Welcome to my Blog which combines the unlikely topics of supply teaching with progressive rock. Here you will find my ongoing 'Diary of a Surviving Supply Teacher' and a variety of lists/ timelines/ articles on progressive rock.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Mr Majeiker and the School Inspector

Thursday, 10 March 2011

y understanding was that I would be with year 4 in the morning and year 5 in the afternoon. But, as it turned out, I was teaching year 4 to morning break and year 5 for the rest of the day. When Mrs Strident described the first lesson, English, she almost defied me to get it wrong. Any assumptions I made and anything I thought I could remember about her routines were wrong and firmly corrected. The work was based around an extract from Mr Majeiker and the School Inspector by Humphrey Carpenter. The class was expected to take turns in reading the text, write some sentences with sub-clauses and continue the story. Mrs Strident emphasised the importance of the sentence level work in their English books as it represented whether or not they had achieved the objectives. Later, when marking the books, I could see that she wrote some comments, but stamped the sentence level with ‘working towards . . . ‘ or ‘object achieved’. I could not find her stamp and had to write comments anyway. At the end of the lesson, I noticed I had mistakenly done the plenary as part of the warm-up and introduction. The children seemed slightly unsettled by the fact I had not done these things identically to Mrs Strident, but it was too late and not the end of the world.

Year 4 maths, with the class, not sets, took the form of various groups working on different methods of multiplication: grids, number lines and arrays. Mrs Strident said she had spent nearly the whole of the previous lesson explaining each method in turn, while the other groups had to sit and wait, so she was keen for me to launch straight into the work. She felt the dilemma would be repeated, if I explained the work again and, in any case, some children would be confused. Despite her anxiety, it goes against my instinct not to introduce work at the start of the lesson. In my experience, the hackneyed old cliché ‘they know what to do’ is rarely demonstrated to be the case. However, all I could do was explain the organisational situation to the children and hope for the best. They worked well independently and most could remember the methods. The most frequent errors occurred with the grid method; the children becoming confused with tens and hundreds, making their answers wildly incorrect. One child asked, “How long are you with us?” When I replied, “All day,” some appeared delighted, others not.       

At break I struggled to mark as many books as I could, while unwillingly supervising a pupil who was required to stay in and finish his homework. I then trekked to year 5 for their maths lesson. We had to construct an example bar graph together, step-by-step. After this, the children had to choose a survey, present the data in a tally chart and draw the resultant graph. When Miss Conscientious re-appeared at lunchtime, she seemed disappointed that we had not completed drawing the second graphs. I just felt relieved we had got as far as some children starting them. Teachers do not realise that it takes longer for me, as a supply teacher, to complete the work, as the routines are not mine. There were also a number of interruptions with messages from other teachers and an LSA withdrawing individuals.   

Science in the afternoon was filtering sandy water using different types of paper: filter, paper towels, A4, sugar and newspaper. The children, in groups of about four, could choose any three and made predictions based on their knowledge of the properties. They also chose the apparatus and drew diagrams of their experiment, which meant the filters in funnels balanced on test tubes or flasks. Sandy water was measured into the filter/funnels, allowed to run into the test tube or flask and observed to identify the level of cleanliness. Each example of filtered water was shown on the worksheets as a coloured side-view of the flask. Unfortunately, sand is a good filter itself and did not make the water dirty, so it gave a clear sample almost every time. Another problem was with the ‘second-hand’ sugar paper with marker ink, which produced bright pink filtered water. After assembly, at the end of the day, Miss Conscientious did not seem to understand, but was not unhappy with the fact I switched to new, clean sugar paper. Behaviour had been reasonable although I spoke to Defiant about leaving the room without permission and Argumentative about arguing.
During the assembly in the hall, Mrs Untidy, with two children, performed a Red Nose Day song to the school. She threw herself into it by singing almost solo with a variety of dance moves, of which any Hollywood musical star would have been proud. When it was the trun of the whole school, the headteacher, as he walked past me, jokingly said, “Come on sing and dance.” I thought I was doing my best as I did not know the song and there were other teachers not singing at all.   

I had to retrace my steps to complete the marking. In one of the rooms, the teacher had a little display of gifts from children, mostly bears and picture frams, each with a slogan such as ‘thank you teacher’, ‘best teacher’ and ‘to my favourite teacher’. These little shrines built by the teacher to themselves, often fill me with a mixture of feelings. On the one hand they are one of those things I see teachers doing, which I know I did myself and wish I had not. On the other, I cannot help feel a tinge of jealousy, both at the teacher’s popularity and contract with their own class. On my way out of the door, I said goodbye to the headteacher. He asked if I’d had good day, to which I replied the children were well-behaved. A voice from his office said, “Goodbye, we will see you soon.” This, I think, was the deputy, Mrs Strident.   

Mr Majeiker and the School Inspector by Humphrey Carpenter can be read here:

Thursday, 10 March 2011 pt2

To Miss With Love Episode 4

The fourth of five parts of To Miss with Love is broadcast today on BBC Radio 4 at 9:45am - 10:00am (Thursday 10 March 2011). It is the diary of inner-city teacher Katharine Birbalsingh, who has been teaching in a state school, read by Adjoa Andoh.

I missed this episode because I was working today.

Friday, 11 March 2011

To Miss With Love Episode 5

The last of five parts of To Miss with Love is broadcast today on BBC Radio 4 at 9:45am - 10:00am (Friday 09 March 2011). It is the diary of inner-city teacher Katharine Birbalsingh, who has been teaching in a state school, read by Adjoa Andoh.

In this episode, the diary entries include:
(i) Munchkin, Psycho and Fifty are with Miss Reliable in the office. The school offers to buy Fifty a pair of shoes, but his father is too proud, leaving the dilemma of a child in trainers. Snuffy is on the phone to Mrs Crackpot, who does not want her daughter, Psycho, sent home for misbehaviour;
(ii) While on a coach trip to Oxford University, Dopey is joyous at seeing a real cow. Seething does not have the patience for the journey;
(iii) Stoic invites Snuffy to a monitoring scheme with which he is involved. She is impressed at the attitude of Stoic and the other black children;
(iv) It is the last English exam and the paper is good. Snuffy is praying for ‘C’s. Seeing this, Dopey says, “We’ll do it for you, Miss.”
(v) In a staff meeting, the head, Mr Goodheart, announces that Ofsted is in school tomorrow;
(vi) The staff discuss their experiences of the inspections. Ms Magical says she has been given a ‘3’ for a fifteen-minute observation, despite her lengthy career. Snuffy reassures her that she is outstanding. Cavalier returns to school in his uniform, but he has been excluded. He breaks a bottle over Furious’s head and knocks him to the ground, amidst a welter of tears and blood. Mr Sporty offers to covertly call for an ambulance.   
(vii) The head thanks Snuffy for being discrete yesterday, regarding Furious and Cavalier. Ofsted grade the school ‘A2’, giving them ‘good’ status.
(viii) Mr Goodheart says Furious’s parents have sent him to school in Nigeria. Deranged, Seething, Beautiful, Psycho and Dopey open their results. Most get ‘C’s including a delighted Dopey.  
(ix) Snuffy looks up at Obama’s words on the wall of her office, as she does everyday, before going out on to the playground, “I will never forget that the only reason I'm standing here today is because somebody, somewhere stood up for me when it was risky. Stood up when it was hard. Stood up when it wasn't popular. And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world”.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

I sent the following to the 38 degrees online petition regarding the treatment of supply teachers:

As a supply teacher I have had to experience the following:

- My local supply registers being handed to agencies, without the LEAs consulting teachers;
- Agencies undercutting nationally agreed scale pay;
- Agencies co-signing a contract to pay an amount, which they subsequently and substantially decrease without consultation;
- A lack of support from LEAs regarding agencies;
- The failure of current statute and employment law to protect my interests;
- Agency pay being cut, instead of increased in line with inflation, over the last nine years;
- Agencies failing to provide a pension and the employers' contribution;
- Agencies paying lip service to holiday pay;
- Headteachers accepting unqualified staff to undertake supply work in their schools;
- A lack of appropriate protection, information, support and guidance from agencies;
- Lectures from agencies on professionalism, while they remain unregulated;
- A lack of professionalism and respect from agencies and their staff;
- An absence of professional development and in-service training;
- Agencies withdrawing work without an explanation;
- Frequent ‘errors’ over pay from agencies, which are always in their favour;
- Inappropriate conduct from agency staff, including aggressive or threatening behaviour and bad manners;
- Requests from different agencies for CRB checks, at my own expense;
- Paying for the GTC subscription at my own expense;
- Having a number of employers and therefore being taxed on the basic rate;
- Having to claim rebates after being taxed on the basic rate.

Sent to 38 degrees at:

Originally posted on Monday, 14 March 2011

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