy handed posts.

It’s been a pleasure but I just don’t feel as angry as I once did.

Why I will no longer be a supply teacher.

I was thinking the other day that being a supply teacher sounds a bit lame and, to be honest, a bit sad.  You really are a sticking plaster for a teaching problem.

So, I have decided that I will no longer be a supply teacher.  Instead I’m going to be a Freelance Teacher.  Under this new dynamic sounding career trajectory I have the option of short or long term contracts, can pick and choose where I work, and doing a good job can often lead to more interesting and lucrative work.  All with the benefits of no real planning, marking, assessing, staff meetings or dealing with nightmare parents. Perfect.

What do you mean that’s the same as being a supply teacher?

Is this the most rediculous child’s name?

You occasionally get blog posts or ‘news’ that highlight the surprising children’s names that are beginning to crop up.  You know the sort of thing, ‘Brioche tops bizarre baby name lists for 2015’ which often contain an implicit suggestion that the poor child with turn out scarred for life as a result (and if it isn’t implied in the article, it will only take about two comments before someone says that’s what will happen).

In teaching, supply teaching particularly, you encounter all sorts of names on a daily basis.  Most of them are ‘normal’ names, some names are strange; Cayc (pronounced ‘Casey’, not ‘Cake’), some names have clearly been given to a child through some cultural mis-understanding (I once taught a boy called Timotei and a friend knew two siblings called Sainsburys and Waitrose because the parents wanted to pick something that sounded English).  And some names are just unfortunate through no fault of the parents; I once taught a girl called ‘Isis’. With the best intentions, she was probably named after what the Thames is called as it meanders through Oxford.  How very English.  Instead, due to the unfortunate timing of world politics, her parents now look like terrorist sympathisers.

I reported her and her family to the local Prevent officer just to be on the safe side.

synthesizers
Sorry if you made this, I couldn’t find the original source.

However, last week, I taught a child with an unforgivable name and who’s parents had no justifiable excuse to give to the child.  Last week, I taught Iain Duncan Smith.

This was a child in Y1.  The ‘real’ Iain Duncan Smith has been a political name for a long time, since well before the child was conceived, (not like Jeremy Hunt or Nicky Morgan for example, who have risen to infamy in the last 5 years or so) and the school is in an affluent, middle class area (potentially, a bit Conservative), so I can not imagine a situation whereby his parents were not aware of who the ‘real’ Iain Duncan Smith was when their child was born or that they gave their son the same name through some unfortunate labour ward, baby-brain, birth certificate confusion.

Maybe naming their child Iain Duncan Smith was an obscure act of defiance but even if your surname was Smith and, ever since you were of child-baring age, the name Iain Duncan fills you with admiration and conviction that the person who bares that title will be an honourable and kind-hearted individual (even if, in your heart of hearts, you also believe those are the qualities of our former Work and Pensions Secretary), the existence of the ‘real’ Iain Duncan Smith negates all of that. The only outcome of naming your child Iain Duncan Smith is that you, as parents, come across as strange sycophants with a really weird and specific celebrity obsession.  That, and a child with a ridiculous name.

And to prove that this works across the political spectrum, if your surname was Milliband, would you call your son Ed?  If you were Mr and Mrs Clegg, would you name your firstborn Nick?  And if you had the more prosaic surname of Brown, how would you feel introducing your 6 year old by saying “This is Gordon Brown”?

Polictical kids
“Gordon, George and Nick will give you a tour of the school.”

Maybe Iain Duncan Smith’s parents were hoping that the ‘real’ Iain Duncan Smith would fade into obscurity as their child grew up (but considering they named him after a former leader of the Conservative party, that seems a bit rash).

Thinking that if I’d been named after a well known politician of the era, maybe time would have dulled the collective memory and the average layperson would not make the link, I randomly checked who the Shadow Education Secretary was when I was born, only to find it was Neil Kinnock.  To save me the trouble, can you just make up your own satirical comment that suits your own political leanings?

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent victims of these heinous crimes.

P.S. If you liked this post, please continue to use air parenthesis and the word ‘real’ whenever you mention Iain Duncan Smith.

'REAL' IAIN DUNCAN SMITH

 

 

How not to organise your guided reading

Today, Facebook threw up this memory from a year ago:

Yesterday’s logical Y3 guided reading filing system: Red group books: purple folder. Purple group books: green folder. Yellow group books: green folder. Orange group books: red folder. Green group books: orange folder.

Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job but that system is shit.  What chance does anyone, supply teacher or otherwise, have with that?

If I recall correctly, this was also the teacher that left a (paraphrased) note saying ‘For the afternoon, talk to Miss Smith in class 3, she will tell you what the class need to do.’  Understandably, Miss Smith in class 3 had sod all idea what a completely different class were up to.

That is a school I refuse to return to.

Spinning plates and broken china

Reading a blog the other day, one of the comments linked to Terry Haydyn’s The working atmosphere in the classroom: a 10 point scale.

working-atmosphere-10-point-scaleIt makes an interesting read and worth a detailed look.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve reproduced it here.

Every teacher has experienced most of the levels on the scale at some time in their careers (disclosure: by the time I resigned, my low ebb was leading me to sit at level 5).  What I thought interesting was applying it to day-to-day supply.  One day, you can find yourself at mired in level 3, then the following day enjoying a lovely level 8.

The other week, I had almost this exact experience.  Wednesday saw me teaching a slightly challenging Y3 class.  It started well, the majority of kids knuckled down to their starter tasks but as the day progressed the behaviour slowly disintegrated.  After lunch, it came to a head with the arrival of a massive child (‘Dave’) who spends the mornings with the Reception class.  This fact alone should tell you that he can’t cope with Y3.  He had no adult support, didn’t know or care who I was (although was amazed that I knew his name) and the lack of routine caused him to flip out.  This made another child, with ASD-like symptoms, act up too, culminating in ‘Dave’ doing a runner from the classroom, pursued by a passing member of staff, and not returning.  Unsurprisingly, after this I’d lost the class.  A level 3 day.

 

too-many-spinning-plates1
When one of your spinning plates crashes on the floor, it’s pretty hard to keep the others spinning while sweeping up the broken china.

The following day, I returned to a semi-regular school, expecting to be in the lovely reception class, only to be told I was teaching Y6.  Argh!  A sure fire way of having a grating level 1 day!  Fortunately, the awesome school re-jigged for me and I was in the lovely reception class.  The children were a delight (aided by the fact there is only 20 of them), they engaged, listened, tried their hardest and enjoyed their learning.  No question; a level 9.

There are so many factors at play that affect the level on the 10 point scale that you will experience as a day-to-day supply.  It could be the planned lessons, handover notes (of lack thereof), one particularly strong-willed child, or ineffectual classroom support.  What it is not, however, is a judgement level on your ability as a teacher.

Stickers: A Love Affair

One of my semi-regular classes has begun giving out stickers for good behaviour and work.  While this does seem to be making an impact with this class (I managed to convince a very ‘active’ child to sweep up all the sand he had chucked on the floor with the promise of a sticker), I have mixed feelings about stickers in the classroom.  I first encountered them on my very first school work experience when the teacher gave them out for good behaviour, being helpful etc.  It worked well but come tidy up time, I asked a child to put some games away, to which her reply was “Will I get a sticker?”

Another time I was on supply placement and gave some stickers for good behaviour, which prompted one child, during carpet time, to persistently say “Mr Thing gimmie sticker.  Mr Thing gimmie sticker. Mr Thing gimmie sticker,” for about 15 minutes.  My name is not Mr Thing.  I could have given him one to shut him up but it would have sent out the message that they way to earn a reward is to use auditory water torture techniques until the teacher submits.  That wasn’t the angle I was hoping for.

Mr Thing Gimmie Typewriter final

That’s my fundamental problem with stickers, in that the sticker can often become the end in itself, rather than the reward for doing the right thing.

Of course, some schools do employ sticker-based systems (including my first workplace) but I think they need to be handled carefully.  I have bugbear with random dolling out of stickers when I child does one right thing.  The child gets a sticker for tidying up, then immediately goes back to smacking another child around the head.

I prefer to implement a system whereby the children get themselves into a ‘sticker-zone’ (meaning they are eligible for a sticker on their chart at the end of the day) that they must remain in until home time.  If their behaviour falters, they come out of the sticker zone and don’t get the sticker.

 

may-22-2015-19-01-29-adultrewardstickers
To be fair, something like these would motivate me. Source.

It is different on day-to-day supply, however.  You need to get the kids on side from the off and, sad as it is, the promise of a sticker is one of the most powerful carrots you can have.  When greeting the class and explaining my expectations for the day I’ll let them know about the possibility of a sticker if they impress me.  I’ll then draw a smiley face on the board that the children can write their name under if they’re in line for a sticker (which doubles up as a helpful reminder of the kid’s names).  If their name is still there at the end of the day, they get one of the hallowed stickers.

I tend not to draw a sad face for the kids that have made bad behaviour choices as, not only, is it publicly shaming the kids but, from a certain contingent, there will be competition to see who can get themselves under the sad face the quickest or for the most impressive reasons.

This system needs adapting, depending on placements and your feel for the class, in the morning.  Children with specific needs are a separate case and if it’s a tricky class that needs lots of motivation, give the stickers at lunch and start again in the afternoon (with potential for some kids to get two stickers during the day).  It seems harsh but when I get a really lovely class, I actually end up giving out less stickers as I’m so engaged with what they’re doing to think about behaviour motivation, which is lovely.  On those rare occasions, I’ll often reward the whole class at the end of the day.

The main thing with stickers (or any reward system), is that you should aim for the reward to feel like it has been earned in response for doing something well, not just as the end in itself.