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Daily Supply: A Blessing or a Curse?


After many years teaching in FE colleges in London, Mrs Williams was convinced that she was ready to take the plunge and jump ship. However, before making any drastic career changes she gave supply teaching a try.

In reality, I was not ready to turn my back on teaching for good, since the passion for being in the classroom still ran through my veins. So with QTLS under my belt off I went into the world of daily supply, leaving the familiar behind. It wasn’t long after my first assignment at a secondary school that the reality hit me. My new experience could easily be summed up by a song featured in the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid called ‘A Whole New World’. The landscape of teaching as I knew it had changed, and what a change it has turned out to be! Here are some insights into the blessings and curses of the life of a daily supply teacher assigned to secondary schools:

The Blessings:

1. Pure convenience
There is something satisfying about managing your own time and work schedule. Protocol’s easy to use website has a range of useful tools that staff can access; including a diary which allows you to highlight your availability for work. With many schools opting for online timesheets, this also takes the hassle out of submitting your working hours. Thank you technology!

2. A Dream Come True
Waving goodbye to planning lessons, marking and that never ending workload is quite possibly the best perk of daily supply teaching. Being handed freshly prepared cover work each morning to deliver to pupils makes life so much easier. In comparison to permanent teachers, you operate with a fraction of responsibilities; which can best be described as having one foot in and the other foot out.

3. Home sweet home
Once you finish teaching for the day, you are generally free to leave. After all why would you need to stay behind? Your main role is to facilitate teaching and learning; and manage behaviour. Early finishes also adds to a healthier work-life balance, so you can do the things that are important to you. Whether that includes an improved social life or spending more time with the family; daily supply gets a big thumbs up!

The Curses:

1. The waiting game
Daily supply teaching is a much like stepping into the unknown. Some mornings you are ‘on call’ waiting for a consultant to contact you for work. You never quite know where you will end up from day to day. In fact securing work is not always guaranteed. However, if you make a good impression at a school there is a chance may book you for work in advance. At least this way you know where you stand; at least some of the time.

2. An invisible piece of furniture
Unlike a permanent teacher, you have no roots to tie you down. Since floating around at various schools is part of the job, you don’t always get the opportunity to be part of a team, develop meaningful relationships with staff of even build a good rapport with pupils. It’s fair to say, you are literally out there on your own where daily placements are concerned. On the other hand Protocol consultants are pleasant, supportive and only a phone call away.

3. Hooray, it’s time to play!
Supply teachers are often met by gleeful students who are on the look out to take full advantage of their teacher’s absence. With smirks stretched across their mischievous faces, they ask ‘are you supply’? What they really mean is ‘while the cats away, the mice will play’. Well at least that’s what they think! After putting on your stern supply teacher impression, they often get a much needed reality check.
So there you have it in a nutshell, the blessings and curses of daily supply teaching. On a final note, supply teaching can take you out of your comfort zone because you don’t have the advantage of knowing what lies before you. However, as you surrender predictability, you quickly learn to go with the flow. Although daily supply comes at a price, the question to ask yourself is: Is the price worth paying? Are your priorities regular employment or financial security? Is greater freedom or peace of mind more important? Whatever you decide, will be unique to you and your personal circumstances. In conclusion, my experience of daily supply teaching has been a blessing so far. With a desire to make a transition into pastures new, I was unsure about what direction I wanted to head in. With this in mind, daily supply could be an option that works for you too.

(Times Educational Supplement - ‘The supply teacher guide: Six tips for cracking a new school’)

Until next time
Mrs Williams

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