Final Week.

Post 36: Week of 17-21 July 2017

If you read my last post you’ll see that I got a call to work on the final Friday. However, this school cancelled. I was assured however that they really liked me when I worked there a couple of weeks ago; this may be true, but it is the 2nd time they have cancelled on me….

Anyway, it was my final 3 days in the nursery class I have been teaching at since Easter. It was a fairly easy going week. Coincidentally the nursery class also finished on Wednesday, my last day (the rest of the school went until the Friday). Therefore we had a party on that day. Well, 2 parties – for the morning lot and afternoon lot. I was all partied out from the food and snacks. As the majority of our families come from non-white families we got a lovely array of home made cultural food from samosas to pakoras. Delicious!

And so my time has come to an end there.This school has been a constant for me in the last 3 years. I rarely take on long term placements but I feel so comfortable here and the staff are very supportive. I feel it is valuable experience to work here. But I won’t be back now I predict for a good while. The school have hired extra HLTAs so I suspect it will a rare occurrence for them to ask me, despite the HT saying to me on the way out that I should be back. She did also say to me that should I ever rethink my status as a supply teacher and want to go permanent again, I should contact them before I apply for anything else. That was really nice of her to say.

I did not feel any sadness at leaving. This is the third time I have officially left here anyway! There is still a kind of detachedness I get not being a ‘proper’ member of staff. So it was lovely getting a few gifts and a thank you card, but it’s not the same feeling I got when I left my other permanent posts.

I had no work on Thursday or Friday so that is my year finished. A period of no pay now beckons until I start getting work again, hopefully September but more likely October onwards. It’s always tricky for me but I’ve learned to budget for these summer months. The positives still outweigh the negatives as far as I’m concerned.

If you work in a school I hope you have a fantastic break. I’ve enjoyed writing these blogs and may continue to so next year again!

 

Reports, assessments and new schools

Post 35: 12 June – 13 July 2017

I have been doing reports and end of year assessments for a good few weeks now which is why I haven’t had time to write up this blog. I have pretty much finished – I do have a couple of transition reports to write but it looks like I am getting no work today (Friday 14 July) so I may as well update this whilst waiting for the phone to ring.

So I received very positive feedback from the Head Teacher about my reports which is always good to hear. I also had to read and check the reports from my TA’s for their key worker children. It was hard work but as always, very rewarding to do so. As a supply teacher it isn’t very often that I get a chance to be anywhere long enough to feel you make a big difference, but I have in this school. The teacher who is taking over from me has been coming in to liaise with me and I have been guiding her through things. She is a recently qualified teacher and I think she is a bit nervous but she will be grand. She has lovely support staff with a lot of experience.

For the last few weeks we have been doing the final assessments which will be passed up to the Reception teachers. The data analysis is the one bind which I detest. It is mind boggling, especially as I have to do 52 children, more than any other teacher in the school. I was up for hours many nights doing it (we use a program called ‘Target Tracker’ which has a couple of features I don’t like…)

We also went on a school trip. Trips are rare for me so I really enjoyed this one. It was to a story-making realm, so no farm for a change!

In between the Mondays and Wednesdays that I work in the nursery classes I have also been getting work on those other days. On Friday 16th June I received the latest ever call for a same-morning session: 8.50am!! It was for a Reception class in a school I have been to a couple of times before. I arrived whilst the whole school were in assembly and was shown round by going outside the building and around. Turns out the teacher came in but got very sick so was sent home, hence the late call. Like all late calls like this there just isn’t time to be debriefed so I just got stuck in and on with things. So as soon as the children came out of assembly they walked in to their room to see this stranger here! Anyway, we had a lovely day. It was a small village school so the children were no problem at all. I noticed that their writing ability far outstripped the reception class of my regular school (which is very inner-city and multicultural).

On Thursday 22 July I went to a school for a morning session only. This was an absolute breeze, starting with an extremely enjoyable music session led by a guy from the local music centre. He had the children in the palm of his hand playing his guitar and singing. He had me too! Morning sessions are obviously only half the pay but at least it’s a nice feeling going home for a free afternoon.

The following day was a new school for me, right on the other side of the city from where I live. I was teaching Reception all day and it was a 2 form entry. As I chatted to the other teacher it turns out she used to work in the school I work at on Mon-Wed. Small world! This was a lovely day, with a special assembly which parents could attend to start off the day, followed by a singing session with a very eccentric lady who played the piano! Their hall has the most stunning view of the surrounding countryside and hills. I really do see all different kinds of places in this job. I love it!

On 29 and 30 June I was asked back to a school where I worked for 4 weeks just before Easter (I will have written about it in previous blogs). Now that was a hard 4 weeks! This time I was to work in the other Year 2 class from last time. This class were much better though still needed a firm grip. They had a long term supply teacher who herself has now gone off. I think the HLTA is going to take them for the remaining 2 weeks or so, but couldn’t do these 2 days. I found them challenging but manageable. The rest of the school were as loopy as they were last time I was here. Even one of the regular staff came up to me at playtime and said, “What have you done wrong to deserve being back here?!” I also had to deal with 2 very aggressive parents on the 2nd day, so aggressive that the Head of School had to come and sort it. A mum and another dad demanded to know why certain incidents had happened yesterday (nothing I’d done) and I was taken out of class during register to do it. They were both so aggressive that it had to be recorded on CPOMs (child protection software). It didn’t really faze me, I felt that as I was a visiting teacher they were really taking their frustrations with the school out on me as I was the guy there and then.

On Friday 7 July I received a very late call at 8.25am to go to a school which was 5 minutes’ walk from my house! So I DID walk – the first time ever I have been able to walk to work in my career. I made it with 20 minutes to spare but still had to wait in the entrance as all the staff were in a meeting. Therefore when they all came out I was shown to the Reception class and the Foundation Leader said could I fly by the seat of my pants as we are opening in 2 minutes? Well, yes I could! This became an extremely enjoyable day, with a very well-behaved class. I did some end of year assessments which needed finishing off. Then at lunch time the whole school sat on the field for a picnic and parents were invited. I sat with 4 children whose parents did not come. I thought this was a lovely thing to take part in, though I did think there are a lot of people who don’t need to or can’t work to be here for this session! We did also have a few tears from the children when it was time to go back into class. At home time the FS leader said I’d done very well and that they would consider me as ‘first on the list for next time’. As she herself then said, “It’s always nice to get praise, so take it!”

So yesterday (Thursday 13 July) I went to a special school. But there was a twist. I was offered the job the night before but the woman from the supply agency said that they needed a teaching assistant, not a teacher. Would I be interested? It would be for greatly reduced pay obviously. But work has nearly come to an end for the year and she said the morning calls are now getting scarce. Some money is better than no money, especially with the summer break imminent. I also liked my time in the special school from last month. So I said yes. When I arrived I met the teacher. She told me the children were Key Stage 4 (16 year olds) but their complex needs meant they were working at Year 2 level (6-7 year olds, and lower). There were 9 in the class, mostly boys. We got stuck straight in with reading, exercise in the hall and maths (fractions of shapes – quarters and halves). It really was like working with younger children in the way they needed reassurance and the way we spoke to them. In the afternoon we did some food technology and they really enjoyed that – as did I! This was a really enjoyable day. The teacher obviously did all the leading and I supported with the work and the activities. I love watching other teachers and if they are good, like she was, it inspires me to try and improve myself too. I would never get this experience just in one permanent job. I feel that it is essential for me to work in a school like this if I can.

So I am now up to date. Next week is the final week of term and I do not expect to get any work next Thursday or Friday *******I have literally just answered the phone from my agency as I am typing this . I have been asked to work next Friday in the Reception class where they said I was ‘first on the list’! Totally unexpected but very welcome for what will be my final day of teaching! Looks like no work today though………….

Special School

Post 34: Week of 5-9 June 2017

Half term was last week which meant no income. Funny then how all I seem to do on my time off is spend money on the house and family! I also spent a lot of the time writing some of my first reports. It took me 45 minutes for the first couple, then when you get into the swing of things I can get it down to half an hour or so. Writing a nursery report obviously isn’t as detailed as those of the older classes but I still want to write plenty and give it my own style – not much copying and pasting believe it or not. I sent the first few to my Key Stage leader and she said they were great so to just carry on like that. By the end of half term week I’d done 9 reports. I was pleased with that seeing as I didn’t start until the Wednesday.

On Monday, Tue and Wed I taught in my regular nursery class with no major issues. I didn’t get a call for work on Thursday so did another couple of reports. It is slightly annoying to feel that I have to do school work on a day where I don’t get any pay, but then again most reports are done in teachers’ own time.

On Friday morning It got to 8.25am with no call. When it goes past 8am the chances of getting work are slim so you don’t expect the call. But when the phone rang I had a big jump. I have never received a call this late for work to start immediately (I have received mid-morning calls to start in the afternoon). My caller from the agency said it was for a special school and would I be interested? Now I have taught plenty of children with SEN in my mainstream classes but I have never experienced even being in a special school. I had no time to think about it so said yes. She told me it was for an early years class but that was all she knew. I explained I would never get there for the start of lessons but she said not to worry they will expect you as soon as you can.

In the end the traffic was surprisingly light and I arrived at the school just after 9am. As I was signed into the entrance and given a visitor’s badge there were loads of kids still arriving with lots of chaperones. They had all arrived from minibuses and taxis from all over the city. They were being held up because a child had started kicking off behind the main door so all doors had to be locked and we were just waiting for the situation to be brought under control. Exciting start! The lady at the reception window also told me it wasn’t an early years class, it would be a mixture of Years 3,4,5,6! My worst fears usually! I was brought up to the class and found myself in a classroom with the main TA and 4 children. I didn’t know the class would be that small but as I found out later most of the classes are these numbers due to the complex needs of the children. I had to get right on with it as school had already started. With lots of help from the TA we worked our way through the morning.

We started by going into the hall and doing some exercises which I took over once I saw what was happening. Then back to class for main starter. One boy decided he wasn’t going to cooperate and he was taken immediately to another class (a regular occurrence, not just because I was in). I got to know the boys pretty quickly. Their needs differed, some were emotional, some were physical, others a mix. The first session flew by before we had to go into the hall for assembly. It was a lively assembly. I sat with the 3 remaining boys on chairs together whilst lots of other children were sat with other staff. The adult-child ratio was very high and some children were moving about, others were sat watching. Despite being noisy the teacher leading the assembly just got on with it. It lasted 10 minutes then everybody back to class. My class were now going swimming so we joined with another load and got the coach there.

I used to live next to (and teach at) this swimming pool so I was on familiar ground. The staff actually all get in the pool with the children. As I had no costume I stood on the side walking along trying to teach from there. I was soaked with all the splashing! The children absolutely loved it in the water.

Going swimming took a big chunk out of the morning so we only had a few minutes left back at school before lunch. I had to sit with my class for half an hour to make sure they ate properly and behaved.

In the afternoon I taught from the left-over planning and we did some Spanish, DT and they had a bit of spare time to choose. I had a nice chat with the TA at playtime who was the stable factor all day. She said the boys had had a good day as the rest of the week had been challenging at times (even today she had to forcibly take a couple of them out for getting aggressive before they calmed down and were let back in). Their chaperones came for them at home time. I had made it through the day!

It was very enlightening being here today. I was glad I took the placement. The standard of care they were offered by the school was to their credit (they recently got Outstanding from Ofsted). The TA said they were all of to the pub (she even invited me but I politely declined) and I could imagine that this was a draining job and that they were a very tight staff. I bet they go to the pub a lot! I was hit quite a lot today by one of the boys but only because that was his way of getting my attention. I had a bit of a sore arm but nothing too bad!  I can only imagine what some of the other staff go home like. All I saw and got the impression of on my one day here was a school and staff who really went out of their way to care for their children. It is to their credit.

Extra work…sometimes! And Half Term.

Post 33: last few weeks of May term.

So I obviously have regular work in one school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But for 2 weeks I haven’t been getting any work on the Thu/Fri. Now occasionally that has been my choice, but it does give me a slight worry in case it means it becomes a regular pattern (especially with half term coming up where I will have no income).

However, this school used me for extra supply over the last 2 weeks so at least I had 2 extra days of work and seeing as it was in my own nursery class I was very happy with that.

I have been asked quite a few times if I would apply for the job permanently but I keep refusing – it suits me at present to keep doing supply into next year. So it was a strange sensation seeing 10 candidates apply for the job last week. They had to have an interview than take a group of children for a lesson in the Reception class. The interviews went over 2 days. I said hello to a couple of them and didn’t envy their upcoming experiences! Eventually the school hired a young woman who will be taking over from me in September. She popped in the next day to briefly say hello. So it seems that they have taken my decision as final then!

On the last day of term I actually received a call (on the previous night – at 9.25pm!) to have a half day in Reception in a different school. Half a day is better than nothing, especially on the Friday as work is scarce when schools break up. An early start to the half term! I was last at this school back in the Autumn when they received a call to say they were getting Ofsted the next day. When I arrived this Friday there was a large banner saying the school had received ‘Good’. The other Reception teacher set me up with the activities for the morning. It was very straightforward and I even got to teach PE which I really enjoyed and the children participated well in. The children were actually a delight and I enjoyed my first ‘new’ school since the beginning of May.

It is half term now. I have brought home all of my profiles to make a start on the report writing. It is Wednesday as I write but I haven’t really got into my flow yet. Must try harder……..

Lots of Observations

Post 32: Monday 8 – Wednesday 10 May 2017

The Foundation Unit of the school is going to trial electronic profiling later in the term, but for now it is still paper-based. As I am going to be doing the assessments in a couple of weeks I have to get to know the children in my key worker group as fast as possible; which means I need to get as much evidence as I can. So I have been very busy doing lots of observations and assessing. I like to assess on a daily basis, whereas others save all theirs up to a weekend or even a half term. But I couldn’t cope with doing all of that in one go, it would take over your life at that time. And what if we got Ofsted-ed? They would only have a day’s notice to update their profiles!

In this school, assessment means cross-checking evidence with the Early Years Foundation Stage Development Matters handbook. We colour code the evidence, so if a child does something at 22-36 months we give it a red dot. I’ve done lots of assessments in other schools whilst doing supply and different things work for different schools. My only concern is that so much work goes into the profiles yet hardly any parents look at them! Last week we had parents’ evenings (I stayed to do them with the teacher who was leaving) and for the majority of the parents this was the only time they looked at the profiles, and this was because we sat there with them and made them!)

I had a jolt as I left on Wednesday – I had used my PPA time to get all my profiles up to date, including the assessments, when I found a huge stash of observations in a drawer, none of which were assessed or stuck into the profiles. I’m talking dozens of obs which now will have to be assessed by me and stuck in, even though some were months ago and will mean I have observations out of sync. There goes my weekend!

 

Settling In; Half Days Elsewhere

Post 31: 2-3 May 2017

Monday was a bank holiday (May Day) so only 2 days teaching in the Nursery class this week. I am still settling myself in, getting to familiarise myself with the routines etc. Not much has changed since I was last here in October but there are a few other things I have to do which weren’t done before, such as recording all key worker activities in a special book for evidence. I also get PPA which I wasn’t entirely sure I’d get, so that is a bonus!

Thursday – Friday 4-5 May 2017

Some pre-arranged work (I got the call last night at 4pm) for Thursday and Friday, my 1st extra work this term away from the nursery class. Only two half days (mornings) but better than nothing. It was for a Year 3 class in a school I have been to lots of times, fairly close to my home so a wee bit of a sleep in! I was actually looking forward to teaching today as it is now a novelty to teach the older children; nothing wrong with nursery, but the beauty of being available on Thu/Fri means I get to have a bit of variety.

I arrived at 8.05 and the TA (who I have worked with before) set me up for the morning. As it turned out I chose a good day to come: a team from the council had come to train the children how to ride scooters (it was road safety week). However they had cancelled the activity for after playtime so I used my initiative and checked the Maths books. We would carry on doing the lesson from yesterday which they did not finish.

The children remembered me from when I taught them last year, which was lovely. Straight into an assembly then out into the playground where they received the lesson. All I had to do was supervise and keep the children behaving. They really enjoyed scootering around the cones and obstacles! In the maths lesson I kept it as practical as possible (we learned about right angles) and their behaviour was great – the TA said they had been very calm and that was good for them. I actually met the teacher as she returned whilst I was marking the books. We had a chat about tomorrow.

Friday. Another assembly then a normal morning for the children – Maths then English. Again, a straightforward morning and no problems.

Pros and cons for working a half day: the obvious negative is that I only get a half-day’s pay; but the feeling of going home at 1 O’clock for an early start to the weekend is glorious!

 

Home Visits

Post 30: 24-26 April 2017

I did not get any work on Thursday and Friday last week so I only worked 2 days. This week was my first proper stretch in the Nursery class, but it was a transition period for me: the teacher who is leaving was still in and we met several times to do admin and planning.

On Monday I spent a good part of the day out of class phoning parents to arrange home visits (the school can offer 3 places immediately for those on the waiting list). The majority of our intake come from families where they have arrived from abroad such as refugees or asylum seekers, so their English is not that great at times. But still, we managed to arrange 3 home visits over the 1st few days.

I loved doing the home visits back in September. It is valuable experience for me and it gives an insight into how people live. It’s fascinating chatting to families about their life stories. I took a TA with me and we spent about half an hour in each home. I did the paperwork part whilst the TA played with the child. The families spoke enough English for us to get the paperwork done. Each family was told their child could come for a pre-visit the following day and the child would start gradually until they were happy enough to be left for the 3 hours session. As these families were new to the UK they all had older siblings who were present in the house who had no school to go to as they had missed the deadline for applications. They are going to have to apply and take what is left, which inevitably will mean a long journey for some as the nearest schools are full. I felt really sorry for them, but it was us who were giving them this information as they were unsure of what to do.

I also helped with the planning for the next few weeks as my last act with the leaving teacher. As I left on Wednesday I thought to myself, it’ll be all mine from now on and the buck will stop with me!