The Supply Teacher

I have to admit that supply teaching is pretty good. It help keeps the wolf from the door and it helps me keep my hand in the profession, should I ever wish to return to it in the future. I have also found it quite interesting and have made some observations recently so I thought I’d share them with you. I hope it makes you smile!

  • Kids are kids. If you’re in a state run secondary school, chances are you’ll have children from the local area. They’ll be of all kinds of abilities with various strengths and weaknesses; they can either make or break your day/spirit/will to live!
  • Teachers come in all shapes, sizes and competencies. There’s that moment that I’m sure every supply teacher dreads…when you walk into a classroom and read through the cover. A lot of the time it is either good or decent. However, there are times when it can make your blood run cold. One of these times is when there isn’t any! That’s never good. This is when you rely on your wit to get you through the time until the child you’ve sent to the head of department to ask for help returns. Games are good here. Going through last lessons work and writing out questions for each other also work. However, if they are a difficult group, just containing them works just as well! Then there are those times where the teacher off has assumed you could access the school network, which you can’t, and has left a computer based lesson. Here you again send little Joe off to find help. The worst, and almost inexcusable type of cover, however, is bad cover. Cover that takes the class 5 minutes to get through, yes, even the weak ones. Cover that they’ve already done. Cover where you’re supposed to be the specialist. These are times where you wish you had gin in your water bottle and you constantly check your watch, telling yourself, ‘It’s only an hour – you can do it. Think of the money.’ Why teachers do this to their colleagues is beyond me but they always have and they always will and nothing will change this. It’s as certain as death and taxes.
  • Year 7 make me laugh. I’ve never been a huge fan of teaching year 7. For most of the academic year they resemble their primary school selves far too closely. There’s a reason I never became a primary school teacher – children at that age are quite annoying. But they are great for comedy value. This week I covered a Year 7 English class. As they were busily working away, I watched over them. It made me smile to think that at this point, they are full of potential. They haven’t decided what group they want to be in, yet I had some fun grouping them for myself. Girl who had lost her planner – indie group. Girl with tons of colouring pens & pencils – Art group. Girl who tried to give me her homework – Geek group. Boy who couldn’t do his tie up – loner. Now, this is just for fun and I do generally love people watching anyway but it did make me wander, as a girl with a massive fringe she won’t thank her parents for when she’s older kept checking with me it was okay for her to use colouring pens, when do they stop being so keen? Why do they stop being so keen? Is the ‘Kevin the teenager’ syndrome? Is it still uncool to be clever? Do their lives just become too full? When do they stop being bovered?
  • Kids grow up too quick. As supply teaching is just one of my jobs, I’m always keen to check my email/twitter at break and lunch. I’d never check it in the corridor or the classroom or anywhere in front of the kids. I just don’t agree with it. But what makes me smile is that when the lesson is over – Boom! The majority are straight on their phones – texting, tweeting, updating their FB status. This astounds me. I remember being a teenager (I was a geek/goody two shoes & I’m proud of that!) Granted, we didn’t have mobiles then. But I cannot fathom out who these guys are contacting! They’re in school with their friends. Why do they need to text them? What can they update their status to? ‘Just had my maths lesson covered by someone who knows nothing about Maths. Totes gonna fail now! OMG!’ What are they tweeting?! ‘Heading to the canteen – gonna get a cheese & tuna panini for £2! LOL!’ I don’t get it. Their thumbs move like lightening. It makes me feel like I’m 100 years old, which is probably why it bothers me so much!
  • Teaching is exhausting. When I’m freelancing, my day consists of my sitting in my grown up & serene study typing away on my iMac. When I’m doing supply, I’m on my feet from 8.30 – 3.15, surrounded by noise. Now lets not forget that I used to do this for a living! But I’ve done two days of supply this week and I’ve had to sit on the sofa for a good while, drinking copias amounts of tea, before I felt human again. How on earth did I do this full time? Because I, as a supply teacher, get to leave at 3.15. Full time teachers don’t. They have my sympathy because they then have marking/meetings/planning etc to do once that bell goes at the end of the day. I get to go home and watch Gilmore Girls on 5*.
  • Teachers don’t think you’re a ‘proper’ teacher. When I was teaching full time, I can’t say I mixed with the supply teachers much. There wasn’t any real need to plus, if I actually got to have my lunch, I was going to spend that time gossiping with my mates. But it was only when I was chatting to someone the other week that I realised a lot of teachers don’t think I’m a qualified teacher. She actually said, ‘Oh! So you’re a real teacher then?’ Yes. Yes I am. This is because a lot of schools now have ‘cover supervisors’. These are people who are employed by the school to cover lessons. They are not expected to have QTS but they are expected to have a clean CRB and be able to not get walked over by kids. This has its pros and cons. Pro – they are cheap and most schools don’t pay them much. Con – they haven’t been trained in behaviour management. For example. (This is a generalisation on my experiences). Supply teachers are not cover supervisors. We have to have QTS. We get paid more. We are REAL teachers. Either way, teachers/schools need us both. (Thank goodness!)

Wow. This has turned into quite a massive blog post. I didn’t intend that but it has felt good to share some of my observations. I will try to add a few more as I get more supply.

If you’re a supply teacher, I’d love to hear some your hilarious experiences. Feel free to leave a comment!

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