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.

Home.

25 comments:

enidd said...

whew sally, well done you for staying as long as that. enidd couldn't have stuck it a single day.

pierre l said...

Oh dear, Sally. Poor old you. It's no wonder the previous incumbent was on long-term sick leave.

ChrisB said...

Sally I've often wondered if half the things we read about these schools are right. Now I know it's worse than we read!! The sad thing is if only the children had given you a chance they would probably have enjoyed the lessons you had prepared. It's their loss and another group of children living off the state in a few years!

Pamela said...

I wish you could have "stuck" it to them, instead.

Alice Band said...

My dear Sally - I don't know what to say, other than I can truly empathise. I was just the classroom assistant, but after being kicked in the stomach by another EC and called f*cking disgusting for coming to school f*cking pregnant and then being told 'to shut up you boring c*nt' by another charming boy, oh and another said "I know where you live miss and I'm coming to rape you". I too f*cking walked. It is a pity because i did that job to see if I wanted to teach as I had a place to do a PGCE. Guess what? I never took it up. They missed out on a good teacher. The very same school is closing down in July.

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Enidd
You would probably have been funnier than me and got them on side with wit. I lost all sense of humour and thereby didn't respond well.....
Pierre
Indeed. It is a recurrent problem.
Chris
Yes - sadly that's so true...
Pam
So do I!
Alice
Their loss regarding you definitely.....Sadly there are just too many situations the same. It's a generation thing....

Karmyn R said...

yikes - talk about tough! I'm surprised you stuck it out for 3 weeks. Is this how teenagers are these days? How very sad for the world.

theotherbear said...

Wow, what a dreadful experience. Of course the people most hurt are the kids themselves. They must be learning this behaviour somewhere... like at home?

Beccy said...

That sounds like torture. My friend teaches in a very tough school where the parents have no interest in their children's life. I am so thankful for the schools my children go to.

john.g. said...

Bring back some proper discipline at school, and stuff the do-gooders! Those little bastards need teaching a harsh lesson....respect!

Emma in Canada said...

I know there are some bad kids in my daughters school- one 13 year old just got expelled for having cigarettes and pot at school- but I can't even begin to imagine them talking to teachers like that.

Good for you for leaving! Shame on the school for not taking more drastic measures beforehand though.

Akelamalu said...

It's getting harder and harder! Thankfully our school isn't anywhere near as bad as that though there are a few kids who should be locked up!

Sally Lomax said...

Karmyn - It is tough!
Other Bear - I agree....
Emma - Yes - Indeed!
John G - What happened? When we were at school you wouldn't have said boo to a goose!
Ak - You made me laugh.....

thefoodsnob said...

Oh, my gosh, poor you Sally!
I'm with enidd, I wouldn't have stayed more than one day either.
I can't believe how children act, and I'm sure their parents don't find anything wrong with it.
Uggg, glad you just left, nothing is worth that.

Lisa

elena jane said...

oh sally, they missed out on a great teacher!! what a shame it has come to this.....i'm glad you're out of there (and safe)....

Uncle Norman said...

Schools and the children in them reflect the society we live in. All in all it is not a cheering picture. I take my hat off to you for trying, I really do.

Almost 80% of our domestic UK work is ASBO type stuff. However I am no teacher and so play by their rules, if you get my drift and we play to win. I like using their rules, but for some reason they don't seem to like it so much. Hey ho keep smiling Sally.

slimmeroftheyea said...

This sounds exactly like experience that I had in a nubmer of schools but one in particular. I wish I had blogged about it at the time because people who have not experienced it directly will not understand it.

Norma said...

It's too bad they are allowing the children to run the school and destroy education for those who want to learn.

My husband recently returned from Haiti where he taught a class to upper level students. It was a joy and pleasure, because although they have nothing materially, they are eager to learn.

meredic said...

And first let me apologise for not getting in a bit earlier.
I bet you have been wondering when I would read this haven’t you? Difficult to know what to say about it Sally.
Flippant? What a pity…you know they usually get better towards the end of the fourth week.
Empathy? Been there done that…in spades.
Sympathy? You are not alone you know. It’s a brave few that will walk out.
most of all though I would like to say don’t let this school alone put you off. Having met you and talked to you for a while now I think you have a great deal to offer your students.

Alice Band said...

My friend walked out of her supply job yesterday. An Evil Girl had written in ink on her back F*ck Me I'm your bitch and her friends for photographong it on their phones. It wasn;t that incident that made her walk but the ensuing malevolence and chaos that resulted when she suggested they put their phones away. The girl then followed ,my friend to the car demanding she sign her report card and issuing all sorts of threats along the lines of she's come and find her etc. She was carted off like a nutter by senior management.
I'm finding this increasingly despressing. What is going to happen to our kids if there aren;t any teachers left to teach them? Of course I tell my own teenagers this who are both at single sex grammar schools and they are wide eyed in horror. If a grammar school teacher can insist on no phones/make-up etc why can't a comprehensive teacher expect the same?

headless chicken said...

Bloody hell Sally! I knew it was bad but didn't realise how bad. How do you put up with that kind of crap and still manage to be so nice?!!! I'm so glad you walked out. I know alot of these kids are onto a loser as they often have scumbags for parents, shitty stuff going on etc,etc but that is still no excuse for such vile behaviour towards you.You are better off out of it.X

Ignorminious said...

I don't blame you in the slightest Sally. There is clearly no hope for kids like that. It is sad to think that they'll carry those attitudes out into the world and never achieve anything, but what can you do?

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rosneath said...

Hi Sally - are you still walking?!

belle

rose - headless chickens eldest said...

after hearing which school it is i am not surprised in the slightest sally,
i always think of you as a patient and very welcoming person - but how you didnt throttle those students is beyond me.
i would have loved you teaching me at school :D
xxxxx