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.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Diary of a Surviving Supply Teacher: Sir Unsatisfactory

Thursday 9th June 2011

 do not think I have ever had such a late call as I had for this afternoon. It was at 12:45pm to work in a school, nine miles away, starting at 01:15pm.

“But, I am not changed for school,” I exclaimed.

The agency replied, “I’ll tell them you are getting changed.” On second thoughts, I decided not to change, other than my round-necked T-shirt for one with a collar but no tie. From the outset, I felt uncomfortable because, having initially worked a lot at the school, I had not worked there for at least a year and had assumed there was a problem.

At exactly quarter-past, I was in the classroom reading the plan, after a teacher showed me to the classroom and another, possibly the year leader, came to tell me the class needed ‘squashing’. At least she recognised that this was the case. She said she would collect the class from the playground, so that I had at least that much time to read the plan, and said it as though she was doing me a favour. I was still reading the plan as the children came through the door. 

There were constant interruptions while I was reading the plan, during the register and throughout the afternoon, for un-introduced adults taking children out to undertake unexplained tasks, a mother (who was polite) coming to hear readers and a tennis competition which involved children getting changed and going at different times. In addition, there were disputes about who was a substitute for tennis and who had/did not have PE kits. I had to ask children to sit down and stop calling out fairly frequently.  

Our first task was to briefly discuss a new school motto with the pupils, but I got them to write down their ideas on hastily hand-cut slips. Although I was prepared to discuss mottoes, the children already had a good knowledge and came up with some imaginative ideas. 

The work was on planning a trip to Mudeford as part of a topic on the coast and, although I was not involved in the organisation, I had taken trips there before, so I had some knowledge. To set the location in context, I was to tell the children about the history of smuggling in the area and why it was ideal for smuggling. As I did not have enough time to read the background text, I gave this a miss and went straight into the written task. The class had two sheets, the first a drawing of part of the beach and the second, a table divided into columns: (i) feature, (ii) natural or man-made, and (iii) evidence. They were required to make predictions as to what feature they would find, ie. sand, and then make notes as to whether it was natural or man-made and what evidence there was. The sheets were trimmed and Pritt-stuck, by the children, into their A4 geography exercise books. 

After the predictions, we examined maps of the area, over which could be placed transparencies showing the planned route. Map symbols were clearly important, so we drew a key in the geography books: i = information, m = museum, p = car park, pc = public convenience, v = visitor centre, abbey, golf course, nature reserve, slipway, sports centre, stately home, telephone, walks/trails and other features. I hoped I had remembered them accurately and, if I had not, no-one noticed! We were due to draft questions to ask tourists about the area, but ran out of time before the assembly in the hall at 03:00pm.

Assembly, for the so-called mid-phase, was based on the Dragon’s Den television programme with visitors as ‘dragons’. An enthusiastic teacher asked the children what had been going on in the school that day. Very few raised their hands but, as I have never seen the programme and was not involved in the day’s events, I could empathise with the children’s apparent indifference. One teacher sitting at the side sarcastically announced that perhaps the children should have been be given interesting work like copying out War and Peace instead. The visitors, claiming to be millionaires, one in casual wear and the other two in suits, discussed their favourite business plans drawn up by the children, including a device for neutralising the odour from dogs’ muck.     

Some of the boys decided not to take the correct route back to the classroom, but I let it go and gave out a host of letters to be taken home. I won’t forget those children, in the unlikely event that I am there again. Because of the late call, I spent half an hour marking the geography books and writing a letter to the teacher before heading off home. To their credit, the children were very good overall and the head of year said the class teacher would be pleased. She seemed unconcerned about the missed work such as the background of smuggling and that the trip was to be introduced via a letter requesting the children’s help in conducting a survey. I arrived home to find a whole pot of stone cold tea.    

Originally posted on Monday 13th June 2011     

Saturday 11th June 2011

Chris Woodhead, the former Ofsted chief who once claimed there were 15,000 incompetent teachers in Britain, is knighted in the birthday honours list. The lesson is that you do not have to work hard as a teacher, just criticise those that do.

Woodhead was appointed head of the schools inspection service, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), in 1994. Five years later he came under pressure to resign when it was claimed by his ex-wife Cathy Woodhead that, whilst working as a teacher, he had an affair with a pupil, Amanda Johnston. Both Woodhead and Johnston insisted that, although they had met while he was her teacher at the Gordano School, the nine-year-relationship had developed several years later at Oxford. He was head of English at the school, near Bristol, from 1974-6. His version of events, given under oath, is disputed by some former colleagues. In February 1999, Woodhead addressed an audience of trainee teachers and was asked for his views on legislation to ban sexual relationships between pupils and teachers. His response was that such relationships, while regrettable, could be "experiential and educative on both sides", a remark for which he later apologised.

On 2nd November 2000, Woodhead eventually announced his resignation.

Originally posted on Saturday, 11 June 2011

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