Three easy tips to being the best supply teacher

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

From first day shy, to super supply

“O Captain, My Captain.” If Dead Poet’s Society wasn’t an inspirational film to ignite the inner teacher in all of us, well what was?

The teacher film genre is inspiring! Most consist of… A new teacher believes in a group of pupils, who don't believe in themselves. After some classroom banter, through ample encouragement, the students begin to believe in themselves and go on to achieve top grades. Cue to reality and walking into a school for the first time to teach a class of students is undoubtedly daunting.

As a supply teacher in a new post, being the new ‘Mr’ or ‘Miss’ can bring trials and tribulations; the students will test you and challenge you until they respect and understand you. Then there are the staff. Of course, most teachers are glad you are there, but there might be the odd cautious one, having had varied experiences with supply teachers in the past.

Our latest blog looks at how you can go from first day ‘shy’ to being Mr / Miss ‘Super Supply’ in three easy steps.

1. The first day of school

Whether you’ve just left a permanent teaching position, or you’re an NQT, you may have first day nerves! After you accept your supply job, research the school by visiting their website and Ofsted report, or ask us here at Gold Education Recruitment.

Pack a bag containing everything you might need for a day at school, including snacks and teabags, just in case!

When you first arrive at the school, see what work has been left by the class teacher and check that you have all the books, paper and equipment you need as early as possible.

In the morning, make a point of visiting the staffroom. Introduce yourself, make friends with your teaching assistant and try to get to know the teacher next door. If things aren’t quite going to plan, having a friendly colleague around is useful.

Lesson planning – prep and go!

Ahead of your first assignment, prepare some emergency lessons for all age groups that you might be working with. Ensure they’re portable, easily resourced and don’t create too much marking! The school should leave a lesson plan for you, but you might prefer to feel ready for anything.

A seasoned supply teacher quickly learns the tools of the trade. When the agency calls at 7.59am, or when they need you to cover a Year 5 instead of a Year 2 class, you need to be ready. Or when it turns out the class teacher couldn’t leave any plans, you should have a lesson in reserve – ready to go! If you are new to supply teaching, you’ll soon get used to thinking on your feet, but it always helps if you have another card to play.

Our supply teachers frequently recommend subscribing to teaching resource sites for ideas, and usually have some activities and go-to ‘time fillers’ on standby. Others advise to have a backup plan in case technology fails.

If you have been left a lesson plan, it is likely the previous teacher will have designed an activity to last the whole lesson. However, be mindful that students, particularly younger kids, might not engage in a long activity. Avoid reading the instructions and simply letting the students get on with the task for the remaining hour. Our experienced teachers suggest breaking a lesson into ‘bite-sized’ chunks, to ensure the learning objective is achieved. There is a reason why BBC Bitesize works! Breaking down the hour into fifteen minute intervals to see how students are getting on, can be helpful. You can use these breaks to clarify what has been covered so far. More importantly, just because it is your temporary class don’t miss the chance to give feedback and praise. That is one way of going from ‘Mr / Ms Boring Supply’ to an appreciated and respected ‘Super Supply!’

Supply teaching can force teachers to step away from their usual styles and techniques. This provides an opportunity to try new teaching methods, upskill and gain a wider experience within education.

A disruptive class

In any school, there is always going to be a chance you may be covering a class that may be disruptive! If your usual strategies to coping with this have not worked, it is important to know who to refer to for support. It is also useful to have a copy of the school’s behaviour policy to refer to.

The important thing is that you seek support, and not ignore the issue or ‘tolerate’ the problem. All teachers - and even experienced Heads of Department - need to do this throughout their careers. As a supply teacher, you are no different. Ensure you know who is the ‘go to’ teacher, to help you out. Remember, it isn’t a reflection on you, or your teaching, and it is likely that other teachers may have encountered a similar problem.

Often, especially when embarking on our teaching careers, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be that ‘perfect’ teacher. Whilst standing on tables reciting Walt Whitman, or playing Bob Dylan’s Hey Mr Tambourine Man might make good inspirational viewing, good preparation is all that’s needed.

We hope these tips will help you feel less like Simon Casey in 1990’s drama Teachers and more like Mr Burton from Educating Yorkshire.

Here at Gold Education Recruitment, we are always looking for ‘Super Supply Teachers’ to work across our range of primary and secondary schools throughout Essex. We ensure all our teachers have the support they need before walking into class on their first day. If you would like to find out more about our current roles, search our latest teaching vacancies online:

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