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top tips for supply teachers

Top tips for supply teachers:

I seem to alternate between being a supply teacher and working on staff in schools. I love both! Supply teachers have more freedom, can try new year groups and do less paperwork. They also don’t get paid as much. Contracted teachers work a lot more hours, but they get more money, pay for sickness, weekends and holidays and they get to work with cool little kiddos day to day and see them develop, learn, grow and take on class routines. Like I said before, I love both!

You may not know it but there are some tips for supply teachers that you may not know. And they may well make the transition to supply teaching easier. For current supply teachers? I still think it is valuable to read this and at least establish you are doing these things and maybe even more! If you have any extra tips for supply teachers then don’t forget to comment!

Preparing for your workday

  • Take your own pens. I have a 4 coloured Biro (red/green/blue/black), a pencil, rubber and pencil sharpener and a whiteboard marker. This means I am not scrabbling around the teacher desk trying to find stationery. Nor am I relying on children to direct me to writing implements. It helps me remain calm and in control. The pens etc are normally fairly evident, however, I feel prepared and calm! Bonus tip: have a pencil that is not a yellow and black strip school style one or add a sticker with your name. Make your equipment identifiable so that it doesn’t join the collective….
  • Take a thermos mug . First off, if you bring your own cup then you know you can have a drink and not upset anyone by using the “wrong” mug. In a thermos mug you can have it in the classroom or playground during any duties.
  • Take a whistle for PE/Break duty, but check whether one is used because some schools have a no whistle policy, some have bells for breaks.
  • Invest in stickers with your name on as they are special (and cheap on amazon).

When you arrive at your booking:

  • Bring photographic ID.
  • Turn up on time and if you are going to be late, let the agency know so they can ring the school. People wont be cross if they are informed.
  • Always ask about the school’s handwriting script (joined/printing/precursive etc) before the day starts.
  • Find out about fire drills, first aid, asthma and any special needs etc, marking policies, behaviour schemes and assemblies because people don’t always remember tell you.
  • When getting your briefing for the day find out the names of 3 kids who you can rely on . Then find out the names of 3 kids who may need more attention. But don’t forget to find out why!

During the day

  • Assume you are on break duty. Supply teachers normally have that honour. If you offer to cover and they say no, offer to make the person on duty a drink.
  • Try and remember the kids names as quickly as possible . The kids tend to settle better and show more respect if you address them by name rather than have to keep asking them who they are.
  • Get the kids to teach for you. Bring them up to show what they did leading up to that lesson as a starter so you can gauge what they know or have learnt before.
  • This tip is especially important in Maths. Ask the children to model to the class so you know any particular methods they have been using, and no one ends up confused.
  • Use the Support Staff as they know the kids and the work they have been doing.
  • If there is a trainee then let them teach the lessons they have prepared.

At the end of the day

  • Go over and above for them. They will remember you more if you do things such as: offer to complete the marking, enquire if you can set up for next day etc. Unless you have to, try not to race off as soon as the kids are gone. Staying on an extra few minutes will help you to create a good impression.
  • Be positively memorable for your agency contact at the school and you will probably get repeat work. Be positively memorable for the school staff and students, especially any support staff you have worked with, so they ask for you back. More schools than you realise have an appraisal system for permanent members of staff to give feedback about supply teachers. I know from my experience as a member on staff that bad supply have been blacklisted for a school completely, not just a particular class or year group. Bonus tip: have a card ready with your name and agency phone number or email address on to hand to the Bursar / Office staff / Head.
  • Contribute to the tea/coffee fund if you are asked to. It is a courtesy that you may forget. Your school may pick up on it and if they are having a bad day they may not be pleased. Honestly, we have all been that irritated person who remembers that they never even paid 20p for their coffee!!

General tips for supply teachers

  • Smile
  • Be flexible,
  • Remember patience is a virtue!
  • If you have a bad experience at a school, tell your agency. They are there to make sure their staff are looked after, so the same way they will receive feedback for your performance. Always give feedback for the school too, both positives and negatives.
  • Offer to do as many key stages as you can and all the types of bookings that you can handle: day to day, advance bookings, half term blocks, long term blocks. By being more available you will get more work!
  • Do not spend everything you earn! Remember you get £0 for holidays and sick days plus no work day = no income day.
  • Be able to spell. Especially the words we expect the kids to be able to spell.
  • Schools that use supply agencies like to have regular faces so that you get the ethos/kids etc so although it seems like a waste of time, a bit of extra effort can get you regular work!

Top tips for working with your Supply Agency

  • Be honest with your agency. They are doing the bookings so honesty is the best policy. If you don’t want to travel, then don’t say yes to schools far away!
  • Do not hand your timesheet in til the end of the day or assignment. If you do hand it in early, it will be submitted to someone in the school to verify and it looks like you are waiting out the day.

And finally – top tips for preserving your well being!

  • Try not to take rejection personally. With supply schools can be ridiculously and notoriously picky. I was asked not to go back to one school because I a task I was teaching was unfinished even though the task was to do the first half of a portrait that they were to complete the following day. A colleague was told she looked funny, so not to come back. In return I point out things like that I had to move my car in the middle of a lesson as I was not allowed to park in their car park, the time a TA disappeared and never came back and when a child threw a pen at me (they had bad aim so I was fine). Sometimes you and a school wont work well together and that is ok. You are not being forced to go back!
  • Make your own boundaries, knowing that this will affect the amount of work you are offered. An example: I agreed to work in a different town. The year group was my favourite, the school welcoming, the kids delightful (Mrs Gorgeous I love you!). However, although I loved many aspects of the placement, it took me 1.5hrs each way. I was not prepared to travel that far regularly, so I told the agency with some reluctance that I wont go back.

So there you have it. A few of my top tips for supply teachers. Supply is freeing, and flexible, and confidence boosting and varied. It is also demanding and terrifying, inconsistent and involves a lot of travel.

I love it.

This is a revised edition of a post from my old blog.

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