I’m feeling a little rant-y tonight.
A week or two ago, I was working at a school where I don’t have may connections. During my prep I went down to the staff room to use my time wisely (read my book) and lo and behold I found a few other lonely supply teachers there too. They were all dispersed throughout the room, so I decided to be social and strike up a conversation with one of them. I saw down at a table with a woman about my age, and we began chatting about work. We shared our work histories and war stories, then shyly compared how much work we’ve been getting. She was relieved to hear that I’ve been working as much as I want to, and have even turned down calls, as she was in the same boat.
Then she told me about the Facebook group.
She began telling me about this group she’d found for occasional teachers in our board, and rolled her eyes at the amount of complaining and moaning that went on in the group.
Naturally I grabbed my phone, looked it up and requested to join right then and there. I’ve been in this group now for almost two weeks, and I have had to hold myself back from posting anything because I don’t think it would be very nice. There are a few genuine questions here and there, but so many of the posts I see come up are people complaining about the lack of work, or the “undesirable” calls they’ve been getting. These are people who have been on the supply list for like two minutes, and expect immediate full time “cushy” work.
I guess there have been so many complaints about the distribution of work that the union is now involved. I found out that some schools have been advised by the union that they are not allowed to request supply teachers anymore–all calls are supposed to go through the automated system to keep it equitable and fair.
Do you want to know what’s fair?
I worked so hard to get where I am today. This is my eighth year of occasional teaching. When I graduated teacher’s college, we moved to this area on nothing but a 3 month contract for M and a lot of hope it would be extended. He was the first one to even get a job offer, so we had to accept it. I had zero connections in this school board, so I did what I had to and got to work. I applied to the school board every four weeks for a year. I volunteered at a local high school to make connections. I took courses at night to build up my resume, and worked part time at a little grocery store stocking shelves and scrubbing toilets to help make ends meet. Money was tight and it was not where I wanted to be.
But I wanted to teach so I put in the work.
After a year of all that, I was offered an interview and finally, finally got on the supply list. My first few months I had calls that were all over the place. I would drive 45 minutes one way to get to a school, took calls that were at challenging schools, and accepted every call that came my way, even if it was way outside of my teachable subject. I am about the last person you’d want to teach accounting or math, but I happily accepted those as well as boys gym, computers, tech and anything else they needed someone for. I took the classes I knew were behavioral, and have had much more than curse words hurled at me–I’ve dodged paper planes, glue sticks, a stapler and a desk.
But if a call came, I took it.
I was also willing to take on whatever the school needed help with. Would I have rathered sit in a staff room and read a book? Sure. Instead I did whatever was asked of me. I often donated my prep time to cover other classes, helped with supervision, filed report cards and sorted book rooms. I made sure that I was friendly and the best at my job, and slowly but surely the random calls all over the board shifted to requests to a few of my favourite schools. It was not an easy ride to get to that place, but I worked hard for eighteen months to get it.
So, today I saw someone complaining about being asked to cover a supervision that may or may not have been outside what the union says we have to do. This same person has complained more than once about the lack of work they are getting, and then complained about the work they did get.
I mean, come on.
I understand financial responsibilities and paying bills and all of that. I really do. It’s why I took a part time job at a grocery store to help make ends meet. I’m still paying back my student loans I accumulated over the five years of my post secondary education. I know it’s frustrating to have to wait to build yourself up in a career.
But you know what else is frustrating?
Seeing others expect the work I’m now getting after being in the board for two weeks. I don’t mean to sound entitled, but I worked hard to get here and baby, I’ve earned it. I don’t expect others to have to endure the same hardships I went through to get a foot in the door, but just… approach the job with a little gratitude. We have the best job in the entire world. Honestly. It’s hard, exhausting and so much work… but it is also so rewarding and incredibly fun. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I know not everyone will feel this way… but I struggle a little with that because my road to get here has been so uphill. I didn’t give up because I knew unequivocally that this was what I wanted to do. I knew it was worth the struggle.
But now I feel like I’m summiting the mountain, and it’s all been worth it. I am thoroughly enjoying life as a part-time supply teacher who is often requested by my favourite schools, and I refuse to feel bad about it. Especially when I have heard from multiple secretaries that jobs are going unfilled because supply teachers aren’t accepting them or making themselves available.
So, to all those complainers in the Facebook group: getting started is hard, and the climb can be brutal. But if you dig in, keep putting one foot in front of the other, do the work and do it well, you will reach the top. So stop complaining, go volunteer on your days off and take every job that comes your way, whether you like it or not.
It’s all worth it in the end. :)