Christian 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!