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Urgent advice needed

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by ellenlilymay, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. ellenlilymay

    ellenlilymay New commenter

    Hi all. I really really need your frank advice on how to continue surviving as a supply teacher with no sanctions and an untenable level of rudeness encountered every day.

    I've been doing supply now for two years because of sheer necessity. I had taught post-16 for donkey's years but was made redundant in my subject which always attracts low numbers, so have had to do general daily secondary supply. Despite taking in all sorts of guidance online on behaviour management over this summer, and applying these strategies, I still get rudeness and challenging behaviour in class. Does everyone else get this? I really need your advice.

    This last week, for example, I had a 2-day booking at a local secondary school and the following behaviour arose which is unfortunately not unusual for me. I'd deeply appreciate your views on this, where I went wrong, and how I could improve.

    For example, I had a Year 11 class and the usual boring book work was set. Some nicer girls at the front warned me "we are a very rowdy group". The class completely ignored me as I counted down from 3, for quiet. I waited in vain for about 1 minute for quiet and again counted down from 3. Although I would not normally try to speak over students' voices, I tried taking the register to see if that would focus them. Even though the kids' names were extremely ordinary, the Y11 students kept roaring with laughter. Goodness knows why. I had to call for backup as I simply could not get the students to behave in a civilized manner. In front of the Deputy Head I told the students I was disappointed that they were laughing at people's names as this is disrespectful to them, and to me.

    (How do others of you tackle students' names which are unfamiliar and seemingly unpronouncable, by the way?)

    They had been given a mock GCSE paper to do in pairs using resources (textbook etc). At no point during the lesson did any of them attempt more than 3 questions in this paper, and so I again sent out for backup which took some 15 minutes to arrive. I circulated throughout this time, encouraging individuals or pairs to engage with the task, but the moment I moved on to other students, the chatting resumed. I positioned myself strategically near the worse offenders but to no avail as they ignored my presence.

    Later, in the corridor, students from other classes were seen to be running amok, screaming up and down the corridor, and one came into my classroom, to chat to the nearest students. I asked her to leave and she told me it was important. I asked her what it was and she retorted rudely "it's none of your business". I showed her the door and went into the coridor to find other members of staff trying in vain to control these students.

    When I got back, I found that someone had drawn a caracature of me, and was circulating this. Everyone denied being the author including when the Deputy Head was called for.

    When the bell went at the end of the lesson, the students just left without permission. I told the school up front that I would never return to this school, and have no informed the (usually very good) agency that I would never work there again. However this is not unusual behaviour (although perhaps extreme) in local schools. How do you deal with it, and is it just me??

    I'd be grateful please for anyone to give me advice on these problems as I desperately need advice until I can get out of supply teaching for good. I find it an absolute nightmare, and go to work expecting to be insulted and humiliated every day having been very very successful in teaching post-16 (but no jobs in this sector in my area). Thank you SO much and sorry for the length of this xx
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  2. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    No it is not just you. Increasingly common these days. The school sounds out of control. I'm not that experienced as a supply but I' m sure others will have advice.
  3. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    Stick you tube on, belt this out. Then start the lesson.

    Or this ^

    I’m watching ‘Sing’ at the moment btw.

    Or a pillow with a few soap bars.
  4. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    Not sure why ‘jo jo’ was linked, clearly not a ‘Sing’ tune...... Anyway going to do iPad karaoke now.

    Seal - kiss is hard to nail. If you can, instant respect with the worst supply class!
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    H ellenlilymay

    What you wrote could be my day EXACTLY for almost NINE years.

    Not all schools of course are like that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to manage as a supply teacher, but many classes are exactly like you describe.

    If the school is in RI the SLT probably do not care. I am not saying all have given up, but many ignore the atrocious behaviour because they have given up on trying to improve.

    This is what I could say to your dilemma:

    1. Sometimes a class will come in unsettled and you will find that it is only perhaps one or two students. If you can get the register complete and get them on task then as long as most are working at a reasonable level then the school will be content with that. You are never in most cases going to get a class to work perfectly since they don't do that for their regular teacher so for supply many think it is a one day holiday. You have to learn what to let pass and what to address. Despite your best efforts of getting the class to work and they refuse, jot the names of the students working hard leave it for the class teacher and explain the choices the others have made. Normally, I will get around 95% working and there will be three or four who are off task; what you are aiming for is the majority on task. In some schools, if you keep them in the class and they are not injured, then you have met the aims for the day. Take stickers and give out plenty of praise and reward for those who are working.

    2. You did the right thing to tell your agency you will not return to that school. It is dangerous for you to go to both physically and mentally. Having students running amok and not even being able to cooperate with the register is a health and safety risk. There is one school I go to that I am about to tell them I will not return since some classes won't cooperate for the register and I am fed up with having to battle through it. That is there problem not mine. I feel badly for the well behaved classes but it is dangerous and I have myself to think of.

    3. Ensure you are in a union.

    4. Avoid going to schools where you know you are going to have this type of behaviour. Schools in RI typically follow this behaviour, but some work very, very hard to change things.

    5. You have to be very, very FIRM but remain very very CALM. Neve let a class see they have rattled your cage. That is what their aim is in some cases.

    6. Try this method:

    1. Write your name on the board
    2. Write 3 rules on the board
    Follow instructions fast
    Stay on task
    Work without disturbing others

    Once you ask for silence for the register, briefly introduce yourself, point to the three rules, and explain the sanctions and what the school allows. Usually, it is a warning, step outside for thinking time, second warning you can call on call to have them removed.

    Anyone on a report card, try to give them praise immediately for following the instructions.

    Generally unless the class is very well behaved, don't attempt to teach using direct instruction. Write the instructions and tasks on the board then get the class working. Sometimes, you may have to explain a point but keep it brief. Walk around giving help where is needed.

    Use scripts. "Lippy Lou Lou, You need to get started. Thank you.". Walk away from LLL and give her take up time. If she continues to chat to her mate Chardonnay, then move one of them. If they continue to disrupt the learning of others. Call on call.

    If you look online there will be intervention scripts you can use. Memorise these.

    Many times, the problem is that the students have low numeracy and literacy skills plus low self confidence. It is not an excuse to treat visitors with disrespect, but it is part of the misbehaviour.

    Some of the above will work. Some will work sometimes with certain classes.

    Please be assured it is definitely not you.

    This shocking behaviour is in hundreds if not thousands of schools in the UK.

    You do have to have a pretty thick skin. You can't pick up on everything wrong - but never let bullying or extremely rude behaviour go unreported. The good schools will address it and have a policy where they expect behaviour to be good no matter who takes the classes. Some will simply not care and those are the ones where you want to avoid. The agencies know the ones where people won't go back - they will not be surprised.

    I would agree it is a nightmare in some places. However, I have met some extremely well behaved classes where they follow all my instructions, do their work and are the politest group of people I would eve want to meet. I try to focus on those memories and that is what keeps me going and I now try to avoid the very worst places.

    Hope some of the above helps.

    All the best for finding alternative work in teaching or otherwise.
  6. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Pepper. 'Normally I will get around 95% working.'
    agathamorse likes this.
  7. schoolsout4summer

    schoolsout4summer Star commenter

    Good boy. Have a cookie!
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    I'm currently in Primary, but I used to teach Secondary. Top tips for settling a class:

    1. Line them up outside, greeting them as they enter the class.
    2. Leave one 'you do' instruction on the board or starter question e.g. write down two impossible things on your whiteboards. Prompt students to do this task once they're all inside the classroom. Alternatively, do a wordless movement exercise - copy me - as students settle, make it fun so more students want to join in. Maybe even add an instruction towards the end - "from now on you need to copy my last movement, not my current one!" Finish by folding your arms and with a smile.
    3. Introduce yourself before the register (point to your name on the board), let them know you might get their names wrong. Tell them they should leave their hand in the air if that happens, so you can ask them from a correct pronunciation later on during the lesson OR say you're doing 'Funny Voice Tuesday/Wednesday/etc' and they must say "good morning" in a funny voice. The one that makes the class laugh the most gets a dojo / to be Funny Voice King or Queen for the lesson. That way they're so intent on winning the competition, they don't bother to correct you...
    4. Review the 'you do' - pick 3 students to read out their answers.
    5. Tell students what they're doing today, get them to write the date and L.O. straight away.
    6. Get students reading out materials and give them plenty of opportunity for 'my turn, your turn' repetition in interesting voices.
    7. If they're too rowdy during an activity, stop them to give them instructions (e.g. "You should now be on question 2, don't forget to...") and then simply tag on the end, "using whisper voices please" (easier to achieve and maintain than silence, if you don't know the kids). You can also stop them for a 'brain brake' - "let's do a quick 3 minutes of Simon Says to give ourselves a short break. You guys have been working so hard!" i.e. offer them some fun! You could also consider playing music quietly as they work - but if they talk above a whisper, the music goes off, because there's no point in playing music you can't here (you could even take suggestions from the students, so if the music is interrupted it annoys other students!).
    8. Give out stickers / dojo / credits / write names under a smiley face for the teacher to see. RE warnings, you can pop the odd name on a board for the teacher, or say "it's would be a shame if you had to start X three minutes after the rest of us, because you were talking". Often the threat is better than the actual consequence. You can also quietly tell a student you will have to move them if X behaviour continues.
    9. Also, try to make compliance visible. "Hold up your hand if you have completed the first question, keep it up if you have completed the second... Great one person is already on question 5 and most people are working on qu 3. I expect everyone to have finished 5 questions by the end of the lesson."
    10. Don't underestimate the value of breaking instructions down to a minute level of detail. "Okay, get out your history books and open them to a fresh page. Good. Now take out a ruler and pen, hold both up in the air, so I know you're ready to get started. Fantastic, we're just waiting for two more people. Okay, now we're going to write the date, the full date..."I also try to talk about my 'expectations' not my 'wants' - "I now expect you to have written the L.O. and have begun your first answer."

    Try not to let students speak over you, if the 1, 2, 3 isn't working, do something more active. Most students love a clap back or "eyes on you" style singing queue. You might have to do it more than once if students start up as soon as you begin speaking, but that's okay, do it. They need to know your boundaries. If it's just one or two people interrupting you, you could give a meaningful glare/pause, snap your fingers in their direction as you speak, or even pinch to fingers together to mime reducing the volume level to 0. Then if they continue, given them a direct warning - you don't have to explain what that signifies straight away. (Decide that if they continue... e.g. "And that's your second warning for talking, so you need to collect your things and go next door to Mr Guthries room...")

    Generally, students want to have a fun, easygoing day with a supply. Give them that - a little drama in the way you say things, approach the work together, play a few games (e.g. heads down, thumbs up or times table sausages) - and I bet your day might just go a little easier! Also, make them work harder than you, they should always be doing something! Even if it's just copying down a list of key words, to help them with their main activity.

    I hope something in this post was helpful!
    sidraabid29 and JohnJCazorla like this.
  9. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    Also, if a lesson is dragging towards the end, finish up early e.g. get students to mark their own work / play a short game / listen to a song they like / do a 'spelling test' of key vocabulary words / have some pencil sharpening time etc. Don't get yourself into a position where you're pushing them uphill and none of you want to be on the hike. Keep it positive.
    pepper5 and JohnJCazorla like this.
  10. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    Point put to students that register has to be taken for health and safety/ safeguarding reasons - it should take 30 seconds.

    If it takes 20 minutes so be it

    If it takes the entire lesson so be it

    If register is still not done so be it

    If they cannot/will not be quiet for a register the. Simply inform SLT of this in your feedback

    If they cannot be quiet for such. Simple thing then any work is out of the window

    If they laugh because of how you say people’s names ignore it and/or ask the student how they pronounce their name.

    If you are effectively being a bay sitter for £15 - £20 an hour before tax it is more than the living wage
    pepper5, agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Wise advice 50sman

    That is what I am going to do. If have trouble taking the register in future, I am going to leave a note for SLT.

    Also, no one likes to think that supply is baby sitting, but if you have tried everything to get the students to work and they refuse, then there is nothing more to be done.

    I have seen a few lazy students today in Year 10. They simply do not want to put the effort in. They can do the work and are quite capable of it, but don't want to bother. That is up to them: each person at some point has to make their own decisions. They were mucking about an laughing today throwing things, but they won't be laughing when they get their low marks.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  12. Deirds

    Deirds Senior commenter

    1) Remember, it isn’t personal.

    2) For names, I often ask if i’ve Pronounced it correctly. Usually, they let you know. Repeat correct pronunciation, apologise and move on... ( if it’s really bad google and show them YouTube substitute teacher - Supply teacher insisting pupils don’t know how to pronounce own names - then they know it could be worse)..

    3) Remember, you never have to set foot in that school again..

    4) Work out your per lesson wage..Repeat it to yourself. Breathe....

    5). Spend a couple of weeks in a Special School. Behaviour in mainstream will seem soooo civilised.

    (I do like working in 1 particular SEN school but I need a break at the moment. A whole week in mainstream and i’ve only overheard a few swear words while walking through the playground - and they were not directed at anyone. )

    6) Remember, it isn’t personal (I know I’m repeating myself)...

    Good luck.
    agathamorse, pepper5 and JohnJCazorla like this.
  13. MOfan

    MOfan New commenter

    No it's not just you and it's just as bad in Primary!! As a supply teacher you can guarantee three things;

    1) At least three quarters of the kids will be lazy and try to get out of working or at the very least, produce a lot less than usual

    2) They will be noisier than usual and find it more difficult to stay on task (if they've bothered to start the task at all!)

    3) Their work will be more messy and littered with mistakes because they can't be bothered.

    Most primary schools have a rule along the lines of 'Always try your best'. Well that goes completely out of the window when they see a supply teacher!! If anything, I can almost see the glee in their faces when they cotton on that they're going to have an 'easier' lesson.

    You can't make them try their best. All you can do is get through the lesson as best you can. Apply the sanctions that the school has in place and let their regular teacher deal with the fact that they haven't done enough when s/he gets back. I will happily keep kids in at playtime and lunchtime to do work if they are really bad, but I'm guessing this option isn't available in Secondary.

    As someone else had said, it's not personal!

    Fab advice from 50sman about the register too ;-)
    JohnJCazorla and agathamorse like this.
  14. Lynn Whitmore

    Lynn Whitmore New commenter

    Great Ideas but unfortunately most schools don't provide IT for supply teachers! I've often been left work which states "access www....... and play the video clip" etc and of course no ICT has been provided!!
    agathamorse likes this.
  15. ellenlilymay

    ellenlilymay New commenter

    Hi everyone - I'll update you on my latest adventures in a separate thread. Pretty grim!!
    agathamorse likes this.
  16. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    My answer to this is usually to have clips or songs that I want to show the kids as MP3/4 files (which Windows Media Player will always play) on a USB stick. Then I just plug and play.
    agathamorse likes this.
  17. ellenlilymay

    ellenlilymay New commenter

    I agree - very rarely get access to a laptop/pc. Unless on a long-term booking. Not worth them setting it up I assume.
    agathamorse likes this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Hate to say this, but - don't bother.

    In schools where students behave like this, you are there to handle crowd control, not teaching. The more you try to fight a class like that, the more they fight back. They do it because they know the school will not put any sanctions in place and will almost certainly bin any work done during the lesson because it's rubbish. Not because of you, I hasten to add (and for the record - none of my classes act up with supply teachers because they know I will skin them alive when I get back, putting their work under the visualiser, keeping them back to re-do it etc etc.)

    What do those schools actually want? Someone who can keep the classroom quiet, with no need to phone home. Frankly, if they were really bothered, they would hire a supply teacher to handle an angelic year 7 class and the HT/HoD would deal with the ghastly exam group.

    Very few kids are really horrible. Ask them about their school, the town, what bits of the subject they have enjoyed. Be prepared to take a joke and even make a joke, occasionally. Make it clear that you have a line, you will not tolerate personal abuse, but you are reasonable as long as they stay polite.

    But if the school isn't bothered, don't stress about the teaching. I once got left with a very difficult year 11 class, who were clearly not going to do any work (certainly not the **** they had been left). I could have yelled at them and given myself a stroke, but I didn't think the school cared very much. One of the boys was very chatty and very workshy. I encouraged him to talk about the part of Africa he came from, and it turned out that he was a superb mimic. He was quickly doing impersonations of people from the different countries. Hilarious. On the way out, the reception staff asked my why I hadn't asked for help with 'the class from hell'. Though when they asked me to come back the next day I was thankfully busy!

    When the HoD sets the lesson up and reads the kids the riot act, when the cover work is really good, when the rest of the department is supportive - teach the best lesson you can.

    When they throw you to the lions, just try tickling their ears.
  19. HS65

    HS65 Occasional commenter

    Spot on!!!!

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