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Supply Agency

Matthew Staples


I knew it would be a struggle. I didn’t even go to my PGCE graduation as I rarely allow

myself to enjoy ‘the moment’, which is most likely why my psychologist had me take part in

mindfulness at the start of every session I had with him, to be ‘in the moment’. Not dwell on

the past and worry about the future. Everyone else on my cohort went to the graduation,

they seemed to be in the moment, enjoying their newly qualified teacher status. I was

worrying about the future immediately. Who would employ someone who has mental health

difficulties? Sure, universities are more than happy to take the three grand a year off me,

four grand for my masters, but what about when it comes to an employer paying me with a

mental health disability? I knew it was a totally different situation. Reality had well and truly

sunk in as soon as I had received my graduation invitation.

My parents wanted to go, they were proud, but I had made up my mind, I wasn’t going. They

tried to persuade me to go, big mistake. The trigger had been pulled, I wasn’t going and my

parents wanted to. Out comes the rage. I lock myself in my room like a 5-year-old child,

screaming and shouting “Yeah you might be proud now but you won’t be so fucking proud

when nobody will employ me, will you?” I lash out. I punch my bed several times and bury

my head into the pillow and scream into it. The rage subsides and tears begin to flow and I

cry into my pillow. Then the thoughts, oh God the thoughts. “You won’t ever get a job. Once

your parents die, you won’t have them to rely on. You will be on the streets with no job, no

friends, and no relationship, just nothing”. Hardly the types of thought processes I can

imagine most people who have a degree, masters and a newly qualified teacher status. I

have to go to sleep, it is the only way I can get away from my constant self-bullying when I

get to that stage. One of the symptoms that my psychologist mentioned of borderline

personality disorder is having a constant worry of being alone. Not having, or struggling to

find employment only adds to making that worry a reality in my mind.

The problem was, my worries did become apparent. Several job applications and not even a

single interview. I did include my Citalopram medication on the application forms. Was that a

factor in me not receiving a job interview? After all, it is a competitive market out there.

I decided to look for some supply teaching agencies. I contacted one which was

recommended to me by a colleague at the school I volunteered at with whom I kept in touch

with. There was no application form, just a number to ring to register my interest. I was given

an appointment to speak to an advisor. When I got there, I sat in the reception area and felt

fine. I was told that they even offer work to non-qualified teachers for less money so it was

guaranteed I would receive work due me being qualified. I was warmly greeted by a blonde

woman who offered her hand and gave a friendly smile. We proceeded up a flight of stairs to

her office. We had a chat about my background and qualifications. She was impressed. She

had attended the same university for her degree where I did my PGCE and was therefore

aware of the reputation the university had in sport. She offered me £95 per day as opposed

to £85 that most qualified teachers are offered, but she also took into account my masters

qualification. “We will be offering you a lot of work as we don’t have many supply Physical

Education teachers on our books, especially ones as qualified as you” she said.

I was finally asked me to fill out a medical questionnaire. I hesitated, but wrote down my

Citalopram medication as I didn’t want to lie and I didn’t think it mattered due to the

conversation we just had.

“Citalopram, what is that for?” she asked. “It is to help control my depression and anxiety, I

have been taking it for about four years” I responded. “Okay that’s fine. Could you excuse

me for just a minute?”

As the woman left the room I sat for probably about five minutes swinging on my chair and

browsing the décor of the room. She came back and said “right, that’s all gone through fine. I just need you to get a signed doctors note to confirm you are fit for this type of work”. I

looked at her with what must have been a very quizzical look. “Is that really necessary? I

think my teaching qualification outlines that I am fit to do this type of work” I responded. “Well we have to think about the kids, don’t we?” she concluded.

I got home with my mum greeting me and asking “when do you start, Matt?” “I don’t” I

snappily replied, knowing that there was no way I would be getting a call for any supply

teaching with that agency. “I’m off to my room” I shouted, and I went to sleep for a few hours, to get away from the reality. My reality. When I am asleep I pause briefly from falling deeper into the abyss and the suicidal ideation. The realisation that my parents, would be better off without me.

I did indeed get my GP to provide the teaching agency with a note and the agency did

contact me to say they had received the note and they would contact me in due course to

arrange my first supply job. But it never came...


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