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First day of supply - final nail in the coffin?

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by JTL, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. JTL

    JTL Occasional commenter

    e26 I really feel for you. I do supply at only one school (near the end of my career.) Therefore I do know a lot of the children and teachers, which does make things a little easier. Sometimes I have lovely days when the pupils behave, I can actually teach, and I feel both them and me have achieved something. It's a lovely feeling and reminds me why I love teaching.
    I also have vile lessons occasionally, and come home feeling totally demoralised. It has made me question my skills and capabilities and wonder how much longer I want to continue.
    This week, I did three days in one subject area. The first was lovely. The HOD who started in Sept told me to send anyone who was not behaving to him, across the corridor. I did have to send a pupil from a couple of classes to him which gave a strong message to the rest. He popped into the class at the start of one lesson as he knew they were a 'tricky' group. The classes behaved and the lessons went well. HOD asked if I felt he was being supportive enough and thanked me.
    The second day, he was out for the morning and I covered his classes. One class he said could be tricky, were in fact not too bad. However his yr 11 group were horrific. Most would not quieten down at the start while I introduced the work, the behaviour was awful, two girls, notorious for their behaviour arrived separately well into the lesson and caused havoc. I sent separately for each to be removed. Incidently, the Head had warned me just before the lesson started that one would be arriving in a bad mood and to send for emergency cover if she started.
    Only 4 pupils actually worked well, about half eventually did some work and I was relieved that the rest settled and allowed others to work.
    I did get some very rude, to my face comments from some pupils about me not being able to control them and being the worst supply teacher! I pointed out to a couple that they were humans and not animals to be 'controlled', and they had 'free will', that I wasn't the Armed Forces and that I had in fact worked at a secure unit for Young Offenders where sanctions are applied, ie loss of priviliges, so they behaved, and that I was limited as to what sanctions I was able to use. Of course they weren't interested. I managed to remain calm, thankfully.
    The third day the HOD was back. He apologised for the group and said he would be dealing with them. He admitted that in his previous school he was able to command silence when he entered a room, but soon realised that on starting a new school, he had to start from scratch again to achieve that result. He said the group was very difficult and that they often made him feel totally inadequate but he realised that a lot of the problem was the class having got away with a lot when their teacher was out for a long time last year. He is now working hard to raise standards of behaviour etc and it is working through the rest of the school.
    This day went well. I am sure the pupils know that if they really behave badly that there will be consequences as the HOD will follow things up . I was able to teach and we enjoyed the lessons. I was thanked again and felt valued.
    I know I have waffled on, but what I really want to say is don't despair. Most of us supplies have bad days and it is so frustrating not to be even able to start to teach because the class will not listen and behave.
    Just because a school has been graded as 'good' does not mean it has no problems. the school I work at may not be 'good' by OFSTED standards, but most of the staff are supportive and will admit they also find certain groups and pupils difficult.
    I suggest you take the day as a learning experience, realise that you do have to start from scratch at every new school you visit, every school and day can be different, and don't see calling for SMT as failure, but use it sparingly. Leaving some feedback for the teacher can also be a good idea, though praising the good ones should always be included if you can!
    There are lots of supply teachers who can give you excellent advice on here so do read the past threads and good luck.

  2. Just looking at the original post. Some good things, you managed your subject class ok. The size of class and the lack of chairs in what is probably some out of subject general cover in the school.
    If you have to walk into a large class and a significant lack of chairs is a nightmare for the most experienced supply I think.
    Ok sometimes you get a good one to politely ask another teacher for some chairs. However sometimes it is not going to rock and roll.
    So maybe it would have been an option to call smt or whoever, straight away, for help with the chair problem so you can deal with the class. Maybe they turn up or maybe they do not.
    It seems you say you stayed calm which is the right thing to do.
    Never trust what an agency says about a school, never trust what a school says about themselves.
    General Tips I find good for supply teaching. Try to have a scan of the classroom and do a bit of a tidy up before they arrive. Always meet and greet at the door.
    One thing which is not your fault, children wandering in and out of classrooms. Really does imply that the school has some problems which are not your fault!
  3. historygrump

    historygrump Senior commenter Forum guide

    As many have said and as yu have indicated there are good schools and bad ones pretending to be good. We all understand you position, because we have all encountered such schools in which the supply teacher booklet is useless and there is no SMT or means to contact them. I would have sent somebody to the next classroom for assistance or to ask the teacher to send for the SMT, I would also reported all the class to the school the SMT, then it is up to the school to recognise they have a problem. But you did the right thing and remained calm as Geffone said.
    Also I always make a point, if possible of speaking toup the HoD or the teacher in the next classroom, because they are always willing to help by saying they are in such a classroom if you need assistance or they say send the kids to me of they act. But main thing you know the school is a sh*t hole and if possible you avoid like the plague, I know of schools that I would have to be very desperate to work in, because of the nature of the kids, the sort of schools that tells the DH to Fakk off to there face or where the HT advice is, if you got anything valuable, i.e car keys, put them in your pocket, because they will nick anything given a chance. So don't give up, because of one bad day, think of the good days.
  4. I think there are three golden rules you should follow doing supply - 1) Don't take it personally, 2) Don't take it personally, 3) Don't take it personally. Some days are horrible, some can be quite nice. You will know not to go back to that school.
  5. Read 'On The Edge' by Charlie Carroll. Better still write it all down. I wrote a journal for a couple of terms once, it can be quite helpful as any negative incidents just become fodder for the journal. I recall being asked to move in a staffroom by a female member of staff who then took my place leaned over to her colleagues and said....."Did you see 'Sex In The City' last night..." Journals help you channel your contempt into constructive writings.
  6. bristolmover

    bristolmover New commenter

    I can empathise completely with the original poster as I left a very good school a year and a half ago due to work/ life balance, tried to get out of teaching and have now taken a long term supply post in another school. I want to be in teaching again but am finding it very tough.
    Where I am now the behaviour policy is not clear and every time I have a mad lesson (one girl lay on the floor for 30 mins yesterday and refused to get up) and I tell another teacher about it they seem to think it's standard! I acn't wait to finish this post.
    However, it reminds me of what i want. I have A Level here and love it, and also had it at my old school, and I'm reminded how well I used to teach in a school where behaviour is generally less challenging for whatever reason. And I'm just glad I'm out of here in afew months!
    It feels horrible when kids won't listen, or make personal comments, but you have to rise above it. Think 'ok, but I know why I'm here and where I want to be, and you are just a teenager trying to impress your friends'.
    Every day is a battle, but you must use your resources to get through. Call HoDs and SLTs, find out the behaviour policy, set detentions, contact parents and use andd follow through threats. Rarely do students really want to be malicious, so I find that remindning them their behaviour is very unkind and rude, and they don't want to be that person aften helps.
    Good luck
  7. Bad days are horrible, they make you doubt yourself and your teaching ability don't they? I had one yesterday. One boy kicked off because I'd brought them in from the yard (Primary Year 6) and worte on the board School Sucks. I told him not to write on it again, he spread his hands out and said, "What are YOU going to do about it? Nothing. There's nothing you can do" all said with a sneering grin on his face. He's right - there was nothing I could do - he refused to listen to me, spent all day mumbling and writing on a white board.
    I had sent him to the Head on a previous day, who clearly wasn't pleased at being sent for and said "Take the path of least resistance" = in other words, give him what he wants and he'll behave.
    Luckily the rest of the class were ok, but it was a tough day and I've been teaching nearly 20 years. Don't give up, just chalk it up to experience and refuse work at that school. It gives you back autonomy to think YOU decide whether to return or not.
  8. darkness

    darkness New commenter

    You should have followed policy, however, it was your first supply cover. If I was you, I would have passed it all up, shows you mean business. you would not come across as a weak teacher, but perhaps strong having followed procedure.
  9. e26


    Thank you so much for all your replies - it is just 'nice'? to hear other people's horror stories, no matter how often it's been posted! I feel a lot better now, because really - it can't get any worse, can it? FAMOUS LAST WORDS! Next place I go into, hopefully it will work out better, and I will definitely use SLT next time. At the end of the day I am skint, and it is a good daily rate, so I need to suck it up and get on with it. And the journal idea is an excellent one! And 'bristolmover' - we sound like the same person!
  10. darkness

    darkness New commenter

    Oh it can get a lot worse, which is why this thread has amused me. Stick with it, you will be fine, but sometimes these procedures are there for a reason, if you follow up, and action is taken, perhaps the next day by SLT, if you are ever at that school again, they will know you mean business, and know what you are talking about and doing. You may not come up against so many issues next time in the school.

    When I say a lot worse, children actually going on a rampage, flipping over tables, throwing chairs at the teachers, deciding to go out and scratch the staff cars.

    The class chants are my favourite where in the beginning you worry 'what if someone walks past and sees this?'

    Never mind, you will learn from this though, supply is a whole other ball game and certainly, Uni courses never ever prepare students for this.

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