Balancing a split teaching post is not a part-time commitment; everyone needs to know their place, what is required and work in equilibrium, writes one job-sharer.
Job sharing sounds deceptively straightforward: split a job down the middle, or 6040, or whatever your agreed work split might be. However, five weeks in, I am beginning to suspect that the reality is a little more intricate, in teaching at least.
My job partner and I started, towards the end of the summer term, by planning how we would manage our handover each week; how we would report succinctly on the state of the Primary 7 class we were taking; who was fine, who was coping and who was not.
We focused on behaviour management, agreeing that academic matters would be picked up by each of us in our areas. We agreed on a traffic light system so that, at a glance, either of us could see which children had been flying high the day before, which had been on the verge of losing it and who had been sufficiently off target to earn themselves a red card. Then we put everyone back to green for a fresh start.
This does not obviate the need for our diary, for noting down the major points of the day before to bring each other up to speed. So, now we are beginning to wonder about the traffic light system.
Our headteacher sees it as a deficit model, an all-too-obvious illustration of an unfortunate's behaviour on the slide, while we both feel confident that children can work their way back to green. Fortunately, most of our pupils stay permanently on green, and we are beginning to wonder whether coloured bits of card have much effect on those who constantly challenge our leadership and taunt selected peers to fight. It seems that the loss and winning back of golden time is really the spur to taking some responsibility for their actions. So, given that we are writing handover reports and meeting once a week anyway, our lights may not survive beyond half-term.
I wonder whether we should have started our planning with "planning". This is where we have fallen down so far in our management's eyes.
The school's planning system is new to me. With my usual ostrich-like approach to paperwork, I looked through the maths and language planning folder and chose what I would focus on. In maths, these are shape, position and movement and information handling; in language, reading and grammar. I highlighted bits and shut the file. I then forgot to return to it for health, art and information technology. Not impressive, particularly to the head, who wondered why she had been given a half-complete planning folder.
Now my job-share partner feels the head should have done some planning induction with me, as a new colleague, and the head reportedly agrees. The truth is, I should have looked through the planning folder carefully myself.
So far, though, I have had my two days a week full, delivering those areas of the curriculum we have agreed on and seeking to establish a positive ethos in the classroom. I am determined that this part-time job is not going to stretch and fill more and more of my time. I'm working part-time because I want more life to myself and more energy for my family. I also have another part-time job.
Establishing a positive ethos has been far harder than I imagined. I knew a little about my class through working at the school as a supply teacher. It is formed from the larger part of last year's composite P5P6, with a few children from the notoriously difficult other P6 class. It was widely agreed that class should be split because of some violent personality clashes and the relatively large proportion of children with emotional, personal and social difficulties.
My class has found it hard to absorb some of the incomers and what was a very peaceable group has turned into a frequently seething cauldron. While a few new friendships are being formed, the bitterness between some of the incomers continues and they have found willing recruits to join the cheer-leading.
I suspect some of the children still view themselves as incomers. Add to this two teachers instead of one and there are more than enough reasons for some fragile equilibriums to be upset.
We teachers console ourselves by saying these are tiny changes compared to the upheaval they will all face next year as S1s, but that does not make things any more straightforward now.
It is quite hard to know the best way of maintaining a similar style of behaviour management between job-sharers. We are very different teachers with our own styles. What I will tactically turn a blind eye to might be picked up by my partner, and vice versa.
My biggest challenge at the moment is preventing the slide which I perceive on a Thursday morning; the children's attitude is that when they see me they can start free-wheeling to the weekend. An astute colleague observed this as the likely state of affairs. I am grateful to her, because I have since been putting my foot down. It might be Thursday but it's heads down until Friday afternoon. Otherwise, we would be allowing nearly half the children's school time to ebb away, with a vocal proportion feeling prematurely demob happy.