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Admiration for Primary Supply Teachers

Lyn was persuaded to head into the primary classroom for a day. Find out what she thought! 

I am, by training, a modern languages teacher but am happy, when those nice people at Protocol Education call, to do general supply and bluff my way through history, food science, whatever.

However, the other day even my highly developed bluffing skills were put to the test when Protocol Education's Bristol primary desk ran out of supply teachers one day. At first I refused citing my only primary experience as teaching French to Key Stage 1 classes. But someone who is good at selling services to schools proved equally good at selling a gig to a reluctant supply teacher and I succumbed on condition that I had a classroom assistant to tell me what was what.

This is where I have to express the utmost admiration for primary supply teachers. At the end of the day I was exhausted both mentally and physically. My lack of knowledge of what to expect from a Year 3 class didn't help. What standard of writing was acceptable? Should I be able to read it? Which mostly I couldn't though I was able to work out how you learn to add up big numbers these days which apparently doesn't involve 'carrying' anything to the next column of figures.

My 'classroom assistant' turned out to be a charming young man who took PE and games throughout the school but had no more idea than me about classroom practice. However he knew the children and was respected by them and was able to help me with the minutiae of the daily routine like the fact that I could not go home at the end of the day until every child had been collected by their parents. At three twenty-nine and fifty-five seconds the last mum hurtled into view; there is no secondary I work at that goes on beyond three-fifteen.

Yet even if my pedagogical knowledge at this level had been adequate the sheer inexorability of the experience would have worn me out.  he thirty pupils were delightful and co-operative and well-behaved but there were always hands up. In the whole day there was no quiet moment to just sit and watch them work. There wasn't even any escape at breaktime because it was raining.

So, hats off to my colleagues in the primary sector. Teenagers might often be obstreperous but you know the lesson will come to an end and you won't see that particular group again that day. I dread to think how I would have managed had my Year 3 class been difficult.

Do you have something to say of your supply colleagues? Share it with us my emailing Megan ( 

Tags: Lyn, Bristol, Secondary, supply

Category: Australian Teachers

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