Saturday, 24 November 2007

Dangers of Teaching

I've had a little challenge this week in my teaching career.

On Tuesday I taught at a school in Thatcham, Berks. I'd been there before when I had a car but this time I went via bike/train/bike. Took me one hour 15 minutes to get there. I was very pleased with myself that I cycled 4 miles in half an hour! My bike fell down once in and, whilst cycling away from the station (once I found out which way to go) I realised that myhe train bike lock had fallen off the handle bars and was now on it's way to Bedlam (or some-such place I'd never heard of).

This was a problem but not the big challenge of the day.

I had been to this school before but could not remember which class I had taken. I was in year 3/4 in the morning teaching a maths lesson for an ill teacher. Unfortunately the photocopied pages from a text book were not where she said they were so could not do the lesson as planned. Fortunately they had not completed the work from the previous day so they continued with that. 4 different groups were doing different sheets so we could not mark the work as a class. The previous day's work had not been marked by whoever had taken them.

Other lessons also produced marking so spent all lunchtime doing that task. Supply teachers are not paid for lunchtime, but I have never had that hour to myself doing this job. I am either preparing for the afternoon or marking work from the morning or both, and usually eat whist doing these tasks. We get paid to 3:30 but have to have done all the marking before we leave so I always do about 3-4 hours unpaid work whenever I do a job. I am a conscientious marker, which means I write comments and targets on their books.

This wasn't the challenge either.

In the afternoon I had a year 5/6 class. This was definitely a challenge. At least 5 children with severe behaviour challenges. Following the sanction strategy I sent two out of class. Unfortunately they came back a few minutes later. These boys were disruptive and disrespectful.

There is a challenging school in Reading that I often teach in and I enjoy going there despite the difficult children. The reason is the staff and management are so supportive. They know the children are a challenge and often it is prearranged that the worst behaved children spend the day in another class. The support from the head/deputy and other staff make the difficult job so much more bearable. The first time I taught at that school the headteacher came into the classroom as the children were coming in, having introduced herself to me, and spoke to the children kindly, about her expectations of them. She then popped in later to see how things were going. She gave me letters to give to the parents of children who behaved well telling them their child had behaved well for a supply teacher and was a credit to the school.

Unfortunately this is unusual in my experience. Usually I never see any management and if I do they do not introduce themselves so I don't know who they are. Last year I spent every Wednesday in a year 3 class enabling the NQT (newly qualified teacher) to have her designated PPA time. I had taken over from another supply teacher who found the difficult children too much to cope with (and they were very challenging). I had been there 6 weeks before I saw a member of the management team. It was the headteacher, who walked into the classroom without saying hello to me. She had an air of authority about her so I went up to her and introduced myself and when she didn't reciprocate I resorted to "I'm sorry, I don't know who your are."

Anyway, back to my Tuesday challenge.

The lesson had been so interrupted by the poor behaviour that they had written nothing in their books when the bell for afternoon play went. I told everyone that no-one could go out to play until they had completed the task set. Unfortunately the boys had to attend a meeting in the hall so I told them to come straight back to the classroom when it finished so they could finish the work before going to play.

As I was saying 'boys line up,' three boys ran to the door. I shouted stop, but no-one took any notice so I put out my arm to bar then from running through the door and into the corridor. They were going at speed and so the first two boys got by before my hand was extended, but the third boy collided with my hand. As he was lining up I saw him wiggle his shoulder and thought ' Oh he's making a big fuss, I didn't hurt him.' He was one of the most disrespectful boys in the class.

I was so glad when home-time came. As I was marking the books I got a phone call from the agency that gave me the work, to say there had been a formal complaint made against me. I couldn't think what I had done to warrant that! I had shouted a few times that afternoon, but that was the only thing I could think of. The agency said the child protection agency was involved. I asked what I was accused of doing. Apparently I had grabbed a boy by the arm causing red marks.
Oh now I remember! It must have been that really disrespectful boy who had collided with my arm. My gosh I was trying to prevent him hurting himself by racing out of the door into other people and now his mother was accusing me of abusing her son!

I left at 5 pm having done all the marking. The NQT came back after holding a dance club after school and I found out she had not been informed of the accusation. I therefore warned her to be wary of that child.

Fortunately I spent the rest of the week in that supportive school in Reading, who were most shocked that no-one from the school in Thatcham had spoken to me about the incident.

The week ended with a phone call from the agency. The police had decided not to pursue it. They must have been told by the other children 'witnesses' that the boy was running through the doorway at the time.