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Change supplies fresh ideas

Imagine, after 19 years experience in teaching, starting a new post that makes you so desperately unhappy that you decide to throw in the towel. If you had put this possibility to me at the beginning of last year I would have smiled smugly, quietly confident that this could never be happen to me.

But it did. I jacked the job in and became a casual supply teacher, a change which has transformed my attitude to young children's learning and the way primary schools are run.

In preparing for this new non-permanent status, I have to admit that I expected to be used, if not abused. I armed myself with rigorously prepared work, anticipating that I would arrive in classrooms with no set work, little guidance and frequent playtime duties. I was wrong on all counts.

Of course, in the event of a teacher suddenly being taken ill my preparation was invaluable, but I have been treated thoroughly professionally wherever I've been. And I haven't enjoyed my work so much in years.

But what has become glaringly obvious to me over the last two terms is that the tradition of one teacher to one class for the whole year is no longer the best way for primary schools to organise themselves. Last term (and still on a supply basis) I taught a class of Year 3 children for half the week; when I think of them I visualise them with question marks and light bulbs popping out of their heads at an ever increasing rate. Working with them was an absolute pleasure, greatly enhanced by my growing confidence and their enthusiastic response.

I am also feeling the benefit, including the social advantages, of moving around, getting to know more than one class of children. There is less likelihood of personality clashes which can be so damaging for teachers and pupils alike. For those who say that young children need the stability of one teacher I would suggest that we underestimate what our children are capable of and the advantages they can get from knowing several teachers well.

Meanwhile I'm dependent on the needs and finances of individual schools, so I'll reveal the only negative effect of supply teaching thus far - the rash of seasonal coughs and colds. But so long as I can stay healthy I'll benefit from other people's ills - a few extra days to see me through the Christmas season.

The writer is a supply teacher in the West Midlands.

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