Being a supply teacher is extremely rewarding. It can also be challenging to establish yourself in the profession. As someone who has worked as both a full-time class teacher and a supply teacher, I soon recognised the perks of going in the latter direction.
Supply teaching doesn't only offer more flexibility. It also provides a broader perspective on other schools, management styles, and children.
I enjoyed the change of pace when hopping between different schools. I was able to learn from an array of learning environments and see how different schools operated.
But after a while of sporadic supply teaching, I started craving some consistency. I started searching for longer-term supply work in the schools that aligned with my teaching philosophy. And, with some tenacity, I found it!
This is everything I picked up that helped me become more employable as a supply teacher.
Get to know senior leadership
Developing an amicable rapport with senior management was particularly important. This starts with the small things, like stopping for quick chats and asking questions about the school. Making your face familiar with senior leadership will prove useful when looking to be employed for as many days as possible.
Getting to know senior leaderships' names isn't just good networking; it can also help with behaviour management. Sometimes, the mere mention of the headteacher's name will snap your pupils into line.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This could be to senior management, or other staff that you spot around the school. Such questions could include:
Where can I access the work?
Are there any specific requirements for my class?
Who is the safeguarding lead?
What is your behaviour system?
What are the teaching assistants' names?
Is there a map of the school available?
And so on. If you are comfortable enough to ask questions, this reflects well on your desire to deliver an exceptional quality of teaching. I’ve witnessed supply teachers rushing about during the day, eyes wide with the chaos, in search of someone to address an immediate issue. Asking questions beforehand helps you stay prepared for any possible hiccups.
It's important for any teacher to establish relationships with their pupils. But don’t stop there. Make yourself known to the office staff. These people will be your fountain of knowledge, and your go-to for urgent information.
Then you want to stop in and introduce yourself to teachers around the school.
Make sure to read the room - if they’re rushing to get resources ready, or they’re knee-deep in planning, a simple ‘hello’ will suffice. If others are able to have a chat, try and ask some of the questions we covered above.
If you are working with a TA, take some time to get to know them at certain points in the day. You may find yourself working at that school regularly in the future, so building relationships will help you settle in.
This may be easier said than done, as you will most likely find yourself relying on school staff for appropriate resources. However, it’s important to be as prepared as possible.
Arrive at the school a little bit earlier to get the lay of the land. Familiarise yourself with the classroom and any resources or instructions left for you. If there’s nothing there, find another member of staff who could help you.
It would be advisable to have a few lesson plans and activities up your sleeve, just in case. If you’re prepared and ready for any potential situations, this will reflect well on you as a supply teacher. Senior leadership will always look for someone who is self-dependent, competent, and efficient.
Check the school’s policies and protocols
Every school has different policies. For example, make sure you’re aware of the school’s marking policy. If there are no specific guidelines anywhere, check through the children’s exercise books to see how previous work was marked. This will also give you a good understanding of how the work is laid out.
Is there a specific behaviour policy you should adhere to? If so, make sure you’re confident in what is expected of the children. You don't want to reward and sanction in the wrong way.
What is the school’s protocol at the end of the day? If you’re unaware of how to dismiss the class, this can lead to a stressful, unorganised rush. When you’re confident with the policies and protocols, senior management are more likely to recognise you as a useful, adaptable asset.
End the day with a good impression
At the end of the day, when the children have left, do a sweep of the classroom to ensure everything’s nice and tidy. I would also leave a detailed note or email for the regular class teacher, letting them know of anything noteworthy that happened throughout the day. If you’re looking for regular employment, leaving behind a good impression will certainly help.
Being a regular supply teacher is a diverse, exciting, and rewarding job. If you can take these fundamentals into account, then it will take no time for one or more schools to notice you.
So next time you are called up to cover a class, do some research, be prepared, and show your face around the school. Your value as an effective supply teacher will shine through.
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