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My Other Job: Chris Thomson, teaching assistant

Chris Thomson. Photo: Pat Kelman Photography Chris Thomson. Photo: Pat Kelman Photography
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What’s your other job?

For the past four years, I’ve been an agency teaching assistant. I mainly work in special needs schools, but have also covered mainstream primary and secondary schools. At certain times of year I get exam invigilation thrown my way as well, which (although a bit dull) is the easiest gig in the world.

How and when did you get into it?

It was recommended to me by an actor friend just after I had moved to London. I had tried a handful of other ‘go-to’ resting jobs and was desperate for something that didn’t make me want to blow my brains out when I got up in the morning.

What happens if you get an audition?

I essentially work on a day-to-day basis. While this means work is not always guaranteed, I have now built up relationships with the agency and proved my worth to several schools, all whom ask for me on a regular basis. If I know I have an audition, I simply say I’ll be off that day. If I’ve been booked and need to cancel at late notice, that’s absolutely fine too; there’s always someone else the agency can send. I try not to make a habit of short notice though, as the key to this job working well for me is to make sure I’m good for business.

And what if one of those auditions turns into an acting job?

Several times I have left the books for a while to go and do an acting job somewhere. A few weeks before I need work again, I’ll email and ask if they’re happy to have me back. So far, so good.

What makes it a good other job for you, as an actor?

It’s easy to plan your life when you know you will only ever be working Monday to Friday, and you’re always done by 4pm. It’s super flexible too. Oh, and you mostly work with lovely people – no target-driven floor managers breathing down your itchy, branded polo neck.

Do you use any of your performance skills?

Actors are perfect for it, especially where special needs students are concerned. Most of the job is about communication, listening to and observing the children and working out the best way to get them to a result – whether that be learning a spelling or being able to sit down for 10 seconds.

And does doing it help you as an actor?

Observation, communication… and teaching is a performance, without a doubt.

What other ‘other’ jobs have you had?

Chugger: horrible; lasted four days. Promo work: enjoyable, but dull and not regular enough. Telesales: good at it, but hated it.

Would you recommend your ‘other’ job to other actors?

Absolutely, highly recommended. Advice? Don’t do it if you hate kids or bodily fluids. Otherwise, just give it a crack. I have a few friends who dipped their toes in reluctantly and found that they absolutely loved it.

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