Dear reader (I assume there is just the one, if that). If you have been reading from the start, you will notice that I have moaned at great deal and repetitively about how schools have taken me on as supply which then turned long-term with promises of my NQT being completed. Last time, I finished such a lament saying that “I want to get back to day-to-day supply”. It didn’t happen. The supply agency I work for said that they had a long-term gig that they thought I should go for that would last up until the summer with ,yes, a promise of my NQT. I wasn’t keen but thought I should go for the interview (yes, they wanted to interview me). I was in the sister school for a couple of days beforehand which was, to be blunt, a zoo and had heard that the school I was interviewing for was worse and the class I was to teach the worst in that school. To make things worse, the night before the interview, I got stuck in a 5 and half hour jam on the motorway route that I would have to take every day. As I said to my wife upon returning, “Great, I am now going to get no f**king sleep and have to go and have a f**king interview for a f**king job that I don’t even f**king want”. I don’t react well to interviews or, rather, the observed lessons that go with them. A bit about that later though.
Anyhoo, next morning, I went to the interview and, first, was the dreaded observed lesson. The class were well behaved but, good grief, in playing safe, I made the lesson boring. The IWB had the sun shining on it which made it impossible to use as well. Before the interview, the head showed me around the school. I find that I really warmed to him and the school. It was a school in the middle of an inner city school whose kids predominately came from the massive council estate that the school was in. The head had been there a couple of years and was obviously brought in to turn it around and had said that he had brought a lot of new, young and, as he said, uncynical staff in. I worried about this as I am very old and very cynical as you may have noticed. He seemed to really care for the children and wanted the best for them, many of whom were in the most deprived circumstances. This seemed to strengthen his desire that they get the best. I also realised that the school, rather than the zoo I expected, was really calm. However, I did meet the teacher of the class I had just taught and she mentioned that they weren’t the class I would be teaching and the other class were much worse behaved. I also got the strong impression that the teacher I was replacing had been given the sack. Anyway, assured that the lesson had knocked me out of the contention for the job, I went to the interview and quite enjoyed it. As you may notice, I like talking about myself so I like interviews. I left feeling assured I would be back doing to day-to-day supply the next day. I got a call on the way home – thankfully jam free- to tell me that I had the job. Even managed to get a bit more money for it.
This is where I normally complain about the school and the head. However, for a change, I am not going to. It was a great school, the head was supportive as were the rest of the staff. There was a genuine caring atmosphere towards the children and desire to give them the best. While I was there, they had an Ofsted where the head told us that he just wanted us to carry on doing what we normally do as he trusted us. Sure enough, the school got a deserved “Good” rating. Yes, there were lots of issues and, indeed, my class was the worst behaved in the school but not, it has to be said, the worst I have taught. They didn’t even care a bit about displays. There were other things I disagreed with but, on balance, it was a great school – within the context of the current education system – that was doing brilliantly for the kids for the local area. This, in itself, was an issue, however.
It came to the last term and my NQT term – as was promised. This involved more teaching (I had been sharing teaching with an assistant head previously) and a weekly observation with feedback. Now, back to the observed lessons issue. I have not mentioned it before as I wasn’t sure that it was relevant but I have a mental issue. I have generalised anxiety disorder which, basically, means chronic, almost debilitating, often terrifying panic attacks. However, with daily medication, it is manageable but I do have to watch my stress levels. Also, I have ADHD symptoms – either as a symptom of my medication or something that I always had and was masked by the panic attacks. What this means is that, when stressed, I get confused and unfocussed. Not great for observed lessons which is why job application processes stoped after them.
After one of the early observed lessons, I got feedback – as I had before – that my behaviour management wasn’t good enough. I decided to mention about my condition. With previous schools, I had mentioned it at the start as I thought I owed it to them to be up front about it. However, as I suspected my previous abrupt exits could have been due to this, I decided to keep quiet this time. However, it seemed to be impacting upon my observed lessons hence ‘outing’ myself here. They were very supportive, not at all seeing it as an excuse. They gave me some strategies that they were going to help with. However, as the term went on, I found the stress of the NQT observations and the class was getting too much. I didn’t even think my teaching was good enough, I was getting more stressed and angry, shouting at the kids, not being objective enough. As someone who is critical of a lot about education, schools, heads, etc. I just knew I wasn’t good enough for these kids. Also, after a brief improvement, my observed lessons were getting worse until, after a particularly disastrous one where I pulled out my best maths lesson and failed, I said to the deputy head that, enough was enough, I wasn’t carrying on with my NQT. I could tell that I had saved her the trouble. She was again very supportive, much more positive about what I had done and overcome than I was. We decided I would do the remaining time – a couple of weeks – just as a supply teacher. Yes, I know a fortnight isn’t long but, when in the grips of mental issues, it seemed like a decade. I finished the term – still getting stressed and definitely not at a great level and that was it. Fulsome thanks from head, staff, kids and parents but I was off.
The problem this time is that this isn’t the badly run school run by a paranoid head panicking about their academy heads and an oncoming OFsted. This was a very good school with a calm happy environment amongst staff and supportive leaders. I realised that maybe it wasn’t the schools, it was me. If I couldn’t handle my NQT at this final school, can I anywhere. I have a year to go on my NQT before I have to either get a job where I can complete it or give up supply and, with it, teaching. There are a couple of other long shot options but that looks like the choice now. Part of me thinks that maybe teaching has to go. I went through my Education Studies degree not only developing a critical analytical attitude to education that has made me very cynical towards the culture that teachers work in nowadays but also ending up with a first. It was very hard work but I excelled at it but, as soon as I started my PGCE, I found it very difficult, stressful and frustrating. I don’t know whether it is my age, my cynicism, my desire for evidence for decisions made in education or a combination of all three. I just haven’t got that enthusiasm, energy and acceptance that young teachers just out of uni have. Sometimes, those motivational quotes on the walls just depress the hell out of me. I also have to say that I am not sure I have the temperament nor patience for dealing with kids either. I set myself high standards and kids need teachers who do that and achieve those standards and I am not sure I have the ability to do that. I am an excellent academic but, at best, a very average teacher and I think kids deserve better.
I am now back to, as many supply teachers are in September, waiting like a vulture for teachers to get ill, pregnant or nervous breakdowns. I am going to do day-to-day supply, forget the NQT for a bit and try and clear my head and see what path to take. I have a feeling that I am going to move back to the observation of the education system if I can – academia, research maybe even education journalism (not on the evidence of these blogs though) – rather than being in it. I think the kids deserve better and I do.