Slow Work and Special Schools

Post 41: Weeks 3-5 of Autumn Term 2

Lots of sporadic days in this half term. I’m averaging about 2 and a half days a week, which is just about going to pay my bills. At this rate if it doesn’t pick up in the next few weeks or after Christmas then I may have to consider some of the long- or medium-term placements I occasionally get asked to do. We’ll see……

So on Tuesday 14 November I was asked to work in a school for the next 5 Fridays. But it was to support a teacher who had just come back from a long term sick leave. It was a strange day because rather than support her in class (Year 2) she asked me to take individual groups of children out of class and to work through their corrections for English and Maths. I didn’t see how taking one child at a time out of class was going to help her, but I just did as I was told. After a while I started taking small groups rather than individuals because I was never going to get through all the children at that rate. Later in the day the HT came to me and said it was her decision to use me in this way because the class teacher had not been getting the children to correct their mistakes or next steps, so she wanted me to drill it into the children (lots of green and pink marking to do then, which I ended up doing when I volunteered to do some marking). I had a good chat with the TA after school – this school had failed Ofsted a couple of years ago so were in special measures; this particular teacher had been struggling before she went off on sick. The class were ‘challenging’ (though from my observations they were absolutely fine today). I left feeling I hadn’t really done much to support!

No call on Wednesday. On Thursday I got a morning call to a school I’d not been to before. This school pay a lesser rate but what could I do? I can’t second guess whether I’ll get a different call so I had to take it (this happens more often than you’d think). A few SEN children in the class (Year 1) made it an interesting morning (1 child swore at the TA and escaped past me into the playground and tried to get over the school fence!). The afternoon was a lot calmer as the SEN children are taken to a nurture group. After school the DHT told me she wanted me to stay tomorrow too but I had to explain it was my last Friday session at the school I’d been working at for last 4 weeks. But she still called my agency (in front of me!) and tried to get them to swap me! No thanks, and not for less pay either!

On Friday 17th I worked my 5th and final day in the Reception class I’d been to. It was Children in Need day so everyone was dressed up and we had a sponsored bike ride around the school grounds. This placement has been a breeze and I’ve really enjoyed it. I got some lovely feedback from the TA and then from the HT who came into my class to thank me for all the work I’d done for the last 5 weeks. How lovely is that?

I got a call that afternoon offering me some regular work until Christmas in a Special School which I’ve worked at once before. It will only be for Monday afternoons but they said they specifically wanted a male teacher. I gave it some thought and agreed; it would be good experience (I enjoyed it last time) and it would be semi regular work despite it only being for half days.

So on the Monday afternoon I was shown to the class at lunchtime. It was a straightforward timetable in that we were to have a chat about the day’s news then to watch a dvd of a play they have been reading about. There are 10 in the class, all KS2 age (yikes!) and with a variety of needs, mainly behavioural – as I was soon to find out. They just could not cope with the long stretch of silently watching the film and we had a few walk outs and screaming bouts. The 3 TAs handled it all in their stride and took the children out to calm down if they needed to. It felt like a long afternoon!

On Tuesday I returned to the school where I was supporting the Year 2 teacher. But last night I’d had a call from the agency saying that they would no longer need me now after today (‘to do with costs’). Well, that’s fair enough but when I told the teacher this was to be my last day she had no idea; she hadn’t been told. She was very disappointed and had to see the HT to confirm. It was a shame because she was eager for the support. In the morning I taught small groups out of class. In the afternoon I had the whole lot to myself as she went on a course. We had a really good time; doing some RE then a great PE lesson in the hall. A shame to have finished here, it was pretty easy work!

On Wednesday 22nd I was asked to return to the Special school but to 2 different classes. The morning was straight forward because the teacher wanted me to support the HLTA as she was sued to teaching the class and it was just easier that way. Fine by me. We did some Talk for Writing and a bit of science. In the afternoon I was put in a different class. The adults laughed when I told them where I was going. When I asked what was funny, they said “You’ll see”…. Hmmmm. So I went to see the teacher I was covering and he warned me that this was the class ‘with the most challenging behaviour in school’. He did not expect much in terms of the work being completed and that if only 2 or 3 fights broke out then ‘you’ll have had a good afternoon!” Needless to say I had a stomach churning wait for the afternoon session to begin. When they walked in I also saw that they were all boys and that they were 13 – 15 year olds!! BUT… the afternoon went off absolutely fine! There were no fights, no messing about, no major incidents. We had a writing lesson, then into the ICT suite to do some coding; then a play time; then some PSHCE and some choosing time to finish the day. The TAs were delighted and told the class teacher when he came in after school that we’d had a brilliant afternoon. I went home buzzing – a rarity.

No work Thursday or Friday, and on Monday afternoon it was back to the Special school for my regular afternoon slot. This was much better than last Monday’s session and the children seemed happy to see me again. Only 1 child needed to be taken to isolation, the rest got on with their work without too much fuss. Phew!

I’m writing this on Tuesday 28 November as there has been no call again today. Fingers crossed for the rest of the week………………


Autumn Term 2

Post 40: 1st 2 weeks of Autumn Term 2

No work on the 1st 4 days of the new term (I did take 2 off for family reasons anyway) but I had the semi-regular Friday slot in my local school. With only 17 children in this Reception class it is fairly straight-forward work and nothing too stressful. It’s also easier to remember and learn the children’s names!

A mixed bag for week 2 as well. I was asked to do two half days in another semi-regular school. On the Tuesday they put me in three different KS1 classes throughout the morning to cover the teachers who had to attend SEN meetings. When I arrived they told me they’d asked for me specifically because they knew I could be relied on to cope with the moving around into different classes, so that was nice of them to tell me this. So in Year 1 I taught an English lesson on nouns and adjectives, before moving into Year 2 where I taught phonics and read a story during snack time (sandwiched between play time); before finally teaching in the other Y2 class for a maths lesson (which they found really hard – number bonds to 20).

Back here on Thursday morning where it was a similar timetable but this time teaching only in Reception and then Year 1. Reception went fine and I was asked to share in play to promote boys’ interacting with each other; and in Year 1 to do guided reading. This teacher finished her meeting early so I supported her English lesson for the last 25 minutes.

There was no work for me on the Monday or Wednesday but I had the fallback of the Friday placement, my week 4 of 5 slots here. Again, this reception class are very familiar to me now and the school are happy enough to leave me to it. It is a shame that next Friday is my last day here as I have enjoyed it without any real stresses. I also get home within 10 minutes of leaving!

October Jobs

Post 39: October 2017

I didn’t write daily in the last couple of weeks because I had so much work on and was busy in the evenings – all good news obviously! So here is a shortened summary of what I got up to….

I returned to a school for the 1st time in nearly 3 years. Back then I taught their nursery class for the entire summer term. I was specifically asked to do that but this was to be my first return. It was to teach Reception. Lots of the Foundation Staff remembered me and it was lovely to catch up. 3 years ago when I finished their HT also finished and the school was in a bit of turmoil. Now as I went back it was clear that changes had been made. Cosmetic ones – the EYFS unit had been redecorated; and curriculum ones – the new management team had decided that teachers were no longer to be involved in any outdoor play. This meant I was stuck inside all day doing the same tasks. It got repetitive and a bit boring. The staff made it clear to me they weren’t happy with this new approach. Also, incredibly, some of the children I taught back then remembered me when they saw me in the playground! I returned to this school3 times over the last 2 weeks of term. All good.

I also went to a new (for me) school, though as does sometimes occur this was for a reduced rate – this happens sometimes because the school does not want to pay more than a certain amount. I could turn it down but then have a day of no work, so I sucked it in and went (Y2). They had actually emailed the night before to say please plan my own work based on topics they told me about. I don’t mind doing this. It was a pleasant enough day apart from a child who had a complete meltdown because she wasn’t picked by me to have a turn on the interactive board. She had to be escorted out to calm down. I also met a TA who I actually used to know through a mutual friend and hadn’t seen for over 15 years so it was nice to have a catch up there.

I then returned for 3 days in a row to the school where I had a lively week (see last post) and the same occured this week. The staff are exceptionally lovely here and gave lots of support but one child (Year 1 this is) had such behaviour problems and emotional needs that he actually assaulted me. Now this sounds dramatic but the school made me fill out a police report. This was standard and the teacher said she had to fill one out almost daily. His needs certainly are trying to be catered for. Myself and another member of staff had to carry him out (via Team Teach method) to an isolation room for his own safety. I was fine (he pulled me to the ground then yanked my lanyard off but I had to let him do it because it was so fast I could have hurt him if I tried to resist) and it didn’t really shake me up too much. I would still be happy to come back to this school!

The other school I worked at was for a school only 10 minutes drive from my house. They want me for 5 Fridays in a row which is a bit of a strange booking. Reception class. The teacher is an NQT and is to be given time out of class to fulfill some NQT time. There are only 16 in the class so needless to say these last 2 Fridays, including the last day of term, have been pretty much stress free. Thank goodness!!

A Bit Of Repeat Work

Post 38: Rest of September

I’ve been a bit busy recently – I took a wee bit of time off for personal reasons. Before that I had some repeat work in a school but it was for morning calls only rather than advanced. The good news is that each time I was asked for personally.

So for the week of 25-29 September I worked for 4 days out of 5, definitely an improvement! The school on Monday was one I’d not been to for a year. The DHT remembered me for covering his class that time. He put me in Year 1 and I had a tricky start within 10 minutes when a child (who I had not been warned about by the TA’s) decided to storm off and refuse to come over to the carpet. When I went to bring him back he screamed and threw a chunky bulldog clip right at my face from point blank in front of me. If I hadn’t have ducked fast I would have been really hurt! I learned pretty quickly after that to just leave him be but it unnerved me for the rest of the day. I returned to this school on Wednesday but it was a farcical start. I was told it was for Year 2. I spent 5 minutes reading the planning and getting my head round the timetable when another supply teacher came in and said she was taking this class. Would I mind teaching Year 2? I said no problem and I went in there. Again I started to read the planning left….but then the DHT came in and said would I mind awfully if he put me in Year 3? In his words, “they are a tough class and I think they will respond to you better”. I can hardly say no (and was secretly glad he hadn’t said Year 5 or 6) so just went along with it. So another supply was told to go from Year 3 into Year 2. By now it was 8.30. The TA filled me in quickly about how poorly behaved some of them were….but the morning flew by without any problems at all. In the afternoon there were some PE coaches in and I felt a bit stressed keeping them under control and on task (the coaches weren’t the best at management) but they did say that the children’s behaviour was much better than it was last week, when they seriously considered not coming back! I returned to here again on Friday (so 3 days in this one school) and was now put in Year 2. I was actually on my way to a different school when I got a call for here, they really wanted me specifically again. So I abandoned the one I was on my way to. This was a really fussy class and the low-level disruption just stressed me out all day trying to keep them on task. Also there was a boy with SEN who had a new TA just that very afternoon and he was basically allowed to do whatever he wanted – which was pretty much shout out and be rude to me and all the other children. It was so disruptive but the TA just kept saying ‘this is your last chance’! It was a long afternoon!!

In between all this, on Wednesday I returned to a school I was at last week to teach Reception and although the planning was a little bit confusing it turned out to be a pleasant and stress-free day.

Back to School

Post 37: 18-19 September 2017

I had no work for the 1st two weeks of term. This was expected and I was not unduly concerned. My diaries show that apart from a long-term placement last year, I had rarely worked in September. In fact, 2 years ago I only had work for 5 days for the entire first half term.

I received an advanced booking for these 2 days, covering a nursery class in a semi-regular school. As always, I had a sick feeling as I approached the school. No matter how often I do this I still get the butterflies as I don’t know what to expect. This being my first work in 2 months also added to the apprehension. I was shown down to the nursery classroom by the EYFS leader who explained the teacher was on a course for 2 days. I got my head round the planning and met the support staff who seemed very friendly. One of them remembered me from last year when I worked in Reception. The full intake was not yet complete as children were starting every day in a staggered timetable. So in the morning there were 21 children but in the afternoon there were only 12 (both days).

I eased back into the teaching very quickly and had a lovely couple of days. There were some SEN children who required 1-to-1 support and they pretty much did their own thing separate from our teaching. The support staff were lovely and asked for me back when Tuesday finished which is always a morale boost to hear. A good way to start the year. Nothing else booked as of yet though.

Stop Press: This morning (Wednesday) my agency rang to offer me TA work. I turned it down as I don’t want to be taking on this role so early in the year. There may come a time when money is tight and I cannot afford to turn this work away but for now I said I’d rather hang on for teaching jobs.

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………….