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What I said... misconstrued?

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by sebedina, Nov 5, 2015.

  1. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    I've started supplying in a school and my classes are all awful. The timetable belongs to a teacher who left because she couldn't cope with the truly terrible behaviour.

    When dealing with one child (year 8 pupil, mixed race), he was continually refusing to do any work, he was standing then sitting on the radiator, then on the table then in and out of the classroom repeatedly.

    I said to him "you need to follow classroom rules because this isn't a zoo". I didn't shout it. He then used this as an excuse to accuse me of being racist.

    In my mind there is no connection at all with a zoo and racism (??). I then referred this myself to SLT. The second in command said that I shouldn't have said that as it shows lack of self-control on my part.

    There was no lack of self-control. I wasn't angry, I meant what I said. This same pupil had issues both the lesson before and the lesson after too.

    What do you think? is what I said so bad? I've heard teachers say worse things but as I am supply I may be treated differently? I spoke with my agency and explained how challenging it is,
  2. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    I am so sorry to hear of your dilemma. It seems that there are a lot of posters posting about the awful classes they are having to teach.

    I don't think what you said was so bad, but some students will take anything you say out of context and try to use it against you.

    On supply I use written scripts on what to say to students and usually I don't deviate from them because it seems students in some schools are looking for anything to use to get teachers into trouble and supply teachers are particularly vulnerable. The problem is that students can't be told the truth and they are pandered to. The SLT should have taken the student and given them some sanctions for their poor behaviour.

    I once on supply I saw a teacher screaming at a student calling them stupid and some other things I can't remember now. How that teacher got away with that I do not know, but if I had done that, I would have been asked to leave immediately.

    On this occasion, I wouldn't worry about it, but learn something from it. The fact that the teacher before you left because of the truly appalling behaviour says it all really. The worrying thing is that UK is full of schools exactly like the one you are in.
    rachelpaula008 and les25paul like this.
  3. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    @sebedina - you did everything I would have done: reported it to SLT and your agency. I doubt any action will be taken. At worse you won't be asked to go back there, but then you'll probably be grateful.

    Can only add my experience in primary here. I have been to several schools where poor behaviour just seems to be part and parcel of every day. I have been told to 'f*** off' by a nine year old because 'I don't like supply teachers'. Some SLTs are very aware of the trouble spots in their school and will make a point of popping in now and again to check that all is well - I find that quite reassuring. However, some SLTs think that supply teachers should just put up with it because everyone else does, or worse they believe that supply teachers are useless because they cannot control a class of eight year olds, despite the fact that the permanent teacher is on sick leave due to work related stress.
    pepper5 likes this.
  4. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    The person not at fault here is you. The child was at fault because of his poor behaviour but more importantly the school is at fault for not getting a grip on behaviour and allowing it to get so bad it drove a previous teacher away,

    Reporting this to SLT would normally be a wise move unless you get a donkey like the one in question who would rather blame a visitor for the school's failings they were partly to blame for.

    Provided you made your comment in a calm and calculated manner there is no connection between racism and a zoo although I like pepper's idea of preconceived replies because some students are "professional whingers". I've heard other teachers make similar comments.

    The agency will not be interested but might avoid sending you there again, but thats no big loss to you and you might want to get in first and tell the agency you don't want to return there anyway. They will know about the situiation at this school and probably already have a long list of supply teachers who avoid it.
  5. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    The great thing about supply is you can walk away. If behaviour is that bad, ask to go to another school. Your health and sanity come first.
  6. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Then thing that concerns me is that so many schoolsmseem to be like the one in the original post. There are very few decent schools to work at around where I live.
  7. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    Many thanks for your comments. I am a very experienced supply teacher and was shocked at what the kids are like in this school. I like the idea of having a "script" to stick to. I think that is a brilliant idea. It will help me to keep my mouth shut instead of dealing with any situation verbally. It is upsetting to see this as a parent myself, I don't think parents are aware of the level of bad behaviour in schools and how some schools like to brush it under the carpet. I felt so sorry for some of the kids who wanted to learn.
  8. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    Yes I am walking away from this cover. The timetable I have is a nightmare. Tomorrow is the last day I will be covering the timetable.
    rachelpaula008 likes this.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I think a lot of people would be shocked if they truly understood the extent of the shocking behaviour in some schools and you are right - instead of trying to change things, schools sweep it under the carpet and the students who do want to learn are caught up in it with no way out. It is a disgrace since it also affects the mental health of those teachers having to work in those schools; and further it makes it affects those teachers financially since they leave sometimes with no jobs to go to.
  10. emmalcm1

    emmalcm1 Established commenter

    Try not to be too hard on yourself. There are some SLT who are too ready to blame visitors...it's easier to blame them than to actually deal with the behaviour properly.

    I once spent 1 day in an absolutely appalling boys school where I had a class who would literally not sit on their chairs...running around the room hitting each other, swearing, etc whatever I said/ did. I tried to get help but was in a pretty isolated part of the school. The deputy head walked past and instead of telling the pupils to behave she instead shouted at me in front of the class! I could not believe how unprofessional she was! I wasn't sure what she wanted me to do...I had tried my best and we can not after all physically force them to sit down. She then rang and complained about me to my agency but when I told them what happened they said not to worry about it. Needless to say I never went back and the agency passed on a message from the school that they wanted me to keep my mouth shut about the behaviour because they are having trouble getting supply staff in...I wonder why?!
    pepper5 likes this.
  11. Abadie

    Abadie New commenter

    I don't blame you at all for comparing the classroom to a zoo. Actually I would say that many zoo creatures have more intelligence and are better behaved that certain children I have met recently.

    I know you didn't mean it in a racist way, but I would say that by crying racism the child was using a deliberate strategy to make you wilt and undermine your confidence.

    I have experienced similar such as when I asked a girl to shut down her lap top as it was the end of the lesson and she accused me of telling her to shut up.

    As visiting teacher I know that I would be the first one the school would blame if anything went wrong, but if you are on good terms with your agency I would talk it over with them and I'm sure they would appreciate your openness.

    It's a lousy situation where you feel you can't trust the senior management to support you, but sadly a common experience for some supply teachers.
  12. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    That is why it is SO important to be in a union. No matter how long you have been going to any particular school, there will always be students prowling about trying to get teachers into trouble and supply teachers are expendable - no one cares whether we have work or not.
    emmalcm1 and snowyhead like this.
  13. PizzoCalabro

    PizzoCalabro Established commenter

    The kids know only too well what buttons to push = especially re racism & homophobia. I definitely agree with Pepper re script ( and have shamelessly stolen her rules :)) l always operate an 'end & send' ie allowing them to depart when I say, based on their behaviour. Today, in one class, one of the pupils I sent first happened to be black. Another kid shouted out 'Miss, you are being racist' Acked his comment, but did not respond, and dismissed all the others, leaving him till last. I then asked what he meant, and he said - 'Miss, he is always trouble in other lessons except yours, so you are racist - 'cos he behaves better with you'. ( This was based on two lessons I have had with that class...)
    Must admit this was a new one on me!! So said - if you think this is a problem , then that's okay., just write out a statement and I will give to the Head of Year. He declined - decided to go to lunch instead...:)
    emmalcm1 and pepper5 like this.
  14. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi Pizzo

    Thanks for posting about your day since it has helped me feel better. I too had to send out some pupils in a lesson today based on their behaviour. I like your motto " end & send" since it has assured me I took the correct action. Even after thousands of lessons as a supply teacher, I still doubt that I always take the right action. Despite several warnings, the students were still misbehaving, and so needed to work elsewhere; however once they left, the rest of the class settled and we got through the last lesson on Friday.

    The rules I write about come from a book called Taking Care of Behaviour which I have mentioned before and anyone who wants the scripts are in the book available on Amazon for about £15 which is a real bargain since the book is a good reference book to go back to when you need some reminders of what to do to avoid letting students press buttons to watch teachers explode.

    Another thing I have been looking at in connection with behaviour management is videos on youtube which I have found helpful.
  15. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    Unfortunately some particular students will try and use things you say against you.

    Comments can be misquoted by them and sometimes they will collude and agree a story, even when you're there with them.

    It's best to be upfront and robust about it. Try not to agree that you were at fault and try and make sure the focuss is on their behaviour.

    Some SMT will try and focuss on you. It's' easier for them as they can easily dismiss it without having to take any action themselves.
    pepper5 likes this.
  16. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Good advice Yoda to focus on the students' behaviour. I always try to either jot it down or make a mental note. For example, continually calling out, continuing to make noises, throwing paper, throwing pens, etc... The problem becomes when I have a large class and there are several students misbehaving. It then becomes difficult to be precise. Some schools as you say will try to focus on the teacher instead of the students since that way it is easier to dismiss and your advice about being robust and upfront is sound wisdom.
  17. englishteach101

    englishteach101 Occasional commenter

    This makes me feel very lucky as I'm currently doing supply and I've found myself in a very supportive school. Yes there are classes which challenge me continually, however in the main the staff (including the SLT) are supportive and will back me up in all matters. I've been here about 6 weeks and I'm going to be here until Christmas. This is why I've chosen to stay here rather than take on other more subject specific work elsewhere as I know what I'm getting here.
    In my experience, it does get better however as my first couple of weeks were extremely challenging but the kids do get to know you, but after behaviour you've described I think I'd be not going back too, you need to ensure that you're sane enough to go back into the next classroom!?!
  18. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi samharvey

    Good to see another new person posting.

    It is great to your you are in a very supportive school. That is why supply is so great; you can have a look around a school to see whether you like it or not and if you don't care for working there you don't have to go back.

    I would say, mainly for six years the schools have been largely supportive as well.

    Sometimes it can only take one small incident like the OP's - where something innocent is said and it is taken completely out of context and the teacher accused of being racist or not in control. It is stressful always having to think about what may happen in large and boisterous classes.

    If you read these forums long enough - including the Workplace Dilemma forum- stress from dealing with challenging behaviour is one of the reasons teachers leave the profession and it does affect teachers' mental health.

    The incident is relatively minor in the OP's post- over on the behaviour forum there is a case of a teacher being sprayed in the eyes with whiteboard cleaner.
  19. rachelpaula008

    rachelpaula008 Star commenter

    Good for you. The very best of luck.

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