Thank God it's Friday;Diary

8th October 1999 at 01:00
MONDAY Up at seven. I wait by the telephone in case of work. A letter from East Kent area office tells me that supply teacher lists will no longer be distributed to schools and advises me to join an agency, although it will pay only a basic rate.

TUESDAY The phone rings and I am called to teach for the afternoon at a church school. As I gather my bags, the phone rings again. "Can you make that only two hours?" I make for the door. Third call. "An hour-and-a-half? We'll mark the register." "Sorry," says the bustling secretary when I arrive, "but we must watch the budget."

WEDNESDAY A high school has booked me to teach drama. Favourite school. Favourite lesson. We re-enact the sinking of the Titanic. Pupils build its upper deck from desks and chairs. I play the music while, with minimum direction, they re-enact the plight of passengers and crew. Success comes from the confidence of the headteacher who regards his regular team of supply teachers as an additional resource. During the afternoon, I cover for maths, science and geography. Over the years I've chalked up 40-plus subjects, including Spanish, cookery, car maintenance, needlework, sex education and tennis.

THURSDAY I have a prior booking at a nearby primary. "Do you think you can cope with the literacy hour?" I'm an English teacher, actor and journalist, but I'm stumped. Creative writing doesn't count, I'm told. Disappointed, really, because I'd bought a bagful of conkers as inspiration for stories and poems. Instead we work from textbooks continuing a dull story.

FRIDAY A wet morning teaching in a mobile. It's the worst class in this large village primary and I struggle to establish control. I find out it's been given to a NQT. Not surprisingly, five weeks into his first term he is losing confidence and is taking today off to learn behavioural management.

Saturday Work into the night on proofs for my book. Past midnight there's a commotion outside. My name is called, followed by "You bastard". A firework taped to a stone hurtles through the downstairs window. The glass is smashed, curtains torn, woodwork scorched. The police treat it as attempted arson by three school-leavers whom, they deduce, I must have offended. Sometime, somewhere. Spend Sunday clearing up. Still, I'm a teacher and, says Mr Blunkett, I mustn't complain.

Gregory Holyoake is an actor, writer and supply teacher in East Kent

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,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today