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Two months or so ago, I wrote a post about the anxieties I have working as a supply teacher. A few weeks after I had written that post, someone commented on the post that they were shocked that I allowed a child to write about suicide and that I wasn’t suited to work around children. I did respond to the comment but there has been no further response from that person. While, I don’t let the comments get to me, I still feel this need to clear the air, otherwise my Asperger’s anxieties will have my head spinning.

First, while I don’t like to stereotype, I can’t help getting the impression that this person is from a middle class American background, most likely white and when working as a substitute teacher, did so at leafy suburban schools. The closest to an inner city school this person ever got to was probably teaching in a school with a few token ethnic minority children. I also suspect that the person is female but I could be wrong. The person could be a male of non-white ethnicity and has taught in inner city schools.

Now onto my case! First, my problem with the school that day was not that they had a problem with me letting a child write about suicide, my problem was that the school told tales to the agency without discussing the matter with me. After all, a teaching assistant had come in while the child was reading his work to the class and went and told the Head that I had been discussing suicide with the children. I wasn’t, it was a case of one child reading what he had written in the lesson. If I had been allowed to express my side of the story to the school, then at least I could say that they were fair in their judgement, but they went about it all very underhandedly.

Why did I allow a child to write about suicide in the first place? Several reasons which I will now list as bullet points.

  • Before this incident, I had worked in schools for children with challenging behaviour. At that time, if I had told a child there that he or she was writing about an inappropriate subject, I might have had a chair thrown at my head. This lingered in my mind when I began supply teaching in mainstream schools.
  • In relation to the above, even though this wasn’t such a school, there would have been a chance that if I told the child that he couldn’t write about suicide, he might not have completed the assignment and it would have been twisted around to be my fault because I wouldn’t allow that child to write about something he wanted to. In other words, I would have been blamed for the child not completing the assignment because I didn’t allow him to write about suicide.
  • I had worked in other schools in that area and had children write about subjects I consider worse and even when I did report it, nothing was done. In one instance, a child wrote about escaping from paedophiles but when I showed this to the deputy head of the school, he wasn’t too bothered about it.

This, unfortunately, is the state of supply teaching in the United Kingdom. It is simply easier for schools to blame everything on the supply teacher. It’s always a case of whatever a supply does, it’s going to be wrong. Plus, the agency will always side with the school, even if they acknowledge personally to the teacher that it wasn’t their fault. As for the unions, well, for teachers in a ‘proper’ job, my union is the best teaching union in the country. However, for supply teachers, if they have a problem, then the union sits in its ivory tower hiding behind legal jargon as to why they can’t help the teacher. I had this happen when a school told a pack of lies about me to the agency. No wonder supply teaching has given me so much anxiety.

You might be asking, “Why don’t I just pack in supply teaching?” The main reason is that, in spite of the anxieties, I still enjoy doing it. Besides, I spent four years training to become a teacher, so I should use my qualifications. Also, the extra money comes in handy too. I’ve been working as a supply teacher in addition to my regular job for the past thirteen years and I don’t intend to give it up. As for my suitability to work around children, I’ve been doing so for over two decades and there are many out there who would confirm that I’m totally suitable, like today for instance.

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