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I'm available… why don’t they call me?

Gillian Anstee explains why five casual teachers
earned a place on her ‘never call that one again’ list

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In general, casual teachers are outstanding in the provision of excellent education at short notice. But there are exceptions, and these are the casuals that wonder why schools don’t call them again.

Having been a principal in schools over 10 years, I have experienced some puzzling and interesting behaviours and attitudes from casuals… and here are a few of my favourites.

You slapped a student
Yes. You read that correctly. A casual teacher had been on playground duty and asked a student to complete a task for her. The student refused.

He continued to have a conversation as to why he was not complying with her request.

The teacher became more and more agitated and finally slapped the student on the face. She returned to class and did not mention the incident to anyone and the first I, as principal, became aware of the incident, was when the parent arrived at my office to complain that her child had been hit by a teacher.

I immediately summoned the casual and discussed the incident with her. She defended her behaviour. She made it clear to me that the student had been belligerent and disrespectful; she believed that her only course of action had been to slap him. There was no remorse, and even after a lengthy discussion she refused to apologise to the parent and the student.

And the situation escalated, though I managed to encourage the parent to return home. The teacher refused to write a letter of apology; the last straw was when I received a letter from her, explaining her behaviour and continuing to see no fault in it.

We did not call again.

You made a mess and you didn't clean up
You dropped a plate of food in the staff room and did not clean it up. This casual was summoned urgently to playground duty because she was late. She stood up from her lunch, bumped the plate off the table and walked out of the room. It would have been a natural response to ask a colleague to clean the mess. Or perhaps to come back later and clean it herself. But she didn’t.

We did not call again.

You didn’t turn up
You didn’t come to at school after you had accepted a position for the day because you were too upset. It turned out that this casual did not come to school because her pet dog had died during the night and she was too upset to come to class.

But she didn’t call the school until 8:30am the next morning. This very late notice made it extremely difficult to find another casual teacher for the class. Even though we understood fully that she was distressed, earlier and more convenient notice would have been beneficial.

We did not call again.

You went to the beach to catch a few waves
This teacher was a keen surfer and decided to ignore his previous acceptance of a day's casual work and go surfing. Unfortunately for him, he drove his partner, a permanent classroom teacher, to the school in the morning. He was seen driving her into the school car park with a surfboard on top of his car and then bidding her farewell. 

We did not call again. 

You set the tests but you didn’t mark them
You taught the class for the day and gave the students many tests. But you did not mark any of them; you left the piles of paper on the desk for the class teacher to deal with.

We did not call again.

What makes the ideal casual teacher?

  • The ideal casual teacher will always leave a record of the activities and tasks that have been completed during the school day. Any exams or tests will be marked.
  • Any unusual behaviours from students or important messages from colleagues will be recorded on a document that is left on the desk so when the classroom teacher returns, she can be up to speed swiftly.
  • Casual teachers are recommended to look at the teaching program to ensure that the curriculum concepts they cover are relevant and will aid the completion of necessary and required program activities.
  • As a casual teacher leaves, say a grateful farewell to the deputy principal, principal or the assistant responsible for hiring casual staff. Compliment the school on its students and hospitality and the staff culture; this is always welcome!

The ideal casual teacher will always be called back by the school and the not-so-hot will be left wondering why the phone doesn’t ring.

Gillian Anstee is a former school principal, a lecturer at Southern Cross University and a researcher at University of Technology Sydney.

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