I’ve just signed up as a supply teacher and I’m excited about the prospect of working in different schools. Until now, I’ve taught the same class day-in, day-out which meant I got to know and understand the pupils well and build relationships with them. What’s the best way to approach new classes of unfamiliar faces and manage behaviour successfully?
Supply Teachers often worry about how they’re going to manage behaviour in class. Going into a school you don’t know can be nerve-wracking so as well as having well-prepared lesson plans, think about the following:
- Before you start work, ask for a copy of the school’s Behaviour Management Policy. By reading through this document, you’ll have a better understanding of what is expected of the pupils and how behaviour is dealt with. In turn, you can ensure your actions are in line with it, retaining a sense of consistency and letting the pupils know you know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Start your day by referring to one of the rewards schemes, rather than a sanction. Remember: a supply teacher is the ‘acid test’ for the effectiveness of the school’s Behaviour Policy.
- When pupils meet a supply teacher for the first time, they often see it as an opportunity to act up. Before reprimanding them, put yourself in the pupils’ shoes. They may be worried or nervous about working with a new teacher and perhaps even feel vulnerable. Others may be thinking ‘Why should I care if a total stranger is unhappy with me?’ Be upfront and address these issues immediately. Start your day by pointing out the behaviour you're looking for and make sure they recognise that you’re approachable. Setting your expectations and demonstrating you respond to positive behaviour will help defuse potential issues from the start.
- Use pupils' names whenever possible. This shows you want to know them and recognise them as individuals.
- If you are working at a school for a short period, perhaps a week or even a day, create a tally chart to record the names of the children who behave well. Explain how this chart will be left for their usual teacher and that you’ve heard they’re looking forward to seeing who’s been behaved well and helped out in their absence.
- Mention key members of staff by name. Being seen to be knowledgeable about the school’s structure can help reinforce appropriate behaviour.
- Moving around the classroom rather than standing at the front helps maintain good behaviour as the pupils are not only more aware of being watched, they will see it as a sign of you getting to know them and taking an interest in the work they are doing.
- Don’t worry about asking for help from other staff members. All teachers appreciate support from colleagues so feel free to ask for top tips about dealing with your new class. Thank them and they’ll appreciate that you value their advice. If you’re covering for a permanent teacher, ask the Headteacher if there’s anything they normally do that is successful in helping them manage their class.
Dear Jobs Doctor
I’ve been a supply teacher for several years and am now considering moving into permanent work. If I include all the different positions and places I’ve worked at on my CV, it will be pages long. How do I condense this to just two so that includes all the experience I’ve gained?
- As you’ve been working as a supply teacher for quite some time, rather than name schools, refer to the agencies you have worked for, including the dates and perhaps type of schools and positions you have worked in most frequently.
- Supply teaching certainly isn’t the easy option and can offer a lot in terms of professional development; make sure this is reflected on your CV. Think about everything you have gained from doing supply. In your personal statement, use words such as resilience, reflective, engaging, challenging, flexibility, versatility and resourceful. Focus on the skills and experience you have gained from dealing with a wide range of pupils. As a supply teacher you will be self-reliant yet able to work cooperatively with colleagues and are likely to be apt at dealing with difficult situations. Your CV should be tailored to show how your supply work demonstrates what you can bring to a permanent position.
- Use bullet points to detail your achievements. These could include attributes you have been praised for; refer to past conversations with your agency when they’ve given you feedback from schools. Has your dedication, organisational skills or ability to keep students motivated and engaged been acknowledged? Consider areas that you may have helped with outside your normal teaching duties; as a supply teacher have you helped run any after school activities, lunch-time clubs or charity events?
- If as a supply teacher, schools requested you by name from your agency, include this on your CV in order to demonstrate you are a reliable and valued worker. If you’ve been repeatedly selected as a long-term substitute for teachers on maternity or medical leave, include this too.
- Ensure that at least one of your references is from someone you who have previously worked for as a supply teacher; perhaps that person who has made it clear they would appoint you without hesitation if a vacancy was to arise.
Whenever I start working as supply in a new school, I worry about the staffroom politics and simple things like where I should or shouldn’t sit. Any tips?
Staffrooms can be pretty daunting places. Here are a few suggestions to help you settle in:
· Try and find a friendly face to follow into the staffroom; they will unwittingly be your guide when it comes to taking a seat and ensure you’re not upsetting the status quo! If you don't manage to piggyback on someone else’s entrance, take an interest in the posters on the staffroom walls until the place has started to fill up.
· Take your own mug into school; this solves the issue of accidentally using someone else’s!
· Find out about the arrangements for tea, coffee and milk and offer to contribute
· Get to know who’s who in the staffroom and refrain from complaining about pupils – the last thing you want to do is moan about a child only to find their parent is also the member of staff you’ve chosen to share your thoughts with.
· Keep an eye on how long other members of staff stay in the staffroom and follow suit
I’d like to think the pupils in schools I work in not only benefit from my lessons but enjoy them too. How can I make sure I make the same good impression on staff and schools rebook me for future supply work?
Securing supply work can often depend on call backs from schools in which you have made a positive impression. Doing a fantastic job in the classroom is of course important but putting effort in, outside of the class and being seen to go the extra mile will help secure future placements. Here are a few ideas:
· Smile and be positive! Teachers based in a school on a day-to-day basis can get consumed by school issues and a Supply Teacher can often be seen as a breath of fresh air.
· Make sure you research your journey to school and arrive in plenty of time. Reliable, organised teachers are top of consultants’ lists.
· Make yourself a seating plan; ensure your pupils sit in the same place and you’ll soon learn their names and remember their traits.
· Always have a back-up lesson plan!
· Volunteer for playground duty or offer up your time if you have a free period. Helpful, pro-active teachers willing to get involved in school life are valuable assets to schools.
· If you’re covering for a teacher on a short-term basis, perhaps just a day or two, leave a note for them at the end of your assignment detailing the work done, where you got up to in set work, any incidents and whether books were marked. If you’ve covering in a secondary school, just a line or two about each class will help the teacher settle back in and will be appreciated.
· Treat everyday as an interview.
Make sure you say goodbye and thank the people who have looked after you throughout the day. If your day’s been a success, tell them - schools enjoy getting positive feedback. Make sure you tell them you’d love to come back.
Dear Jobs Doctor
I've been working on a supply basis at secondary schools in North-West England for the past 18 months and previously worked at a school in Manchester for 4 years. I've now decided I'd like to work in the primary setting, how can I convince my agency that I am suitable for supply teaching in this area? Can I also work permanently in a primary school, although I trained to teach Secondary?
Martin McNeil, NQT Secondary Maths Teacher, Manchester
First of all I would recommend making an appointment to speak to your consultant face-to-face, so you can explain in detail your reasons for wanting to teach primary, rather than secondary. If you have experience of teaching the lower years of secondary, you can draw on relevant skills that are applicable to primary too. If you're more interested in teaching Reception/KS1, then any experience you can gain volunteering in holiday clubs or researching the early years curriculum in depth would be really valuable. You don't need to retrain to teach primary but when applying for permanent jobs you will be competing against teachers who have trained in this particular area. I would therefore suggest gaining more experience through supply/long-term contracts in the primary sector, which may also lead to a permanent position and this will reinforce your reasons for wanting to make the transition to primary and at the same time build up a valuable pool of resources to take with you into your future career. Try and build up your knowledge of the primary curriculum and the processes and structure of the primary setting through secondary to primary conversion seminars that are often provided by educational recruitment agencies and other educational organisations.