For the most part, I've enjoyed the supply work: It gives me a chance to see what other great teachers are doing, and what's happening in other schools. But today taught me a lesson I hope I'll remember when I return to teaching full time in the fall...
I biked to the school and arrived a good half hour early like a good little supply teacher, so that I'd have time to take a brief tour of the school, review the supply plans and prepare for the students' arrival.
Alas, the office administrator was just arriving as I was, and was rather grumpy at having to deal with me, an unknown entity. Further, as seems to be increasingly the norm in our board, the school was short on supply teachers. To make matters worse, the VP hadn't arranged a "plan b" yet. All of this amounted to me sitting around in the office waiting to be told what to do, and the end result was that 7 minutes before the bell rang and the students entered, I still did not have a room key, a schedule, or a sense of where anything in the school was. And I still felt like I was being a nuisance by just being there.
Interestingly, two other occasional teachers I spoke with that morning indicated that this sort of disorganized, unwelcoming behaviour on the part of the office staff was not unusual, and -- further -- that the VP had recently been overheard saying to someone, "oh, they're just supply teachers"!
Moments before the bell rang, the young VP finally handed me a sheet of paper with no duties, but a whole bunch of names and room numbers, and I found myself running around from one end of the school to the other each period, trying to locate the various teachers whose classes I was covering.
Ironically, more than half of them hadn't even been made aware in advance that they were being released today. This additional miscommunication resulted in me teaching some rather interesting classes, including an intermediate health lesson on STDs!!! Thankfully, I've taught such topics many a time in the past, and was not afraid to take on the "question box" head on, and we tackled several anonymous questions together, including everything from "how do you know when your period is coming?" to "what happens if I don't get my period by the time I'm 16?" to "Do you need a man to get pregnant?"
The kids were -- for the most part -- awesome, and also I had brought one of my favourite picture books with me, which I read aloud with two of the classes had a chance to work with.
At lunch I attended my first GSA meeting. I'd heard of such organizations, but had never attended one in person. Two teachers and a diverse group of students ate their lunches together, chatted about upcoming World Pride in Toronto, and planned their year-end meeting/social gathering at school.
Despite the apparent lack of organizational systems in the office, I must say that overall, it was a pretty good day. (Even the VP scored some redemptive points by letting me park my bike in the Principal's office, and coming out at the end of the day to thank me for being there today.) Being incognito for once was kind of a neat experience.
I do empathize with school administration who are dealing with a shortage of OTs and last minute staffing scrambles . On the other hand, if today was any indication of how most schools "welcome" the average supply teacher, I can see why many OTs just don't bother picking up jobs!!! Having been an acting VP in the past, I know how critical it is to have organizational structures in place that enable graceful flow in such situations. And now, as an "acting" supply teacher, I know first hand how it feels when such flow is not happening!
I'm looking forward to a few more days of supply teaching before the end of June, and am debating if I should stick with schools I know, or whether taking the risk in new places is a good way to research my upcoming Summer Academy sessions for OTs! :))) In any case, I hope I will remember to take a few moments to welcome and support lost-looking OTs in my future schools when I am back to work full time in the fall.