Interview with.. Christian Thompson

Interview with M2 Education supply teacher ChristianChristian Thompson, supply teaching through M2 Education based in Preston, talks to us about following his dreams!

You work through M2 Education. How did you go about finding and choosing your agency?

The choice was an easy one. I had been a full-time primary teacher for five years before I decided to move into supply teaching. All the supply teachers who covered my own classes were from M2 and had nothing but praise for M2. They all seemed to be very happy and told me that they had been offered lots of work. M2 have provided an incredible number of supply days for me, so the other supply teachers have been proved right and, as you can imagine, I'm very happy!

Why and how did you get into supply teaching?

After being a full-time primary teacher for five enjoyable years, I wanted to try something new. I had been a amateur writer and photographer for some time and I decided that, at thirty-three, it was time for me to follow the dream of becoming a photographer and journalist. In order to do this, I would need an increased level of flexibility in my working life and I imagined that supply would provide that for me. Although M2 have kept me extremely busy - I could work five days every week - I was able to devote a day here-and-there to my own photography endeavours, as a result of the extra flexibility, allowing me to realise my new dream. My assumption was correct and I have been able to combine supply teaching and working for myself. Something that simply would not have been possible when I was working fifty-to-sixty hours a week as a permanent teacher.

What do you take with you on assignment?

I travel light. A memory stick with resources that I have collected over the years is rarely used as I imagine that teachers would appreciate a supply learning session to be based on core skills - especially where maths and literacy are concerned. For example, a lesson on 'drop-in', subordinate clauses or 'chunking' is never frowned upon by heads who happen to pop their head around the door. If the learning is level-appropriate, then the children, support staff and the class teacher are all happy. To be honest, the most important thing that I make sure I have every day is a bright smile on entering the building and a positive attitude.

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at *that* lovely school by M2 Education?

I always consider what I would want as a returning teacher, after my class had been covered. Books fully and well marked with constructive feedback, a tidy room and succinct notes on the day's progress. As a permeant class teacher, I always fully appreciated it when the marking was done. I always value fully any support staff that I am lucky to work with. They know the children in a new class better than I do, so I value their opinions. Teaching Assistants talk to heads and their opinions about the supply teacher count hugely. I engage the children with fun, achievable and level-appropriate activities which makes for a happy and relaxed learning environment. I like to meet the head too. Only if it's convenient for them of course. Just to say hello and make my face known.

The day-to-day life of a supply teacher... How do you find it? Do you prefer long-term placements, morning only bookings? Pre-booked work only?

M2 have given me a variety of options and I like them all. Day-to-day supply, when you get a call first thing in the morning is great because you're embarking on a mini adventure! New faces to meet and another school to take ideas away from. There are may times too, when I know that I have days at different schools booked in advance. It's easy to plan my working life in other areas, such as my own business, in these instances. I have really benefited from the flexibility that short-term assignments provide.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of going into supply teaching?

Be positive, smile, arrive early, follow the behaviour management systems of the class, mark books well and get asked back as a result! I would recommend M2 Education. They have a great reputation in schools and are able to provide lots of work for conscientious supply teachers.

What is your favourite go-to time filler for when you have a few minutes left at the end of a lesson?

It's difficult to pick one, to be honest. It depends what I'm doing in the lesson. The art of a good plenary - reviewing learning against the success criteria and peer marking are always effective ways to spend a few minutes wisely.

Who would be the ultimate supply teacher and why?

Chris Packham of Springwatch fame. He possesses immense scientific knowledge on a subject which is not valued enough by the modern curriculum. Children need to get outside the classroom and learn about what is around them - for the good of their health and simply for them to enjoy wildlife and nature.

And finally, what is your favourite supply teacher resource?

Favourite resource: A bit boring - but it's my knowledge of level descriptors!

M2 Education - Preston and Newcastle recruitment

Interview with... Hazel Mills

Interview with... Hazel MillsHazel, supply teacher with Top Class Education, has already retired once, but missed the classroom... 

How did you go about finding and choosing your agency?

I didn't actually find Top Class Education, they found me. I had been considering doing some supply work for a while but had done nothing about it then one evening while I was on Facebook, up popped a message from Kate at Top Class asking if I was interested in doing a bit of supply; it was serendipity!

Why and how did you get into supply teaching?

I had taken early retirement in 2011 as I had suffered some ill health and my husband was recovering from cancer. Nearly three years on, surgery had improved my health and my husband was well enough to make me a golf widow again so I thought it would be nice to do a bit of supply as I was missing being in the classroom.

What do you take with you on assignment?

Plenty of pens! I also take my DBS, lunch, a mug and a drink as schools vary so much in what they provide. Some take cash, others need your thumb print! And I never want to go down the route of using the wrong mug!

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at *that* lovely school by Top Class Education?

I do longer term assignments. I try very hard to make sure I fit in and become part of the school. I arrive in good time and I'm happy to stop for a chat and coffee at the end of the day if others are around. When my contract was finished at a particular school that I really enjoyed Kate from Top Class was very quick to ensure that I was called back by keeping up a dialogue with the head teacher of the school negotiating my return.

The day-to-day life of a supply teacher... How do you find it? Do you prefer long-term placements, morning only bookings? Pre-booked work only?

I prefer long-term placements as I particularly enjoy building relationships with both the students and my colleagues. I am a very loyal sort of person, working 26 happy years in the same school prior to my retirement. I like the fact that I had good relationships with more than one generation of families. Doing long term placements allows me to go some way towards building the same feeling of belonging. As someone who is semi-retired I like the flexibility I can have with supply work. I can choose the days I work. I have lots of other things I do too so supply fits in nicely. I normally only do pre-booked work as Top Class provides me with all I need with my long-term contracts. If I do extra days it is usually in the school where I am on a long-term contract.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of going into supply teaching?

Arrive in good time so that you can get organised and find out what the behaviour and reward policies of the school are and use them. This knowledge is powerful. To use names; many schools now provide photos of the children in your groups, try to use them. Be prepared with something up your sleeve if there is no work set. In an ideal world you will have a wonderful lesson plan given to you but there will be days when your won't; you need to be prepared. Leave a quick note to the teacher about how far you got with the work, they will really appreciated it. Always be friendly to the all the other staff and, I repeat, take your own mug until you know you don't need to!

What would you think if Ofsted were to suggest paying you as an undercover inspector for them, as you go about supply teaching?

I think it would be a dreadful idea. Teaching is a tough profession whether you are a permanent member of staff or a supply teacher and the relationships that develop between staff are usually one of the strengths of a school. Putting in a supply teacher who might be a spy in the ranks could only be divisive in my mind. Teachers need to be able to trust each other and I cannot see how any supply teacher would be trusted if there is the remotest possibility that he or she is an Ofsted mole!

Who would be the ultimate supply teacher and why?
Stephen Fry. He can keep unruly guests under control on QI so I'm sure behaviour would not be a problem! His sense of humour and knowledge would be invaluable and I'd really like to be in his lessons!

And finally, what is your favourite supply teacher resource? 

YouTube! If the lesson you are having to take is rather lacking, you can always find a video to liven it up! I'm not sure how I ever managed to teach before whiteboards attached to the Internet!

Interview with... Claire Riley

Interview with... Claire RileyI was very excited to get to interview Claire Riley, owner of Classroom Secrets and author of The Classroom Hopper for this issue.  This busy lady is also a supply teacher!
Why and how did you get into supply teaching?

To cut a long story short, I never wanted to be a teacher! I only did it because I got to the end of my degree and I didn't know what to do next. I was adamant that I was not up to teaching primary and so I went into secondary, where at least I could do the subject I loved, performing arts. It turned out that I actually liked it! However, as I did the only performing arts PGCE in the country, and wanted to move home to Halifax, there were no jobs. The October after I finished my PGCE, I decided that I should do some supply (very reluctantly). As it turned out, by the time my CRB for the agency was through, I had a part time job at a very difficult school. I worked permanently two days and did supply the rest. I can honestly say, as uncomfortable as it was, it was invaluable in shaping me as a teacher and I feel it was better to do this at the beginning of my teaching life.

What do you take with you on assignment?

Travel cup (most important), bottled water, breakfast, lunch, pencil case with every colour of pen and seven rubbers (in case I want to do art with them), Maths on Target textbooks, Grammar and Punctuation Text Books, Timesheets, box of bribes, business cards, CRB and a coat with a hood (in case I’m forced to do break duty in the rain).

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at that lovely school / by your recruitment consultant?

I engage in good banter with my consultant - we get on and chat about our latest garden improvements. I think the most important thing is good behaviour. I insist on that and it creates a good impression. I do get a lot of requests.

Interview with... Claire RileyYour book, The Classroom Hopper, is about the day-to-day life of a supply teacher... Is it based on you and your experiences?

Some of it is based on me and my experience, a lot is exaggerated for humour's sake. I'm not the incompetent teacher that is portrayed in the book, it's more of a play on how supply can make you look that way. I poured my love for sarcasm into the book because the kids don't get it!

Do you have any words of advice for those wishing to be a supply teacher?

Jump in with both feet! You can do it - believe you can. Always have something up your sleeve and 'don't take no messing'!

What did you learn from being a supply teacher?

Everything! I learned how to be a Primary Teacher on the job! The key things:

1. To stand in front of the door 10 minutes before the lesson ends in secondary.
2. If you don't understand the planning, do your own thing and tell the teacher it didn't make sense.
3. Act really shocked at low level disruption.
4. That schools have 100 different ways of doing playground duty.
5. When class teachers are shocked when you don't know the terminology they use in their school, respond with terminology that you learnt from the school down the road to prove your point.
6. To focus on the day and the marking. Do the lesson, mark the lesson - don't leave it until the end of the day.

Many supply teachers don't feel they earn enough money, and some seem to have a lot of time on their hands. What have you been doing in your spare time?

I've always been lucky enough to do supply without worrying about money. Mine is the supplement wage. I have never ever done supply and struggled for things to do on the other days, in some ways I wish I had! For the last 3 years I've been working on a website that I launched 18 months ago. I always enjoyed creating resources, in secondary and primary. I realised that nothing was ever differentiated and that it was really difficult if you had a 1a and 4b in the same class. Seeing how many other teachers delivered lessons helped me to broaden my ideas for it. So, Classroom Secrets was born.

Who would be the ultimate supply teacher and why?

Robin Williams. He would be brilliant at behaviour management just by being himself and would always have the attention of the children, which is a big thing in my book.

Target Maths
And finally, what is your favourite supply teacher resource?
The target maths books.  They are differentiated, make for a structured lesson and answer books exist! 
You can find Claire in the following places:

Nikki Tester on casual teaching, her book, and pearls of wisdom!

Nikki Tester on Casual TeachingI fell into casual teaching after my partner and I relocated to Coffs Harbour. Prior to the move I was working in an Independent school near Lismore, and there was no avenue for me to transfer to Coffs Harbour.  Casual teachers can work through Agencies, although I never have. I have worked basically in my local schools, where I have been booked by the person in charge of casuals (Usually one of the Assistant Principals). You then get paid by the Department of Education in NSW

To ensure that you get called back to *that* lovely school, behaviour management and having a class full of engaged students is always something that stands out to a principal and other teachers at the school. I would always volunteer to do a duty if I was in fact rostered off, and as my "lovely" school was just up the road , I would also do some volunteer work as well. It was a small school so that there was not always availability. I was lucky to have a few temporary contracts, and so I was a 'familiar face' around the place. When Smart boards were first introduced into schools, I made sure that I shared any great sites that I had found as I had more time on my hands than permanent teachers to explore the internet.

My book, A Survival Kit for the Casual Teacher, was born when we moved, and before I actually began casual teaching. I had a book with websites, and post it notes stuck all the way through it!! And as I discovered more, I realised that I had to make a better system that would work for me and one that I had at my fingertips when the phone rang early. I knew I always had an easy reference at my fingertips. I have used all of the activities on occasion, and these are the ones that I have found work well with classes.

My advice for those going into casual teaching: Be organised!! The reality of supply teaching is that you can have very little time on your hands in the morning. You may get to school and find you have a morning duty. By the time you get into your classroom, you need to see if work has been left, familiarise yourself with the class, sign into internet, read any notices which will let you know if there are any events on the day. Be familiar with behaviour policy of the school, procedure for sending kids to sick bay, procedure for collecting money , photocopying and the all important bell times (yes I have accidentally let kids out early, or had kids miss the bus, ooops!) Very important to be kind to the office ladies!!! Find the timetable for your class.

You need to be flexible and ready to adapt to any situation, if there is a time tabled release break on the class you are on, be prepared for the principal to ask you to take over another class instead. Dress code is important and first impressions count. Be very mindful of your choice of language with children especially when they push your buttons. It is a tough job at times, you can't always follow up on behaviour issues etc,. Make sure you drink lots of water.

My favourite supply teacher resource is the internet itself. I don't have a favourite site, but I just love using IWB in the classroom. They are the most amazing tool.  I love having a laugh, so I would have loved to have Robin Williams as a supply teacher.  

You can read about Nikki's gem of a find for any supply teacher, A Survival Kit for the Casual Teacher, here.

Interview with... Gemma, supply teacher with Capita Education Resourcing

Interview with supply teacher Gemma, working for CapitaMany thanks to supply teacher Gemma for sharing her story of why she chooses to do supply.

Why did you choose to go into supply teaching?

The workload of teaching was taking over my life. I was working a 10 hour day at school, then coming home in the evenings and doing at least a further 2 hours as well as working weekends. I also found head teacher expectations and targets immense, and putting myself under the pressure to achieve them was literally too much at times. The paperwork got more and more; and a lot of the time I felt that it was a pointless exercise; just to tick all the boxes! So, after 4 years I decided to leave a permanent position and take up supply teaching.

How did you start your supply teaching career?

When I first qualified as a teacher I did supply work for 1 year to get an even better feel for the Key Stage in which I would like to take a permanent position in. Then after 4 years of being in a permanent position; due to the above reasons, I went back into supply and have been doing supply now for the last 3 years.

What do you take with you on assignment?

CRB form, ID badge, stickers to praise the children with, couple of story books, sometimes a resource pack of activities just in case no work has been left for me for the day.

How do you ensure you'll be called back to work at that lovely school by your recruitment consultant?

I always try to make a good impression by following closely school policies and practices. I will always give verbal feedback to the teacher or leave a handover sheet at the end of the day if they are unavailable. I also inform the office staff or management at the end of the day, just how my day has been; always leaving on a positive note.

Do you have any advice for those wishing to become a supply teacher, or be a better supply teacher?

Always go into a school with an open mind, use positive praise when it's due, show enthusiasm with teaching and listening to children's ideas, be creative and try and have fun!

What are you learning through your work as a supply teacher?

How different schools, staff and pupils perceive/act towards a supply teacher. How to manage difficult behaviour in quite a lot of schools.

How could the lives of supply teachers be improved?

For supply teachers to be shown the same respect/behaviour as their own teachers from pupils.

And finally! What is your favourite resource for supply teaching?


CPD for supply teachers

Free! The Five Ds

The Five Ds - Five little words supply teachers need!

Supply for Lunch

#SupplyChat Tuesdays 8.30-9pm

Supply Teacher Top Tip of the Week

Home of #NSTW

Supporting and Celebrating Supply Teachers

Supply Teacher Room 101

Have Bag, Will Travel

Have Bag, Will Travel: The trials and tribulations of a career supply teacher


Free! Otis Stickers

Free stickers for supply teachers

King / Twin En-Suite in family home, Penny Bridge

Cumbria, United Kingdom
We have a lovely guest room with en-suite bathroom. The room can be made as a double (extra king size) or as a twin (full size single beds). The bathroom has separate bath and shower. We are in So...

Takeover Thursday - Supply Teacher Network