- Written by Sharon Wood
National Supply Teacher Week – Supporting and celebrating supply teachers
Aims of the Week Series
Aim 4: To help combat the recurring feeling amongst supply teachers of isolation
I was shocked this summer to read about so few end of term events that supply teachers could attend. I had naively assumed that each agency held their own event. Wrong! There are a few, and indeed I have been lucky enough to attend some, but considering the nature of supply, I would have thought there'd be more. The agencies who do the 'social bit' best seem to be the agencies, mainly in London, who attract teachers from overseas. These teachers may arrive in the UK knowing no-one. Many agencies work hard to help them integrate and hook up with others in their situation. What about the lowly UK resident supply teacher?
It's a lonely job. In and out of schools with hardly time to say hello to anyone. Weeks can go by without seeing another supply teacher and anyway, how do you know the person you're sat next to having lunch is a supply teacher? Then there's the issue of lunch... Try and break the back of the marking pile, and you don't get to have a proper lunch break... you don't speak to other adults! Classroom support assistants may be the only other adult you speak to in a day - if you have one. The kids are great company, but adult company and a team spirit are a different thing altogether.
I receive many messages each week from supply teachers asking for advice. Most of the queries are ones that could be dealt with offline in minutes if only they felt there was someone who understood where they were coming from locally. Although I help where I can, it would be lovely to think that supply teachers could pop in on one another for a coffee and a chat! Due to the nomadic nature of supply, this needs facilitating.
There is much that can be done. I, for one, am organising at least one '#SupplyChat Live' each half term around the country. Starting in Cardiff in October, moving onto Norwich the week after, these are social events held in coffee shops, having no formal agenda, just chit chat! I've created a Facebook group, and I know that there are agencies have their own closed groups too... Ask about yours! #Supplychat runs each Tuesday 8-9pm on Twitter and has a growing active audience.