I am not a TV show style doctor, nurse or surgeon on call but still have to sleep with a mobile phone by my head. Every morning a series of three staggered alarms go off around 7.20 and then sometime after that, I hope for the call.
Being a supply teacher is living in a world of uncertainty and having the ability to act on the spur of the moment. Every night I have work clothes laid out, a smartish bag packed with a timesheet and things to amuse myself, my lunch prepared for the next day and the phone and alarms laid out next to me.
When you are a student in school, you have no idea how hard teachers work and how much they have to contend with, in terms of poor behaviour, work load, paper work, unsupportive parents/colleagues and difficult parents. On top of all of this, disgruntled children can apparently now review your performance on ratemyteacher.com.
Being a teacher is a juggling act but being a supply teacher is a whole different ball game. If you have never been one, you will probably have some idea of the amount of crap you have to take but not this bizarre night and morning ritual that is gone through, regardless of whether there is work to be had or not.
When I get the call, I have to quite literally jump into action, showering and grooming myself at top speed to get to wherever I am sent to “asap”. With no money for iphones, I don't have the luxury of maps so rely on a series of directions sent via text messages from the agency. Up until a few weeks ago, the agency who actually ring me and offer work had only ever sent me to two schools but now having been to a couple of others I feel like a proper supply teacher.
Every school I have been to has been different – one is all girls, another mixed, one is all boys, some have six lessons while others have five, some give you a free school dinner and the strangest of all I have encountered was a mixed school I went to where lessons were single sex. Each of these schools has one thing in common – they aren't even vaguely as “challenging” as the school I spent a five year prison sentence working at and my arrival at each classroom is always met with joyous cries of “supply”.
I am always amazed that despite being a temporary entity and covering a whole host of subjects I know nothing about from P.E. to Spanish, Geography, Science and Technology, I never get as much grief as when I worked in one place as permanent staff. Another thing I have noted is the difference between single sex male and female schools; In all girls schools pupils can be incredibly bitchy, whereas the boys I taught were rather stereotypically testosterone fuelled – two fights broke out two lessons running (in one a small boy kicked another in the head and then punched him). Being permanent staff is a bit like crowd control whereas supply is all about keeping them occupied – sometimes the work set has been either far too easy or difficult for the kids and I have no idea so am left to try to make-up another activity or just somehow keep them in their seats.
Now, as summer approaches, my days of supply are dwindling. I have gone from a seven week slot in one school to two or three days a week, down to one and now none – the salad I made on Sunday, ready for Monday's lunch still sits in the fridge on Thursday. Every day this week I have had an interrupted lie-in where I wake up feeling jet lagged. Sure supply can pay well and there is no marking or preparation but it's certainly not much good when no-one is ringing you! I now look forward to the coming weeks of being a "pent-house house wife", mooching around a sunny Leeds rooftop patio, writing the odd review and applying for any job vaguely suitable.