This week I’ve worked 2 and a half days supplying in local schools. I’m getting used to be sent to some schools a little more regularly and don’t mind going to new ones either. To some, two and a half days doesn’t seem like much at all but anyone who is a teacher knows how difficult and tiring just one day can be. It’s that much harder when your only there for a day or two.
I can be called in for work by my agency either in advance or very early in the morning. I can either accept a job or decline depending on my availability and in my case depending on distance. This week I was offered work from a call given last week and to schools I had already been to so I was quite happy about that. But…however local or familiar I become with a school I can never get rid of that anxious feeling the night before. I am a HUUUGE worry wart and little things play on my mind all the time. I’ve had sleepless nights over the tiniest thing and always make notes and reminders in my phone over everything. I am a super organised freak and anything that can be done now i’ll do it, which means my clothes are usually all set out for the next day, my ‘teacher bag’ is all ready and my lunch has been organised for the following day. So every time I get a job I always worry whether I’ll remember to do everything ‘right’ and whether i’ll be good enough fill the shoes of a teacher I don’t know for a day and just generally trying to stay calm. Weird, as I know I’m good at what I do (or so I have been told) but it is important to me as I know my job entails holding a huge about of responsibility.
Another thing I get anxious about is what year group I’m teaching! I’ve spent 3 years teaching 4-5 year olds who demanding as they are I am confident in teaching. Throw me in a year 5 or 6 with the teens and I’m quivering about what strategies to use as ‘special stickers’ and ‘time outs’ just won’t cut it.
This week on my half day I went in for a year 2 class….only to be told I was going to year 4…EEEP! I did try and half heartedly whinge but thought what the heck (at this point I had already taught a few year 4 classes) so figured what the hell and went for it. The next day I had a year 3 in a different school (which I didn’t enjoy the first time I went due to rowdy kids and general constant misbehaviour which I shall put down to snow day) which I was pretty anxious about until I got there and then today back to the school I’ve been to earlier on in the week for a year 1 and 2 class.
The best thing about what I do aside from the freedom that comes with working as and when you want is the enjoyment of knowing your making a difference if only for a day. Some people may not think that a supply teacher can’t have that much effect on a child’s learning in one day but from what I myself learn in a day I know that from a child’s point of view they must be learning a lot too.
This week I taught some really exciting lessons too which included a geography lesson on the climates of Africa and learning the effect of the equator on different countries (very interesting to me), teaching an R.E day (religious education) on Christianity, Jesus and morals of some of the story which then led to some very cool stained glass window work using black cut out sugar paper, story writing and coloured cellophane. I also taught how to calculate the perimeter of shapes (which I hadn’t seen in yonks). And today we had phonics, guided reading, an assembly on dog safety (with a real dog!) and paper weaving which was a lot more challenging for the children than I had anticipated.
All that in two and a half days (plus more) so imagine how much we as teachers and students can learn over a longer period of time! As fun as parts of the day can be they can also be stressful and tiring and can end with you drained of energy by the time the home time bell rings.
From my own personal experience I’ve decided to put up a quick guide for those thinking about supplying or perhaps if your a teacher who might have a supply in class one day, some tips to make both your lives easier 🙂
-Preparation. When I get to the school and have signed in the first thing I do is look for plans. I have been to schools where guess work is required to work out what the teacher wants you to do to plans that have been laid out and set up step by step. I find a plan of the day with with timings on a huge help in making sure I can get things done at the right time and generally be more prepared. This week I went to a classroom where I had two plans laid out but not clear instructions on how to deliver the lesson or what times, this means confusion on my part and wandering around asking neighbours if they can help. Today though I had a super teacher who had laid out and clearly labelled times and steps for my morning. Being prepared also means setting up whatever you may need for the lesson for the supply teacher or arriving early in order to give yourself time to set up yourself if the class teacher hasn’t done so. Clear plans mean better preparation and better implementation of lessons.
– Good behaviour management is essential. When I first started teaching I was terrible at this but now something I consider one of my strengths. As a supply you won’t get to know or remember all the names of children in a day. As a rule I try and keep in mind the names of children I might have to spend more time or attention on and use this to guide them to do well. Lots of children think they can run rings around supply teachers but its not true unless you let them. There will always be a goody two shoes willing to help you and make sure things are done ‘right’ and will tell you if children are not doing what they are supposed to. So no, you can’t ‘go and tidy the library outside’ thank you, you can read quietly like everybody else. Also don’t be afraid to tell children when they are doing something wrong or let them get away with things. At the same time remember to reward those who are doing good things or trying hard. remember to be firm always and not let children rule the roost, your in charge not them. (although be mindful that most children will usually be helpful to you).
-Keep props. Recently I have made a ‘teachers’ bag consisting of some basic objects I can use daily in a days work. When I left my last job I had LOTS of props and ‘stuff’ I had collected over the years. I need to get a few more down but for now I have a tambourine (I use this as part of behaviour management). This works well in gaining children’s attention effectively and without you having to lose your voice shouting for it (I have done this way too often since supplying), an easier way though is to sing. A singing voice carries across a room more than just talking and can grab the attention of a class in no time, using a ‘look and listen’ type of song is even better. An example is ‘Everybody clap hands, clap hands, clap hands everyone clap hands just like me.. Everybody wriggle your fingers… ‘ etc (courtesy of my friend H). Alternatively you can use a clapping sequence which many schools now use which means when you clap a sequence the children clap back and also signals they should stop and listen. I also keep a range of stickers (ordered off eBay) to entice children with as rewards. I always thought stickers worked with the younger children better but experience has shown me that even the older children (up to around year 4) still enjoy receiving a sticker as a way of saying ‘well done’. Use these in addition to the class set rewards, be it house/team points, smiley face list or table privileges. I have a sign list which shows what volume I would like the children to work at which again saves a sore throat but can also be used as a game for fun. I also keep a small teddy which can be used as circle time or as a way of allowing children to only speak unless they are holding it whilst the rest show good listening. I also have a flashing electronic star and a set of black and red pens (registers! and as a precaution should I need them) and sole stamps for marking work but anything that catches a child’s attention or is imaginative and can be used…use it! There’s no right or wrong, it’s whatever works for you.
–Enjoy yourself! remember that your only there for a day and not everything will go the way you may have planned it. Things are bound to go differently from your expectations but its about staying calm and making the best out of what you can. Being calm and patient is key, lots of things can end up panicking you, stressing you and worrying you but just ask for help. For example today I taught a lesson on paper weaving which to me seemed soooooo easy! I figured the class would have it done quickly but oh…my…gosh! The amount of children who claimed to have ‘understood’ the steps then went on to cut the peice of paper in half or couldn’t draw straight lines or whose papers weren’t weaving through properly! Aargh, it got to the point I had a crowd of children calling for help (although I’m sure I specifically said to raise hands for that) and driving me to panic mode. I decided to stop and call them all back together rather than lose my head and re-model. This time slower and step by step. I also made sure I was able to oversee groups of children and rotate often to handle any oncoming problems they had. So many of the schools I have been to though are so so so friendly and willing to help out, don’t feel you are alone and all will be well, ask for help if you feel you need it. In relation to panic I always try hard to keep noise levels down in class in case a passing teacher may think I have no control over the students but this is not true, so many lessons that have been noisy and ‘fun’ have been the ones where the children have been most engaged in learning so now I think ‘sod it’ because if they come in they can see it is controlled noise and the children are doing what they are supposed to. Be confident in yourself and your teaching abilities and you won’t go wrong .
At this point I’m struggling to stay awake (my fault for getting used to all those lazy lie ins). So will end it here, I’m relaxing in my pyjamas and have tomorrow off to recuperate and recover. Hope this post was helpful if not insightful to some and any tips for me are most welcome! I’ll post more on teaching again soon 🙂 Goodnight x
P.S apologies for any spelling mistakes in this post I’ve written it half asleep…