- Written by Jenny Smith
September / October 2014
Any supply teacher will tell you that there is an assumption among carers and parents, fellow teachers, and children, that because you're a supply teacher, you're therefore not as “good” as a “regular” teacher. If you were, you wouldn't be a supply teacher, you'd have a “proper” job, wouldn't you? Right?
We all know about the teacher who supplies for a bit of extra pocket money in retirement, or the one who wants to be home in time to pick the kids up from school. Traditionally, that's who supply teachers were, mums with young children who wanted to work part time, and those who were retired. The assumption is that you don't have to work that hard, or don't really want a job at all, to be on supply.
We'd better bust that myth too.
These days, those of us on supply come from a range of backgrounds and experiences, from budding and enthusiastic NQTs to those of us with senior management backgrounds, and mid-career teachers like myself, who see the advantages of supply or who, for one reason or another, do not want a permanent home in the classroom.
The greatest strength of the supply teacher workforce is its very diversity. Supply, for me, has given me the flexibility to open other doors. I've begun writing, this blog among other things, and I am beginning to hope that my future lies more in that direction, rather than in waiting for the phone to ring. I'm a passionate, committed Early Years practitioner, and I'm good at my job. That said, I've never held a permanent contract. Recently, I went for an interview for a long term position, and rather resented the question about this. No-one would question a teacher with ten years experience in the same school, and yet I've probably worked in more challenging situations and had more success than they ever would.
I want to get this off my chest. Just because I'm a supply teacher doesn't mean I'm not professional. It may mean that I have had moderately haphazard career progression, and that I've decided to seek professional challenges of one sort or another in addition to my supply work, in order to give me the sense of some sort of professional development and fulfilment, but it does not make me any less committed in the classroom. It really bugs me when people assume that it does.
The uncertainty of the job gets us down from time to time. Nobody likes to think that they are stagnating in their job, or that they might not really ever get started in it at all, or perhaps that they'll struggle to pay the mortgage this month. We think about giving up, because juggling childcare and a part time job isn't cost effective, or because we're struggling to travel, or maybe just because four days out of five, the phone doesn't ring.
We think about it, we talk about quitting, and yet many of us hang on. Why is that? Let's just myth bust again...
The majority of supply teachers I have met - and doing the additional work I do means that I have now met a lot of supply teachers – are committed beyond measure to doing a fabulous job. To not letting the kids down. To spending time preparing and creating interesting and engaging lessons, and to developing their own resources. Supply teachers are often locked out of planning and resourcing websites, open to schools with an annual subscription, for example, and often spend hours of their own time planning in detail. Most of us really and truly care. We want the best for the kids, even if we are only in there for the day, and we'll put our heart and souls into providing it.