So, this is how it begins – a teacher goes off on long-term leave due to stress and they call me in. After a while, they are full of praise about how I am giving the kids some continuity and managing the kids well. This is usually around about the time when I realise what it is about the class, school or both that made the previous teacher so stressed. During this period, which I call the “eyelash-fluttering” phase, they are so grateful for you getting them out of the crap that they start asking if I can stay on longer after the holidays and, as a further bit of flirting, they say that I can finish my final term of my NQT. I agree. By this stage, I am well into the “Working 10 hours a day, taking work home three nights a week and working on Sunday” routine – all on the daily supply rate that should see me getting in at 8.15 and leaving at 4.15 and not thinking about school until I get into the next school the next day.
After the holidays – which I haven’t been paid for, naturally – there is stuff about ‘making the classroom your own’ which usually means putting up those all-important displays that appear to be educating the kids more than qualified teachers are. Then it starts, the nagging about assessment, displays, blah blah while I am actually worrying about getting getting proper provision for the SEN children who have been ignored with all the lack of continuity previous to you getting there. Quiet nagging at first but gradually, that working wall is “The Most Important Detail In The Children’s Education!” Then there is one, maybe two, maybe more observations – maybe 5 in a day. After this, there are “action points” followed by more observations and, finally, an observation by the head AND some suit from the academy and that is it, you are done for. This is how it ends.
All work you have done with the kids, building up relationships and managing behaviour, all the fire-fighting and fixing stuff that had slid away during the previous teacher’s journey to stress means nothing. Warm words from parents, sometimes in the form of emails to the head mean nothing. The suit from the academy has said things need to be changed and, as a supply teacher, you are expendable, no contracts to worry about or anything. They can start again with another teacher who will have to build up all the knowledge that you have gained over the previous couple of terms.
There are differences, of course. This last school have genuinely been very supportive – it’s not been all observations and multiple action points – but, equally, this last school has just done it to me and my partner Y3 teacher meaning that they have to find two teachers to settle in for two weeks time and two classes that will have multiple teachers in the year. Of course, this being the third time it has happened to me, I have to ask “Am I a crap teacher?”. I could be. Certainly, as a long-term teacher as I am a pretty good supply teacher who is fully employed all year around. Also, after the first time it happened, I then did two NQT terms at a school who were very happy with me. Maybe that was the key, they gave me the two terms I needed to get up to speed.
All I know is that, after two long-term gigs since March last year, I want to get back to day-to-day supply. My NQT needs to be completed by next July but I will worry about that at a later date. What I don’t want is more long-term supply work where you are a godsend to the schools for the first term and, somehow, a shit teacher in the second.