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Friday, March 03, 2006

From Across the Pond...

After two weeks with no sub assignments, I start to think I should change my “willing to attempt” list to include the middle and high schools.

Then I wander across news articles like the one listed below and think I’m doin’ just fine right where I am with the little kids.

Here are a few of the more memorable excerpts from the story of an undercover reporter in London working as a supply teacher. (We call them substitute teachers here…). This article is a year old, so I guess things could have improved since then.

British Undercover Sub
By Julie Henry on
Filed: 03/07/2005

“…At one school, I was calmly advised by a female colleague to lock the classroom door while I was teaching, to "protect" myself and my class from the marauding groups in the corridors.”

“…I tried to teach them but had been left with no real instructions. In the worst example of this lack of planning, I was handed a scrap of paper with "draw a picture of your favourite food" written on it - that was for a class of 14-year-olds for an entire hour.”

“…When Ofsted inspectors arrived the week after for a two-day visit, however, the school was suddenly transformed….The mystery was solved by a classroom assistant who told me in a hushed exchange in the lavatory that more than 20 of the most difficult pupils had been sent on a "day trip".

“…On my first day, I was told to "f*** off" by a 13-year-old boy. In my shocked naivety, I said: "You can't say that to me." He responded with a self-satisfied: "I just did.”

"…You can walk into any classroom at random and there isn't much learning going on because of various forms of disruption," he said. "When they tell their parents of their experiences, I'm surprised that the parents don't take action. I mean, I certainly would."

“…It is true that I had one of my best lessons at the school, behaviour was invariably good and children were learning. At this school, the behaviour balance seems to have gone to the other extreme, under the Government's banner of "zero-tolerance". Staff called pupils "total scum" after an incident of vandalism, and shouted at them to "bugger off, go home, we don't want you". In another incident, recalled by a colleague, 25 children were made to sit in the hall for three days. Just sit there, with no work.”


Fred said...

I'm still amazed you don't get sub assignments on a regular basis.

ivan said...

The problem you face in substituting only in elementary schools is that there is usually a larger pool of substitutes from which to draw for each assignment. Fewer substitutes are willing to risk their psychological well-being, and make themselves vulnerable in the high schools. When I first started substituting in the high schools, I was so nervous that I had to go to the bathroom before each day's assignment. Gradually, it has become easier and there is not the same palpable fear that existed before.
It is a great deal less wasteful of my energy to teach in high schools than in elementary schools. One usually teaches 5 periods, has one off, and one sees a group of students for an hour or less and then on to the next group. In the elementary schools, you are with them for the entire day.
If you were starving and had no choice, you would try high school substituting. Pretend that you are starting and have no choice.
The journalist's article is not indicative of the kind of classes you will have in California. Once the students see that you are not afraid, and that will take time, you'll find teaching the high school students more rewarding and far easier than elementary schools. It took me several years to find that out. I too started out only accepting elementary school assignments.


The MAN Fan Club said...

If you could pick and choose the upper grade assignments then do it. I know the at risk kids and special ed. kids feast on subs, especially at a school with little behavior consequences.

I like working with the little kids.