Joel has been working on daily supply through Protocol Education since moving from Canada in January. He is a secondary trained teacher who has found himself in the primary classroom! He shares his best three tips for colleagues in a similar situation.
As a secondary PE specialist I never thought that I would be teaching in primary schools, but since moving over here I have done the majority of my work in primary.It is definitely a different ball game than secondary and it can be difficult to get used to at first, but it can also be very rewarding once you get the hang of it. The following is some advice for Secondary teachers who find it difficult, or think they may find it difficult working with children who are younger than they are used to.
The number one difference that I immediately noticed is that primary students are extremely reliant on their daily routines. It will seem like they have a million things that need to happen before you can get them sitting quietly doing their work. For example, they normally have specific students allocated to certain jobs such as handing out worksheets, taking the register to the office, wiping the white board off, etc. They are extremely reliant and persistent about these things, so you need to find out how everything works within the classroom before you start your first lesson in order to avoid chaos and headaches. Also, do not forget that you always need to escort them to and from the playground, even at the beginning and end of the day. This is something that I struggled to remember at first.
2. Points and Rewards Systems
Always find out the system for rewards and punishment within the classroom. This is another thing that the students are extremely reliant on and it can make your day a lot easier in terms of behavioural issues. For example, most classes will have table points or house points that you can give out for good behaviour, as well as some type of system for bad behaviour.
It is always a good idea to use the system that is already in place, but you should also come up with your own system. The one that I recently started using is simple, but extremely effective. At the beginning of the day make a tally chart on the board. On the left side put your name, and on the right side put the class's name. Explain that you are going to have a competition throughout the day and if they win they will get some type of reward at the end of the day (ex, PE lesson, free time, etc). Each time you are not happy with their behaviour give yourself a tick, and each time you are happy with their behaviour give the class a tick. I find that the easiest way to do it is to use the countdown. Tell the students that if you count down from 5 and they are all not in their seats and listening by the time you get to 0, you get the point. If they beat you, they get the point.
3. Brush Up on Your Weaker Subjects
The thing about primary is that as a supply teacher you have to roll with the punches and teach whatever material is on the schedule that day. There have been plenty of times where I have had to admit that I do not know the answer or do not know how to do something. For example, in my first week of teaching I had to teach 30 year 3 students how to make bread. These experiences can be stressful at the time, but are always good for a laugh afterwards. The only thing that I can suggest is that if you are particularly weak in certain subject areas, it might be a good idea to brush up on your skills before you take on a primary role.
Have you found yourself in a similar position? Do you have any tips you could add? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas.