For the past two weeks, I have been having anxieties over work as a supply (substitute) teacher. Two weeks ago, I was very anxious about a school I went to would provide the agency which sent me there negative feedback. As of this post, I have not been told of any feedback from the school. As an added bonus, the SEN school I went to has had me back and wants me there after the half term break next week. While I am delighted about this, the anxieties of not so positive past experiences still circle around my brain waiting to play havoc with it.
In the past, there have been instances which contributed to my anxieties. Quite a few years back, one manager of an agency I no longer work for stated that supply teaching had become ruthless. In some ways, he was right. There are schools out there who will refuse to have a supply teacher back at the smallest issue. It could be that the headteacher happened to walk by the classroom at the wrong time, saw one pupil not engaged on the task and used that one snap shot moment to conclude that the supply teacher wasn’t any good. That manager even told me that one head wouldn’t have a supply teacher back because the head simply didn’t like the teacher. Can anyone else see where this might lead?
While I can’t say I experienced any of those scenarios, I have had some things happen which not only made my anxieties worse, I thought were a bit unfair. In one instance, the class I was teaching was reading the story, “How To Write Badly” and was to write instructions as to how to do something badly. For instance, football (soccer) enthusiastic boys wrote instructions on how to miss a penalty kick. However, one boy wrote about how to commit suicide. I thought this was a little controversial but the child was focused on the task and it wasn’t worth risking a confrontation, especially in the district where the school was. Besides, a few weeks earlier, some child wrote something far worse on a different assignment but when I showed it to the deputy head of that school, (s)he wasn’t too concerned. Anyway, this child volunteered to read his work aloud at the end of the lesson and that’s when the poo hit the fan. While he read, a teaching assistant came into the classroom and after listening to a few lines, barked that we should not be talking about suicide because it was a Catholic school. Nothing more was said the rest of the day but when the agency contacted me the following day, they informed me that the school had complained about me discussing suicide with the children, something not done at a Catholic school and didn’t want me there again. I did tell the agency my side of the story but all they did was listen, I don’t think they were interested in my side of things.
What bothered me the most was that the school could have discussed the issue with me on the day but they didn’t. I didn’t leave that day til after four o’clock because of the marking so the school had plenty of opportunity to do so but instead, chose to tell tales to the agency. This has happened to me at other schools as well. Another instance was when I raised my voice at two children who were jumping all over the furniture. The deputy head took those children out of the class for the afternoon but again, did not discuss anything with me but also chose to tell tales to the agency, stating that I was shouting at the children and that school ‘doesn’t do shouting.’
Now before anyone gets the impression I am a rubbish teacher, I must say that in the last 13 years I have worked as a supply teacher, these occurrences have been so few that I can remember them. However, the worst instance was four years ago. I went to the school and though I was warned there was some challenging behaviour in the class, I didn’t experience any. In fact, the one teaching assistant said that the class might have been better off with a male teacher. Unfortunately, the next day, the agency told me the school had given them a different story. Apparently, the teacher went to the head and said that I didn’t follow her lesson plans. That was bad enough. I mean the lesson was on an interactive whiteboard which I went word for word on. How’s that not following the plan? Here’s the kicker. The school said that I had spent the entire day plugging my book, “He Was Weird,” and even printed off and gave the children leaflets for it. This was a blatant lie! I did nothing of the sort.
Some of you on the left may be saying that I should go to my union. In the last instance, I did exactly that. However, the union came back saying that under current laws regarding supply teachers, I have no platform to complain. The union rep even ended with the patronizing statement, “That’s the case with supply teaching.” I suspect that he thought that because of the union being unable to help, but would have if I was a so-called proper teacher, I would rush out and get a full time teaching job. There are many reasons why I don’t. However, that is the case with my union, they will bend over backwards to help a teacher in a post but do nothing to help unemployed or supply teachers, hiding behind the law as their excuse for their inaction. Maybe I should have sued the school and I did consider it but another stereotype made me not go through with it. The British media would have simply painted me to be a ‘lawsuit happy’ American.
Today’s million dollar question is: If I have so much anxiety over supply teaching, why do I do it? The answer is simple. The good experiences far outweigh my bad ones. Plus I enjoy it. The extra income it brings in helps a lot too. So, I guess what this means is that I will continue to teach and do my best to control my anxieties.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2MBAGVF18U818&keywords=michael+d+lefevre&qid=1571856354&sprefix=michael+d+lef%2Cstripbooks%2C145&sr=8-3