Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A push and a shove at the teaching job

I was going to start a whole other blog just for my tales of supply (substitute) teaching, but then what would I write about in here, right? I mean I could just show you our pictures from my trip to Penshaw Monument, which I took with the blog in mind, but I may as well throw everything together.

Yesterday, I was sent to a Secondary (high) School to do supply teaching. Now, mind you, I’m an English teacher and they said they needed “general cover” which included P.E. (I don’t even like sports, guys.) I agreed because there’s only three more weeks of work left that I can take for this school year. When I got there (in my blouse and trousers and sensible, Born strappy shoes) they tried to send me to do boys’ P.E. I was like, “No. The teaching agency said I was supposed to be here because there was girls’ P.E. I needed to cover.” So, they found a male teacher to watch the boys play cricket, I was sent up to watch a Textiles class.

The first class was fine, but the second class, P.E. was different. There was another girl working for the agency who had on a track suit to teach P.E. I had on my purple coat, and was carrying my little, foldable water bottle with Hello Kitty on it. (Substitute teachers rarely get access to a kitchen, a cup, or anything that would allow them to have a drink throughout the day, so I bought a foldable bottle for a kid’s lunchbox to keep in my bag. The fact that it’s Hello Kitty has gotten much attention at schools.) Anyway, there was a Department Head of P.E. who barked at me, “What are you doing, carrying that thing around?” I just asked, calmly, “My water bottle?” She said something about that being okay, and carried on. Don’t know what her deal was with that. When we got into the locker room to tell the students that I’d be taking over the class, she massacred my last name like four times, trying to make it Pickerton, Pickton, Pinkton, and so on. When I told her it was just P-I-C-K, she just blankly stared at me. Whatever.

So I had to stand outside in the wind and cold (Summer here is 55F on a “mild” day), and watch Year 7 girls play Rounders. It’s what baseball started from. There’s no mitt, or ball diamond. No one is sliding into second or making a home run. Just about as boring as watching baseball, in my opinion.

At breaktime, I sat in this little cafe area and listened to much older students tell cafeteria workers to go to Hell when they were told to sit or calm down. Charming. At lunch, I had to sit in the lobby alone (at least I had a place to sit) and eat as kids were about as disrespectful to the cafeteria workers there. That stuff use to not bother me, or shock me, but now that I’ve been in schools were people take no crap, it ticks me off to see kids get away with that kind of behaviour.

Case in point: 3rd Period P.E. I went back to the girls’ locker room, and waited as the only regular P.E. teacher on site tried to get girls into their exercise clothes. A handful of them didn’t bother bringing their P.E. Kit, so they had to be issued new sweat pants. I heard Year 8 girls say things like, “What do you expect me to do with these?” or “I’m not wearing those!” Also, in that same, large locker where the sweatpants were, they had to lock up phones, and purses, including mine, with a big padlock. (Red flag!) The girls would be told to give their phone to the teacher so she could put it in the locker. Girls rudely refused. “I’m not giving you my phone!” Fine, get your crap stolen, is what I thought. Me and the other supply teacher would just look at each other like, “Did you hear how that girl spoke to her?” One girl on the field told her teacher, “You’d better make up your mind,” when she was trying to chose teams. Seriously? I guess the kids are so rude like that, that nobody does much to even fight them. If they were with our Teacher Assistants at my little Primary School, they’d be given all sorts of Hell for talking to an adult like that. The girls were even asking the other supply teacher if she was a gypsy, if she had a gypsy boyfriend or girlfriend, and all sorts of stupid crap like that. Ugh. I can’t even imagine dealing with that again every day.

But the kicker was…the fire drill. There I was, standing in the little entry way of the girls’ locker room, when the fire alarm went off. Four groups of Year 8 and Year 10 girls took off running, screaming, and giggling, and slammed right into me by the doorway. I was thrown up against a wall and the only reason I didn’t fall flat was because there were chairs next to me. Plus, they kept running into me. So I was trapped and I panicked a bit, thinking about stampedes at music concerts and how easily that can happen. The teacher said nothing to them as I was almost knocked down, thrown into the wall and the chairs, and the girls, obviously didn’t even notice…or care.

I almost left after that because even though I was at some tough schools in Florida, none of the kids has ever physically done anything to me, accident or otherwise. Those kids just seemed completely out of control, and I didn’t want to be around them at all after that. Even when they all went to the tennis courts to report for their fire drill, I made sure to stay outside of the fence because I didn’t want the whole school taking off running again and knocking me over.

Since I only had an hour and a half left, I stayed, but I ended up late for the last English lessons because they had put me all the way over in the Sports Unit. Also, everything had to be locked, so I couldn’t get my purse back until the other supply teacher brought back the key. She had to lock up all the equipment, even though they’d use it again for the next lesson. Every bathroom I tried to go in to was locked – handicapped, girls’ and faculty toilets. All the classrooms had to be locked as well. Again, that’s a huge red flag to me that they can’t trust any students.

When I finally found my way back to the English class, some teacher had taken over and called up front, looking for me. (Why in heck they didn’t know where I was is beyond me, but that’s organization for you.) For the last lesson, I sat with some Year 7 kids who could have cared less about writing a horror story (and at this point, I didn’t give a crap what they did as long as they stayed in their seats which was hard enough as is.) Before I was even out the door, I knew I didn’t want to come back there.

This was the same school were I interviewed at and the Headteacher walked out five minutes after I’d started my mini-lesson. After experiencing that, the barking P.E. coach, and some lady who pushed me out of the way to sign in on the visitor registration book even though I was trying to look up my car tag number on my phone to fill out on my own sign-in sheet. I have a feeling that rudeness isn’t all in the kids’ behaviour. (I really should have said something to all of those people but, again, the Englishness of “keep it to yourself and get on with it” suits my lack of confrontation habits too much.)

The best part is: this school is “Outstanding” – the highest rating a school can get. They also have awards for the arts as well, I think. Amazing, isn’t it? It seems like a miserable place to work; a big school full of a bunch of people who don’t want to be there. I felt bad for telling the teaching agency to not send me there for supply work at all again. Other supply teachers there said the kids are never good, so I was surprised that the teaching agency said they’d never gotten such feedback about this “nice, big school.” Maybe people put up with more than I do these days, but, again, after being at nice schools with happy staff and happy children, I don’t want to bother being in a volatile atmosphere.

My main concern is my back. I already pay a chiropractor each week to make sure everything is all aligned. My vertebrae is tender to the touch when I have my spine examined, so I am not going to risk getting slammed by one of those big, teenaged boys, and being out of commission for a week.

But I was assured that they wouldn’t send me to that school again. After being at that school for a day, I’m glad I didn’t get that job when I interviewed a few months ago. I’m glad that I found Primary School teaching and schools where people are friendly and welcoming. I can wait for a nice job at a nice school now.

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