First encounters

6th July 2001 at 01:00
Jean Eunson has taught them all - in her first two years

"Is it hard being a teacher?" an eight-year old asked me recently. He then asked his mother: "Is it hard being a mum?" Perceptive questions for one so young. Actually, the first two years of my career have been a test of stamina. I've had no long-term posts, so I'm only now nearing the end of my career entry profile - ludicrous when I reflect on the experiences I have had doing consolidated periods of supply teaching, including two maternity covers.

Yes, I've taught the Ritalin kid, the seven-year old who stuffs coats down the toilet, and the child whose only pair of shoes are so tight that he tries to cut a hole in the toes. I've been in a school where supply staff don't do playtime duty because the children know how to take advantage. I've seen a member of staff so stressed that she's resorted to Prozac. I've taught in a school not long out of special measures with new head and scary sidekick responsible for "raising standards". No room here for learning how to escort children down the corridor in a silent regiment. I even tried a whole-class session making Roman-style clay pots. I will never do this again - the room took weeks to recover and the long-suffering cleaner was hauled into the head's office for spending too long in my classroom.

I've even committed the ultimate crime of leaving a child behind in the toilet on a school trip. Why can't children control their bladders?

Some people might say that supply teachers have it easy. They can walk away and relinquish responsibilities in the wink of an eye. If only life were so simple.

As a supply teacher you have to imbibe the routines and practices of individual schools even before you arrive in the morning. And if you're lucky enough you might, like me, be working on long-term supply with the Of-word looming large. But what have I to be frightened of with my colourful and varied experiences?

I will show my mettle!

Jean Eunson is an NQT in Newcastle upon Tyne. From September she will teach in a CE primary in Gateshead

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