Things supply teachers don’t get

Paid sick leave
INSET training
Maternity leave
Paid to scale
Pension contributions
PPA time

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Treading Water

The reason I don’t post often isn’t because I have nothing to write, but rather the opposite. A lot of things occur to me, but because of the mass of ideas none of them end up written.

At the moment I feel like I’m treading water, waiting for my career to begin. As a result my ideas tend to remain half formed.

For a general update on my situation – I’ve recently signed on with another agency, I feel very positive about it. Once my references are through they should have some short term work and some longer term subject specialisms.

Work hasn’t really lived up to it’s billing as the busiest term so far. But I am working a little bit, even if I have to accept the odd cover supervisor day to make ends meet.

On working as supply CS – Agencies tell me that their hands are tied on CS. If they refuse to supply them then schools will go elsewhere. If they send unqualified CS with no experience and no classroom management skills, then they might not perform well, so they have no choice but to send teachers. Even though agencies don’t approve they feel they have to do as the schools ask.

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Wishing my life away

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had as a new teacher. The reasoning for this is, I believe, that I’ve gotten tired of waiting for my teaching career to start.

I wished for my PGCE to be over with, so I could start teaching, I wished for the end of each term so I could rest, sleep and catch up on missed paperwork, I’m still wishing for the end of my NQT year and my golden hello.

When I started my NQT year it all seemed so straightforward. I was going to do two terms in that school on maternity leave, then move on, either to a permanent job or to a term on supply. At the end of that year I would be a fully qualified teacher, with a secure, permanent job and in receipt of a golden hello. It didn’t quite work out like that, however.

On supply, especially on daily supply, I’m very guilty of wishing my time away. Maybe tomorrow will be the day that I get that phone call. Maybe this Friday will be the week when a suitable position will be advertised in the TES. Maybe my agency will find me something for next term? Or the next? Maybe the next term? It’s very frustrating. And all the time the agencies are telling me “It’s always quiet at this time of year,” “the schools are only asking for cover supervisors” and “There’s not much call for languages at the moment.” This is all very well of course, but I have to live, I have to pay my bills, have a social life, eat, make plans for the future.

Normal teachers look forward to the holidays. Supply teachers dread them. There’s no chance of work. At all. Agents tell us that holiday pay is rolled into your pay, so you should be able to cover it if you’re careful. How am I supposed to do this without full time work? One agency has paid me £8000 this financial year. Before tax. Since April. Almost 10 months have gone by and that’s my pay for almost a year. Am I supposed to live on that? If it wasn’t for my husband I’d be living with my parents again, or I’d be doing something other than teaching.

I have to believe that things will get better soon. I’m a newly-wed, and very happy in my new marriage, but We can’t plan for the future. We can’t get a mortgage. We can’t have children. We can’t even book a holiday until my work situation improves. I fell like our life together is on hold and it’s all my fault.

I just wish I could live in the present, enjoy my life as it is now and stop wishing my life away.

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Taylor Mali – love him

I discovered this slam poet, Taylor Mali, via comments on a Comment is Free blog post I was reading about how to deal with dinner parties as a teacher. Do you lie about what you do? Or do you own up and face the inevitable barrage of comments and opinions from people whose only experience of the classroom is their own school days 10, 20 years ago and whose only informant is the Daily Fail’s regular doses of teacher bashing. The one at the bottom – what teachers make – is strong, powerful and passionate, but they’re all really worth a look.

On girls lending pens

Undivided attention

Miracle Workers

The impotence of proofreading

If you only click on one of these links – look at this one below. This is why we become teachers.

What teachers make

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Letting the side down

I feel like a bit of a traitor, as for the last two school days I’ve accepted work as a cover supervisor at the same school. I hate it. I hate that I do exactly the same work as a supply teacher for half the money.

The school was particularly naughty, as they heard what my specialism is on Friday and today I found myself teaching (as I was teaching) in the languages department.

I’ve brought it to my agency’s attention, they have promised to try and get me a teacher’s rate, but I won’t hold my breath.

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This is the unemployed supply teacher’s biggest enemy, so I thought I’d share a few tips for alleviating the boredom.

Worthy things: Clean the kitchen, tidy the dining room, hoover, bake cakes for a grateful husband, trawl TES for new job prospects, write applications for jobs, organise resources, catch up on your reading, go for a run (yeah right), run errands.

Less worthy things: Play on games consoles (I recommend Harry Potter Lego and Wii fit), blog, read blogs,  watch multiple episodes of Star Trek, read depressing TES Supply Teacher Forum, stalk people on facebook and last but not least Stumbleupon!

Things to avoid if possible: Eat excessively, open a bottle of wine at 10am, make increasingly desperate calls to your agencies begging for work (not dignified!).

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I’ve got an agency I use very infrequently. They’ve called today to ask if I’m available for work tomorrow. Excellent, I think, I can work tomorrow. It’s at X school, half a day, cover supervisor.

I’m a qualified teacher. I’m being asked to spend an hour each way travelling (spending about £7 on transport costs) do half a days work – exactly the same work I would do as a supply teacher – but for half the money I would get as a supply teacher.

I turned it down. Do you blame me?

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A day in the life of a supply teacher

There are three types of work a supply teacher does. One is a long term placement, teaching your own subject. This is the preferred option for many of us. The second is the prebooked placement – meaning you know where your going before you get up the next day, but the third, the third is the bane of my life.

You wake up around 7, get dressed, have breakfast and a cup of something hot. Then you take your place by the phone and wait. There is, what is called on the TES forum for supply teachers, the ‘golden hour’ between 7.30 and 8.30. If no phone call arrives then no problem, get back into your PJs and go back to bed.

If the phone does ring, the conversation goes something like this:
Agent: Good morning Miss B, how are you?
Me: Fine thanks, and you (and I’m thinking, please don’t send me somewhere horrible)
Agent: Are you free for work today?
Me: Yes (well, it depends, where am I going?)
Agent: Would you like to go to X school today?
Me: Erm, where is that exactly?
Agent: It’s really close. Should be no problem to get there.
Me: Let’s have a look on the journey planner. Oh. Two trains and a bus. Ok.
Agent: Great, I’ll let them know you’ll be there in half an hour.
Me: Hang on! There’s no way. Tell them I’ll be there by the second lesson.

Agent: Oh, I’ll just check that with them and get back to you.

At this point I get my bag together, collect my stuff and get ready and the phone rings again.
Me: Hello
Agent: Hi. Sorry, but we’ve found someone who can get there sooner.
Me: Ok (grr)
Agent: We’ll let you know if something else comes up.

Ok. Often I do work. This is how those days often go.

I turn up at school as soon as I can to be introduced to the cover manager. If it’s a school with a good supply policy she (for it’s always a she) hands over a folder with the behaviour information, a map of the school and a class list for all the lessons I’ll be teaching that day. If it’s not a good school I’ll get a list of classes, with the teacher’s initials and a classroom. Nothing else. “Oh, so I’m doing Maths, Biology, Food Tech and English today. Great!”

First lesson – Yr 10 Science – take a register. If I have a class list great, if I don’t it has to be a piece of paper which they write their names on.

“I didn’t know Bob Marley was alive and in year 8?! What do you mean your real name is I P Freely?! OK. Let’s get on. According to your teacher you’re in the middle of some coursework at the moment, so you know what you’re doing. Would someone get the folders out? So you’ve finished? Sure? Right well here’s a textbook. No, I’m sure Mr X didn’t say you could ‘chill’ when you’ve done. No, I’m sure your teacher doesn’t let you listen to music. I don’t care if you concentrate better. I don’t allow it.”

Lesson 2 – Yr 7 Maths:

“Yes, you do have to sit on your assigned seating, yes you need your exercise books, yes you can give out the textbooks, here’s a pencil, I need it back at the end of the lesson, no, you may not go to the loo, you’ve just had break, no I didn’t see little johnny stick his finger up at you……” OK, so that’s not a supply, that’s just year 7.

These experiences repeat themselves over and over all day. If you’re lucky the teacher will have set a poster lesson. Fascinating! Make a poster on health and safety in the Textiles classroom. Obviously, as an MFL teacher, I can help and guide them with this. I’m also qualified to explain photosynthesis, bake cakes and talk about rhyme, metaphors and similes.

Then comes the killer, you get paid. As a cover supervisor. Brill! Do it all again tomorrow.

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Hi again

I know it’s been forever since I last updated this blog, and I apologise for that. The reasons for this are many, complex and ever changing. Basically, I went into a temporary job straight from my PGCE, leading to me completing 2 terms of my NQT year. Another two terms later and I am still an NQT. As you might imagine this can be demoralising. I didn’t get into teaching to do supply. General cover is killing me – I am a languages teacher, not a biology teacher, not an SEN teacher and not a PE teacher. I spend more time babysitting than I do teaching. My lesson planning skills are vanishing and my languages skills are becoming rusty. I haven’t had any training in the last two terms and I don’t see any coming my way any time soon. Oh, and my finances are a mess!

When I left you I was enthusiastic, keen and naive. I return a little more cynical, a little more seasoned and a little less idealistic. Who knows, I may regain some of my previous enthusiasm if my situation changes. Maybe not. You might have to keep reading to find that out.

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I’m totally knackered!

School is great, I love it, I’m having a great time but I can’t remember the last time I was so exhausted.

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