Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Supply Teacher's Walk.....

The agency called me.

Would I be interested in a full time long term sick leave?

"It's quite a challenging school though Sally." They warned.

Full time is a relative word of course, as, at this particular school they finished the day at 2.40 p.m. But, when you consider what you have to deal with on a daily basis this was perhaps fortunate... And of course I haven't actually worked full time, out of the house, for many years. So that was a bit of a shock in itself. Well actually. Big shock...

I had thought that the last school that the agency had sent me to was "challenging". It's ok I thought. I can do "challenging". How wrong could I be? By comparison the first school was, Heaven. The Head was on the boys case (it being a boys school) all the time. And when - and it was always when in that school, rather than if - they misbehaved, the senior staff dealt with the matter very quickly and efficiently and supported the teaching staff. On the whole they stayed in their lessons, did some of their work, and sometimes allowed you to get on with yours. The school had a very well designed central behaviour management policy - and it worked....

This one was a different kettle of fish.......A few days in to the job, already realising that I was not on a winning streak here, I was "teaching" a group of Year 10's. A student - a girl - started being abusive. I called the senior management and asked for her to be removed from the class. The deputy head arrived. She kicked and screamed, and eventually after a long verbal struggle, conceded. Thinking that the problem was solved I got on with the lesson. The next thing that I knew was that the girl in question was back in my class, giving me more abuse. Supposedly on her way home, she had called by my classroom. I suggested that she leave once more, and so she did, closing the door on her way out. She had though deposited (I realised later) part of a pencil into the door mechanism, thereby jamming the door. I was locked into a classroom, with a bunch of year 10s. I called for help via my mobile phone. "You're not allowed to use mobiles in class Miss". "It doesn't stop you", I felt like retorting. Help came and the door was kicked open by a member of staff.

The next lesson was with some year 8's. Drama. But the drama room wasn't available, so it was to be held in my classroom. Having heard what had gone on from their peers, one of the delightful team, a girl with a mission to destroy anyone in the teaching profession: "Evil Child", thought that it would be a good game to close my door again. "No, don't touch that" I started to say. Too late. She had already closed it, and (from reports that I later heard) had also videoed the moment of glory on her phone. The year 8's, being year 8's in a drama lesson, dived under chairs and tables in panic mode, as yet another member of staff kicked the door in, again. A fellow teacher offered us another classroom to resume the lesson..... Evil Child returned into the classroom, with an innocent look on her face. She had denied all knowledge of knowing anything about who had locked the door and nobody was able to take any action....She then continued to seriously disrupt the lesson, and it was at this point that I noticed a report card in her hand. "Should I have that EC?" I asked. She handed it over, as she knew that unless I signed it, she would be in bigger trouble. She then talked, ran around the classroom, threw paper across the room and generally caused chaos. I gave her an after school detention. At this point, she went to grab the report card back. I swiftly put it into my handbag. "I want it back". She protested. "You won't have it back until it has been via your form tutor.” I said. You can't do that Miss". She went towards my handbag. "You dare touch my handbag EC and you will be in front of the Head more quickly than you can say report card". Even EC realised that it was probably a bad idea to touch my handbag. So she stole another report card on the desk and ran out of the class. Realising that she could go nowhere, she returned two minutes later, demanded her report cared back and then continued to cause havoc in the classroom again, until, I had no choice other than to ask for her to be removed from my class. She was removed. I later wrote a report, telling all, but being unable to prove that she had also, quite significantly, locked me into the classroom....I went to find her form tutor at break time. Unfortunately, she did not have a current form tutor, because she too was off on long a long term absence.Therein lies a problem...

The following day, a child was kicking a football around my class.I asked him to stop. I tried to confiscate it. He refused. Eventually the ball got kicked into my direction and I swiftly grabbed it, ran down to the staffroom - thankfully just a few doors away from my room, and then ran back again, without the ball. I told him that he could have it back at the end of school. Later that day I went back into the staffroom, and saw that the ball had gone. Where is it? I enquired. "Oh, that belonged to the PE department," replied another member of staff. "The PE teacher took it back....... "

I removed the door mechanism myself, with a knife - no screwdriver being available. It was at then, with the help of a boy student who seemed to understand DIY that we found the bit of pencil jammed into the door.That in itself was not a deterrent to one child who grabbed the mechanism from my in tray on my desk and jammed it back into the door, causing a class and me, to be locked in, yet again.The door was kicked in for a third time, and this time I hid the mechanism in the staffroom..... I didn't see it again. Perhaps it's in the PE department. I wouldn't know.

The caretaker was called, for, by now, a new door, but no-one arrived, and so I taught in a classroom with the door virtually off its hinges.

I discussed it with Eldest Daughter. Together we decided that posters would brighten up the room. She went to the local theatre and asked for some for me, and I took them in one morning. I got there a few seconds too late however, and the desks were all over the floor (the wrong way up), with paper strewn everywhere.I straightened the room up. I put the posters up. I resolved to continue and to not let it get me down.

It was the Year 8 class again, with EC.....But it wasn't EC who got me in the end. It was a combination of a series of events that made me realise that some things in life are simply not doable....

Another Year 8 child walked into my class (not part of my set) and refused to leave. When challenged, she said: I'm not listening to you you f*****g b***h". I looked at her, with an apparently scary look. "You touch me," she said "and you'll see what will happen to you." I called for senior management, and the Head came. He thought that I had simply wanted to tell the ones present off. I explained. He started to walk off again. I explained that I had been verbally abused and that we didn't know who the child was. At least - no one was grassing..... He eventually established who the offensive child was and he asked me to write a report on it......After he left, the year 8's then started to throw aeroplanes (paper of course) around the room. The day before they had thrown the contents of an entire box of pens around the room. Two other girls thought it funny to draw felt tip dots on everyone, and went into the next door classroom to continue their mission.Meanwhile, yet another child appeared, from yet another classroom.... I asked her to leave and she proceeded to walk out at 1/2 mile an hour. Can you walk more quickly please? I said."No. I’ve got a bad leg". She eventually left, only to return two minutes later. "So your leg's better then?" I said. Yes she said, and then continued to walk out at 1/2 mile an hour again.

I went next door to ask the teacher there if she knew who she was. No, she said, but EC2 and 3 have been in here drawing dots on everyone. We went back into my class together. I awarded EC2 and 3 with a detention, and EC1 who had previously kept a low profile in this lesson started giving both of us some verbal abuse. The other teacher awarded her with a detention.

I tried to resume the lesson. We were now 52 minutes into an hour long period. I had an Irish story to read to them, and a comprehension to do. I started reading.EC2 piped up."I'm going to report you to Shire Hall." (The local Education authority). She said."Oh?" I said. "Why is that?""Because we have learnt nothing from you since you've been here. Have we?" She asked the rest of the class.

And it was at that point that I made the decision.I had tried, really very hard. I had given it three weeks. I had battled and struggled and mentally given it everything I had. I had taken it on myself to stop a child being bullied - two in fact. I had tried to organise a school trip. I had asked if one of the texts for another group could be changed to something more relevant to their way of thinking, and against the odds had tried to be creative and clever in the classroom. I was preparing my lessons. Marking the work. Doing a job far beyond the call of a supply teacher.But I was on a losing wicket. I am not a quitter. I have been married for 21 years, have worked at my stage schools for nine years....I always try to work thorough difficulties.I was being paid a basic supply rate. The same rate that I would get in any school....... It is not a rate that would take you to the Caribbean on holiday each year......But I could not teach with the constant interruptions from other classes. I could not battle an entire school. As a supply teacher I would be unlikely to get any respect for a very long time.

"Do you know what EC2? You are right. I have got better things to do with my time."

And I walked.

Out of the class.

Out of the school.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Angel Delight

They nearly killed me again.

They didn't mean to of course. They just didn't expect my blood pressure to drop so low. And nor did I really. I was in for an arthroscopy on my knee. Piers had been in a good mood prior to the op, and had explained the process of what they were about to do in sufficient medical detail to satisfy my medical curiosity. It was only after the op, when I realised that he wasn't to be seen for love nor money that it dawned on me that his good mood might have been due to a jolly weekend looming.....

So there I was, coming round from a general anaesthetic, feeling isolated, and gutted that I wasn't able to have a full breakdown of everything that they had done to me, with uncontrollable tears streamed down my face. "Are you all right?" Asked the nurse. "Yes fine", I said. I don't know why I'm crying. "Anaesthetics sometimes affect people like that." She said.

And it was after that that it happened.

I started slipping slowly into a land of furry indefinite lines and bright lights beckoning - and no-one realised very quickly, because nobody had been given any reason to supsect that this might happen.

I must have been looking particularly grey however as my friendly student nurse passed my bed.

"I think we'll take your blood pressure again." She said.

It was sixty eight over thrity six, which apparently is a bit on the low side, even for someone like me who habitually has low blood pressure....

She called over her senior colleague.

"It's that machine." I heard her say. "You're not feeling particularly faint are you Sally?" I lay back on the bed, feeling so faint that I was unable to answer. They took the blood pressure again and then decided to call for a doctor....

Of couse, it wasn't nearly as bad as the last time that the medical profession tried to kill me. Nearly seventeen years ago.. That time, in for a minor op, I had asked for an epidural so that I could return to my then nine month old not feeling too groggy from the anaesthetic....

This it seems was possibly a bad choice on my part.

The anaesthetist wanted to get home for his supper , and um... wasn't too keen shall we say, on doing an epidural...

As such, on completion of the op, he sort of forgot to tell the nurses in recovery to lay the bed flat again, instead of tilted up at the foot end, as it had been in theatre.

So... when the epidural started creeping slowly back up the spinal cord and caught my lungs, it did get a little tricky to breathe. That wouldn't hve been so bad, but for the fact that without the use of my lungs I wasn't able to speak either. This of course was a little bit of a problem in attacting the attention of those that could at that split second save my life.

I found that I could wave my arm, and fortunately, just before I slipped away forever I managed to attract the attention of someone medical, who tipped up the bed and gave me some oxygen.

Quite quickly.

Clever stuff this medical business...

Meanwhile... back to last Friday

There was a light on the horizon to my blood pressure incident.....

A doctor arrived.

An angel in disguise clearly.

She explained everything that had been done to me, showed me the piccies of my knee and made me feel completely happy again. The blood pressure righted itself thankfully, and I no longer felt neglected.

I had been saved by an angel.

Post Script.........
A sad irony in today's news.