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.

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Maybe I should be a teacher

A strange thing happened when I was supplying on Thursday. The class were nice, the children tried hard and they behaved well. Ushering them to get ready for lunch I had the feeling ‘I’m meant to be a teacher.’ I’ve not felt that for a long time and it caught me by surprise.

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I know that I don’t want to be a full time teacher but I also don’t have a clue what else I would do. Maybe this is my body telling me that I’m doing the right thing for me and my family right now.

I have a tendency to be cynical and wallow in the negative, so today I will celebrate and enjoy this positive and perfect note on which to begin the half term break.

How do you spell schadenfreude?

Connexus left me a voicemail today, asking that I call them because a school needing supply had asked for me by name.  This is the first time the agency have called me this year.

Before calling back I was wondering which school it would be.  It had to be the school I did a load of work with at the end of the summer or the one I got on really well with before then, right?  No.  It turns out that it was a school that I had no recollection of and where I did one day at, back in October.  One of the 6.5 out of a possible 24 days that Connexus booked me during the first term.

meta-chart 1
I spent ages on these graphs: I’m going to squeeze as much use out of them as possible.

However, I couldn’t do the placement as Versatile already booked me for an afternoon elsewhere. Some of you may think that is foolish, passing up a full day’s work but to get to the the school in question, I’d have to leave before 7am and do a round trip of 44 miles.  That alone makes the sacrifice worth it.

I also felt a sense of pleasure in turning Connexus down, since I phoned them so many times only to come up against a continual wall of nothing from them.  Then, there they are, asking me to do a placement for them because a client has specifically requested me.  Proves that they’re getting work at least, it doesn’t explain why they stopped calling.

 

Going back to the booking for a moment, I miscalculated the date and thought that I’d originally visited that school after the October half term.  If that were the case, I was going to get all data-focused and explain that it actually meant that 100% of the Connexus schools wanted repeat business, while Versatile’s repeat business requests stood at a limp 14.28%.  Surely Connexus sounds like the better agency now and it’s Versatile that should be heading off the cafe…or it just demonstrates how you can warp data to suit a certain point of view.  At some point in the future, I’ll expand that concept out into a longer post…

 

 

Goodbye Mr Chips: Does supply teaching create anything permanent?

My dad, although ostensibly, is retired, seems to keep working. He appears to be as busy as he was when he was employed but I guess the difference now is that he can pick and choose the work he wishes (his problem being that he finds it very difficult to ever say no to anyone who asks – probably also a reason that for three years in a row, he agreed to come to talk to the children in my classes). The other day, however, out of the blue he was called with a new position that he describes as ‘the cherry on top of his career’. For anonymity’s sake, I’m obviously not letting on any more details but it made me wonder what does a supply teacher look back on, when they eventually retire?

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Wait a minute…that’s the wrong Mr Chips.

Like many teachers, I went into education to make a difference, help the children, create an impact upon 100s of little lives etc, etc. When I was working as a full-time teacher I felt – for good or bad (but mostly good) – I was making that impact. Having been back as supply for almost a year I do wonder what I’d look back on after a lifetime of day to day supply.

There’s no regular classes or schools, the supply agencies certainly aren’t that bothered about you, you’ve not got any regular colleagues and, perhaps, most sad of all, you’re not making anything of lasting impact. The kids might remember you for a few days but after that, you’re gone.

 

Three Greatest Hollywood teachers
Any excuse to reuse this picture.

 

 

I’ve said before that it is not the supply teacher’s job to be Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society or Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. The best you can hope for is to be Vic Racine in My So Called Life – and he ends up getting sacked. And at the end of his episode? [Spoiler alert] You discover he is a family-deserting bastard.

giphy
Really, the ending should be him on the phone, apologising to his supply agency for messing up an otherwise good placement.

Having gone – with very noble intentions – into teaching as a career, it can be hard to reconcile what that means with the realities of how teaching is now just a day-to-day job. At the end of the last summer term? There were no thank you cards or grateful parents. The kids won’t have remembered me and the parent’s didn’t recognise me. When I look back at this part of a teaching life, what will I say I achieved?

 

How I almost actually went to work.

Once day this week I got a call at 8.40am, to work at a school 40 minutes away. I immediately rushed out into the car and drove off, realising about 5 minutes later that I’d forgotten my DBS, so I turned back. Just as a got home the agency called me back and told me that the school had cancelled.

I hope it wasn’t my reputation that preceded me.

You’re sending who? Eugh!
Wait a minute we’ve just filled the vacancy.

In reality it was a booking for a foundation class – and I suspect a nursery class. Although I love nursery bookings as you are mostly teaching through play and there is never any work too mark, when it comes to nursery, to be honest, supply teachers are often more trouble than their worth for the school.

The supply teacher don’t know the kids and therefore can’t really do any affective observation, they don’t know the routines that kids of that age need to function as a class (just try managing 30 three year old without their familiar routines, it’s like trying to push water uphill) and there is usually already a wealth of other adults that are perfectly able to keep the kids focused.

The main reason for a school booking a supply nursery teacher is so the children have a qualified teacher in the room but to be honest, for the school, the benefits are often far outweighed by the negatives.

So, that’s what I reckon happened. I won’t take it too personally.

We love you really…

Following on from this experience, I decided that it was time to sign up with an additional agency so I might earn some money to pay the mortgage and feed my children.  I dutifully told my current agency what I’d be doing and, amazingly, they suddenly start showing interest in me again!

I started getting bookings at schools, calls to check my availability and fulfilled promises to be called if something comes in.

The cynic in me wonders if it is connected….?

"Let us show you how much we love you, Mr 1ofthe40percent."
“Let us show you how much we love you, Mr 1ofthe40percent.”

Back to school…eventually.

Well September comes around and so does the new school term. I wasn’t really expecting to work during the first week back – after all, it’d have to be fairly drastic for a teacher to not turn up during their first week with a new class – but was told it was likely work would come up in the second week, which it didn’t.  Then the third week came…

Each day, I dutifully got up, got dressed and called the supply agency but nothing came in – a real double edged sword: extended holiday but no pay. I was also beginning to fear that my teaching would be getting somewhat rusty.

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My teaching ability, yesterday.
Source

Finally, during Thursday of the third week of term, I got called and asked if I wanted an afternoon with Y3. As easing back into supply goes, that was a relatively painless way back in… Literacy and Maths would likely be done and hopefully it’d be something a bit creative. At the very least, it would only be two hours of work, without too much marking.

It wasn’t too bad, most of the class were well behaved and we all survived. But it just reminded me how happy I am not to be teaching full time anymore.

More tales to follow, I hope…