When a teaching agency calls with work, they usually tell you the bare minimum about a position. Just like with the CIA, information is shared on a need-to-know basis, but that’s where the similarity ends. There is no sexy uniform, no one will gasp with excitement when you tell them your job. And as for secret weapons, you’ll be lucky if you get a whiteboard pen.
When trying to get you to agree to an assignment agencies almost often neglect to tell you important information about the school itself. For example that it’s in special measures or that the head has just had a nervous breakdown. They will often omit certain details about the class too, after all why spoil the surprise?
Telling you that you’ll have no Teaching Assistant with you or that three kids in the class have just returned to school after a week’s exclusion. might put you off the job. So why not just keep forgot that awkward little fact?
Once the Mother had undertaken an assignment only to find out when she arrived that the previous supply had walked out at lunchtime, the previous day. No one had heard from her since. In short, the Mother had learned to take what agencies say with a pinch of salt, she knew now from experience that they never gave you the whole story. In fact, sometimes they’d give you a different story altogether, more along the lines of The Sound of Music than Children of the Corn.
When you’re a supply teacher you learn quickly to read between the lines. Essentially if an agent describes the class as nice, then it was usually nice. But if an agent told you nothing at all about the school, well don’t think for a minute that this is because they have no information about it. That couldn’t be further from the truth, they probably had too much information on it! Bad news spreads fast. As a rule, if she was told nothing, the Mother proceeded, but with caution.
A couple of times, her agency had gone out on a limb and described a class as lively, another euphemism, they mean naughty! Rarely did she hear the word challenging being used. Actually, that wasn’t entirely true; in most schools, the term was muttered several hundred times a day, it was just never used by the staff at a recruitment agency, certainly not when trying to pitch a job to you.
Another thing you often don’t get told when you take on an assignment is how long it’s for. It might last a day, a month, a whole term, or even the whole year. As a rule the Mother usually says yes to anything even the one-day jobs; after all, it was still money. Plus, if the children at the school were surly, argumentative, and rude, at least she would never have to see them again.
Occasionally she landed a job for a whole year, and that was great too. A long-term assignment meant she was were much like a permanent member of staff only without any sick pay, holiday pay, or job security.
This week she had landed a job at a small inner-city school teaching Year One. The agency had described this particular school as ‘interesting,’ she wasn’t sure what that meant, but she could hazard a pretty good guess. She’d also been told that the job was for a week, maybe two or possibly for one whole term. Great though the Mother I’ll be working in an interesting school, I’ve never heard of, for an unknown amount of time. That’s just what I was looking for!
But after three days of being employed there, the Mother was already feeling that this might not be the school for her. In that short time, she’d been pushed to the limits of her sanity. She really felt that the children were trying to blow her mind, and not in a good way, not like in Door/Jimmy Hendrix kind of a way. She was beginning to wish she’d never set foot in Armageddon Primary School…..
Tune in on Monday 1 December for the next installment,