Whether you’re a new or aspiring teacher looking to expand your experience or an experienced teacher fed up with the admin of permanent teaching, supply teaching allows a lot of flexibility that a permanent position does not always offer. However, no one could deny that supply teaching comes with many challenges of its own. If you want to gather some supply teaching tips, here’s some advice that could prove to be a life-saver at your next placement, along with some essential things every supply teacher needs.
If possible, always arrive early. Some supply placements aren’t offered to you until the last minute so you can only arrive as soon as you are able. However, with placements offered to you in advance, or longer-term contracts, arriving early could be essential to how well you do. It gives you time to look at the lesson plan, get the register, find out how to login to the school computer system and where the staff room and the toilets are. Some schools have different entrances for staff and visitors so it’s good to give yourself some time to find your way around. It can also be helpful to ask for a copy of the health and safety/ fire procedures should you have to guide the class through an unfamiliar school during an alarm. A great school will support their supply teachers and provide many of these things automatically and promptly. If you can, look up the school’s website and recent Ofsted report before you go too which can give you an insight in to the strengths of the school and areas that need improvement.
Unfortunately, it’s common for supply teachers to be left without a lesson plan or with an unhelpfully vague, scrawled message on a post-it note to pass for one. This is why it’s a good idea to have a few emergency lesson resources and back-up lesson plans. This could be in the form of quizzes, activities or games if need be. Even some time-filler activities could save you from losing the attention of the class while you wait for resources to be brought to you or the computer system to load up. Look online for some life-saving time-fillers for supply teachers.
Supply teacher lessons are sadly notorious for bad behaviour with some students seeing it as a lesson off and an excuse to mess around, chat with their friends and pull the wool over the new teacher’s eyes. If you are undergoing a longer placement at the school, ask for a copy of the school’s behaviour policy so you’ll know what the usual procedures are with managing behaviour as well as who can help you if you need assistance. A copy of the seating plan can also be helpful.
In short term, short notice supply placements, behaviour can sometimes be difficult to manage, particularly in secondary schools. Remember that one of the advantages of supply teaching is a chance try out different behaviour strategies and build your confidence in establishing authority in the classroom as you become more comfortable with facing many new schools and different classes. Regularly coming in to new classes and facing unfamiliar pupils will build your resilience in dealing with difficult behaviour.
Supply teaching is an opportunity to build your confidence and resilience in the classroom
The TA is Your Best Friend
If you are lucky enough to have a TA in the class you’re covering, then it’s a good idea to utilise their knowledge. They will know the students, the rules and procedures and may be able to help you out. They will know if students are not in correct seats or whether there are certain students with statements or behavioural issues, for example. Be aware that some support assistants may be there for a particular child with special educational needs and may not always be in a position to assist you with some things if it means leaving the student they work with unattended.
Supply teaching is a flexible job that requires an equal amount of flexibility on your part. The ability to think on your feet is a big advantage in this job. For example, you may be able to adapt the lesson plan if you think it will engage the students a bit more. Putting specific supply teaching tips aside, general skills like quick thinking, proven capability and going the extra mile can make a good impression with schools which could lead to schools asking for you back or offering you longer contracts.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything; there’s only so much responsibility you should have to take on as a supply teacher so know your boundaries. Similarly, when working for an agency, it’s good to make your preferences and your limits clear so that they know exactly what you want and are able to do, including age groups and travel distance. The more you say yes, the more chances of work you’ll get but knowing when to say no will stop you being stretched too thin. That’s the beauty of supply work: it’s teaching on your terms.
Quick thinking and going the extra mile can make a good impression with schools
Sometimes supply teaching can get tough but if you are going to stick at it, it’s important to acknowledge the advantages of the job and appreciate the unique aspects of supply work. Many permanent teachers who switch to supply work often do it because of the flexibility and enjoy teaching in the classroom without the admin of permanent teaching. Unlike traditional teaching, there’s none of the bureaucracy and paperwork, none of the reports and parent’s evenings. You can go home at the end of the school day and leave your work at the school building. There are undeniably many benefits to supply teaching.
If you’re a teacher-to-be, then supply and cover work offers you an immense amount of experience that will be invaluable to future school employers. The biggest piece of advice you should take from our supply teaching tips, is to use your time supply teaching as a learning experience. Trying out lots of different subjects, ages, and environments gives you the chance to develop your skills as a teacher- so experiment with the kind of teacher you aspire to be, build your resilience, make mistakes and learn from them. On the hard days, see it as an opportunity to grow- it could be the making of you.
RealiseMe has lots of job opportunities for supply teachers and puts you in control of your supply work direct with schools from your mobile. We offer enhanced pay, as well as friendly support forums.