Supply teaching created an unexpected big issue

23rd March 2012 at 00:00


We have several students on placement at Greenfield Academy, and they bring a sense of enthusiasm that is all too often lacking in us older - if wiser - members of the profession. Alas, their enthusiasm is occasionally counterbalanced by their ignorance, as evidenced by the illiterate script I witnessed on my whiteboard after young Brian Gemmel had taken 2C this afternoon.

Up there, for all to see - and no doubt copy laboriously into their jotters - were Brian's instructions to "Give three examples of the poet's definate intentions to acommodate his wife's wishes". Followed by an essay task that suggested his pupils might "Imagine their's no heaven - how easy is it if you try?" Such appalling spelling in an English student hardly inspires hopes for Curriculum for Excellence literacy outcomes to be fulfilled in future English departments, let alone across the curriculum.


Matthew Park is furious. Our recently-appointed historyEnglish supply teacher (of two weeks yesterday) has found himself - for the third week in a row - in receipt of another "metaphorical kick in the goolies", as he explained to me at lunchtime.

"I can't believe it, Morris. Two weeks yesterday the council gave me four days' supply work to cover for illness until that Thursday. Not much, but you take what you can get after eight months without a proper job. Then they tell me on Friday that I've to report back to the history department on Monday, so could I come in for five days last week?"

"Well, that must have been welcome news?" I asked innocently.

"Up to a point. But if I'd been kept on for Friday, I'd have gone up to a fuller rate of pay after five days. They decided they'd manage without my cover for that extra day so they could keep me on the lower rate the next week, as a `new start' supply."

I voiced the opinion that he was unjustly ascribing Machiavellian qualities to the staffing department. "And even if you're right," I added, "the fact that you're back here for another five days in continuous employment must mean they've put you up to the proper rate now?" I paused, as his jaw tightened. "Doesn't it?" I asked nervously.

"No, it bloody well doesn't," he swore. "Because my post this week is as an English teacher, not history. So I start again, on the same crappy rate of pay that would see me better off stacking shelves at Asda. I'm thinking of going there instead."


Pauline MacDonald used an interesting disciplinary procedure today with Chelsea McFarlane, whose sole contribution in Pauline's modern studies lesson had been to mutter insulting and disruptive remarks, as well as the occasional foul-mouthed expletive about every task presented to her.

"Chelsea!" Pauline eventually snapped. "Are you going to take part in this lesson like the rest of the class, or aren't you?"

Chelsea shrugged, enjoying her chance to be the cynosure of all eyes, then spat roughly onto her jotter, which disgraceful behaviour Pauline interpreted as a reply in the negative. So she asked Chelsea to leave the room. Three times.

At which point, as Chelsea wouldn't leave the class, she invited the rest of the class to join her in the departmental base - a somewhat crowded gathering - and then went seeking Frank O'Farrell, her PT faculty. He in turn arrived to find Chelsea, alone and isolated in the middle of the classroom, looking slightly unnerved, and suggested she join him in a visit to see one of the senior management team.

It was a high-risk strategy that certainly paid dividends. Maybe these young teachers can teach us old ones something about behaviour management techniques after all.


Brian Gemmel asked me to cast an eye over his psychology case studies essay before handing it in to his tutor tomorrow afternoon.

It seemed a well-rounded piece of work, examining the treatment of ADHD children he had encountered in his school placements. Alas, Brian's spelling deficiencies look likely to cause him serious problems in his future career.

The thought of him explaining to a parent that their child had (and I quote) "Attention Defecate Hyperactivity Disorder" had me shuddering with (potentially scatological) alarm .


Matthew Park has resigned from supply teaching. I discovered this when I noticed a rough-looking chap at the school gates at lunchtime, surrounded by pupils, so went over to investigate.

To my astonishment, it was Matthew - selling copies of The Big Issue.

"Matthew!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing? Why aren't you ."

"I'm not in school because staffing told me I wouldn't be needed today," he explained. "But they asked if I could report for duty on Monday in the PE department. So I told them to bugger off."

And so, in a publicity venture that was (he said) about to attract the attention of several national newspapers, not to mention the BBC's Reporting Scotland, Matthew had invested a tidy sum of money in the complete stock of the Parkland Tesco's Big Issue vendor and had transported said magazines to our school gates - where he was apparently well on track for beating the daily rate of pay that he was being offered by the education authority, as pupils clustered around to offer their dinner money in support of a favourite teacher experiencing hard times.

I applauded his bravery - but scuttled away before Seonag Mackinnon and a camera crew could hove into view.

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