Day in the life

30th January 2009 at 00:00
Chris Penney is a supply teacher in Kent, with Select Education supply agency

As a supply teacher I often work in a different place every day of the week. Having previously spent 33 years in one school, that's quite a change. I switched to supply two years ago because I was fed up of the marking, preparation and paperwork. Now, I walk out at 3.15pm and my day is done. That's a wonderful feeling.

My supply agency is well organised and someone usually rings each afternoon to let me know where I'll be the following day. But there are times you don't get the call until 8.20am, and you just jump in your car and go. I travel all over Kent, anything up to an hour away. Sat-nav is a supply teacher's best friend.

When I arrive, the receptionist gives me the timetable for the day and a map of the school. Teachers often just leave worksheets for their classes, and all I have to do is hand them out and supervise. But I much prefer it if they've given me some real teaching to do, working through a topic with a class.

Discipline can occasionally be a problem. Pupils know you're going to be walking away at the end of the day, so sometimes push their luck. If things get out of hand I never hesitate to go next door and get a teacher from the school involved.

At lunchtime, I sit in a corner of the staffroom and eat my sandwiches on my own. Regular staff can be standoffish towards supply teachers, but occasionally I come across old colleagues and we sit and reminisce. At the end of the day, the head of department will sometimes thank you. Other times, you just slip away, unnoticed, and you're gone.

The agency can find me work almost every day. My specialist subjects are history and ICT, but I'll teach anything, and I've really enjoyed finding out what goes on in other subjects.

Pay works out at about Pounds 120 a day, which is less than when I was a regular teacher, but the fact that I don't take work home more than compensates. In fact, since I switched to supply I've been a different person, happier and more relaxed. Or as my daughter said to my wife: "Dad's nicer than he used to be."

Chris Penney, 56, was talking to Steven Hastings.

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