Why haven’t I posted since April? Well, there are good reasons. I went into something resembling full-time teaching after the last post, 9 weeks covering a PPA teacher’s maternity cover – teaching, marking, punishing AND planning. Then into the summer holidays, catching up on sleep and writing an assignment for my MA in Education Studies. Back in September doing 3 days a week covering a year 5/6 teacher’s maternity leave and then a month ago completing the week by working the other two days compassionate leave. As I had been specifically asked to do all three long(ish) term contracts and the last two were going to go towards my NQT and kept me fully booked up until Christmas, I felt very good about it all. Of course, all three made me realise that supply teaching is a doddle compared to anything with any amount of assessment and planning. 10 hours in school followed by most evenings and at least one weekend afternoon planning saw to that. However, it was great work, especially after I was over the first month’s mayhem, disorganisation and reactive fire-fighting. Having two classes of my own since September was great.
As with many teachers, I did get to this last week of an 8 week term thinking that I just needed to finish the final furlong and I would be OK. On Wednesday, I got called into the head’s office for, what I thought was, my first NQT meeting. For a little context, I had had an initial meeting with him two weeks earlier explaining the NQT process and brought up some areas for improvement – behaviour management, some errors in marking and planning. I had a lesson observation with the deputy head where she provided some very constructive areas that I could improve. What was nice was that, along with a very positive lesson observation at the other school I was working at, I was getting feedback that was positively critical and, unlike some of my PGCE ones, didn’t make me feel that I just could not teach.
Anyway, sat down with the head and he mentioned some of the points raised in the lesson observation and that he thought I could still do some work on the original points he had raised. I started to feel that the meting wasn’t quite going the way I imagined and, sure enough, halfway through, he announced that, despite initially saying that they wanted me until Christmas, they didn’t want me to come back after half-term. So, last week of an 8 week first term, two weeks after an initial meeting and advice on what to improve upon and one day after my first lesson observation, I am told that that is that. I was told after school on my last day so I couldn’t say goodbye to the class nor many of the teachers.
Now, you may say, you obviously had a disastrous lesson and had done nothing to improve the initial points that the head had highlighted in your initial meeting. Possibly. Personally, I thought I was making improvements in the areas he had pinpointed although he didn’t think he had seen any improvement. Personally, I thought it was an OK, if not great, lesson but maybe it was a train crash happening before the deputy head’s eyes. I do know that I did a lesson in front of the head and deputy head of the other school I work at a week before and they said that there were elements that were just what Ofsted would be looking for so go figure.
There are many thoughts that have gone through my head about this is in the last couple of days. Partly, I am quite happy about it – I can go back to three days of supply work and get some of my evenings and my weekends back. 12 hour days, six days a week on just £15 a day more than normal supply rate can little fun – leaving aside the parents meetings, staff meetings and days in the summer holidays that I did for free. Partly, I am angry about it – not for me but for the kids who are going to end up with 4 different teachers this year now and some of them had a year of many different teachers two years ago. Indeed, the night before I got effectively sacked, there was a parents evening and a parent, harking back to that year, asked if I was staying all year and I assured her that, although I wasn’t, I would be there until Christmas and then the regular teacher would be back after Christmas. God knows what she will think about me when she hears I am not going to be there after half-term.
However, my main thoughts have been, as always, about the state of the education system today. Firstly, a head employs an NQT supply teacher to cover two terms of maternity cover based on the supply work the teacher has done. No great issues there, not least because I have been employed in a similar fashion by two other schools. However, due to perceived issues, this teacher is no longer required by the school after a term. If I were an NQT interviewed, put on a proper NQT basis and paid by the school, would I be less dispensable than a supply teacher paid through an agency?
More widely, though, the issues that the head had with me were the big flagship ones for Ofsted (who they are due a visit from before Christmas) – behaviour management, planning and marking. My lesson observed was a maths one and, of course, differentiation was mentioned. That I have had comments from other teachers and from the deputy head that I engaged and cared for the kids building relationships with them has pleased me greatly but it obviously cuts no ice. I always take things back to what I (and, I am sure, many other people) remember about our most inspirational teachers. Was it the planning and marking? Personally, no, I am not sure what the planning was like, if it was there at all, 35-40 years ago. Marking was never exactly the most positive of procedures. Differentiation was obviously there. Behaviour management was, indeed, important back then but it was tied up with engagement and the personality of the teacher. If you respected a teacher, you would behave and want to do your best for them, thereby doing your best for yourself. The “Wow” or engagement factor wasn’t some gimmick, it was how the teacher engaged you and what their personality was like. Now, don’t get me wrong, I may have failed on the engagement part as well.
Anyway, like I say, I am able to go back to half the week doing supply which means that I get some evenings and weekends back (the extra £15 a day really wasn’t worth losing those) and still have a school that presently seems to appreciate me. However, I feel very sorry for the kids who, regardless of how good he or she is, are going to have yet another new teacher after half-term and also for my former colleagues who are going to have to retrain someone in what is happening in the school.