A supply horror story

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Teacher Tom French on a week of behaviour that he would rather forget.

A few weeks ago, I contacted a local school with a teacher shortage and offered my services. I figured that as an A-level examiner for two boards and two subjects, maybe I had something to offer. These are extracts from a diary I kept during the first five days.

Day one I roll up to the room without any introduction to find a Year 11 group.

They are surprised to have a teacher. Apparently they have not had one for several weeks. Most pay little attention, simply moaning and swearing at each other... "Have you done anything lately, bitch?" "Fuck off," comes the response.

Day two A teacher in registration is showing two girls their detention slip. They want to keep it but the teacher says no. "Then you can fuck off." The teacher tries to remonstrate. "Just fuck off," says one girl and walks out.

She is 15.

Year 11 again. One boy eats sandwiches and chips. I eject him and ask another to stay behind at break. "No way," he says. I give up.

Day three Two pupils in the sixth form. Their work is almost entirely computer-based, but it takes 40 minutes to get the computers started.

Day four Sixth form again. They have not done any of the homework set five days ago.

I ask them why. They give no reason.

Day five I decide today I no longer want to teach Years 10 and 11. Why? During an hour in a Year 11 class pupils pelt each other with staples and ask to be thrown out as they are bored. Many have no books or paper - including notes and worksheets I gave out last time. When I ask some to leave, they stand outside banging on the door.

A pupil employed to do cleaning says how tidy the room is. "Usually tiles are ripped from the ceiling, computers vandalised, mice have bits missing, chairs are overturned and there's litter on the floor." Perhaps my zoo-keeping achieved something.

Tom French taught at a school in the Midlands. He writes under a pseudonym

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today