So, I have started my career as a supply teacher waiting for others to drop off the perch ill or get pregnant. I am presently in that post-half-term lull when everyone is back at school and raring to go, so have time to kick this off.
I started my interest in education when my son went to primary school and I got roped into PTA groups on bullying and school meals policies – the latter during the Jamie Oliver bubble. These are two areas that I still think are somewhat overlooked, with regard their effects on kids’ academic performance as well as social, physical and emotional welfare. Anyway, as it was a well-regarded school, these were my only involvement as there was a waiting list to be a governor. When my son changed schools to one that was less ‘fashionable’, I was roped into being a governor within 6 months of arriving. I then ended up with the SEN governor post (as it was the last one to be offered aside from “Health and Safety” which no-one ever wants). This led to a lot of day-to-day involvement with the school.
At this time, I was full-time parent to my son, and during my involvement with the school, I decided to re-enter work by looking for a teaching assistant job. I found myself competing for jobs with teachers who, having had children, had decided to become teaching assistants for the easier hours. This should have told me something. However, by a long illogical sequence of events, I then thought I would retrain as a primary school teacher. This led to going back to college to do an Access course, doing a Education Studies degree and then completing the PGCE.
The Education Studies degree was a joy. I got taught by proper professors, like Michael Caine in “Educating Rita”, who let me debate with them and sometimes win. I explored the huge width and depth of education – alternative pedagogies, international education in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the politics and philosophy of education and theories of learning. I was able to discuss and debate education with people who were as enthusiastic and concerned about education as I am.
However, I knew that there would be an issue with taking all that I had learnt and the ideas that had come from that and, to an extent, narrowing this into the “Forget about that, this is what we do” funnel of the PGCE. Sure enough, as hard as the lecturers (at the same Uni I did my degree) tried, it became obvious that it was STEM, STEM, STEM. Actually, it was SEM as Technology, like PE, Art, Religious Education, ICT and Drama, were marginalised while History and Geography were ignored completely. We also got experience of the harsh realities of teaching in our 15 weeks of teaching, planning, marking and assessing over two placements. It was one of the most relentless and intense years that I have ever experienced. The second 10 week placement especially was punishing, not least as I had flu in the middle. After that placement, my wife pointed out that I may as well have been working away for 10 weeks for all that she saw me. Even when she did, I was working planning lessons or my mind wandering to the next day’s lessons.
However, after some failed applications for permanent jobs, I entered the world of supply teaching and do you know what? I love it. I go in, I teach – all the way from Reception to Year 6 -, I mark and I come home. It has inspired me once more, reignited my confidence in my ability as a teacher, returned my innate skills (like behaviour management) that had been knocked and reminded me again why I want to teach. Sure, I am not getting constant work, I have to be up 6.45am ready to see the Supply Teacher Signal shine in the sky and am not going to get my NQT this year but I am loving what I am doing.
I will expand on all this as and when but, in a phrase you won’t see often, enough about me.