My Top Tips for Stress-Free Prep
A supply day can be overwhelming if you're not prepared. There are certain steps you can follow to stay organised and feel ready to have a great day teaching.
The Mary Poppins Bag
First things first, you will be carrying this bag around all day, perhaps across London on three different modes of transport. This means comfort is a must. I have found that a rucksack with different compartments is the best idea. Make sure it is padded at the back and the straps sit comfortably on your shoulders. As well as practicality, I feel that the bag should make you feel happy when you wear it. My rucksack is lime green and padded throughout. Children respond positively to a colourful or interesting bag and their first impression of you is very important.
What do I put in my bag?
I like to cover all eventualities, whilst being mindful of the weight. Being a ‘Wellbeing Fanatic’ I think about my needs for the day. Obviously, I pack the boring stuff, like DBS and photo ID. I take my driver’s license as it would be easier to replace if lost/stolen and I don’t like the idea of someone having my passport. I like to take healthy snacks, a coffee flask (not decaf- I’m not that healthy!) and water. The British weather is changeable, so take a travel-size umbrella and suntan lotion, lightweight foldable jacket, and sunglasses and a sun hat if you’re going to a Nursery class, as you will be outside a lot of the day. I also put a magazine in the back compartment with the DBS for light reading.
Supply teaching can be stressful at times. You could be contacted at 8 am and expected to arrive at 9 am. Google maps says it is an hour away, but in truth, it is going to take an extra 20 minutes with train delays, crowded bus stops and the ‘walk’ time being estimated for a giant with 10-foot legs. And then there is trying to follow the blue dot, which never seems to be facing the way you are facing. I find it easier sometimes just to ask locals. With all this, your stress levels can’t help but shoot up and the last thing you want to do is arrive looking like you have just stepped off a long-haul flight. The children will notice and it can affect their behaviour adversely.
I have a little kit which I put into a small toiletries bag filled with shop-bought things like paracetamol, Rennies, mints, lip balm, as well as remedies I make myself. I have a miniature perfume roller which I fill with almond oil and a few drops of lavender. I put this on my pulse points. I also have a small spray bottle which has ‘mood lifting oils’ in it: grapefruit, orange and lime. This can be sprayed upwards and it falls on you like rain. It also is good for when you have traveled on smelly buses or trains. Have your bag ready the night before and just make the coffee before you leave. You’d be surprised by how much you can fit into a small rucksack with organization.
The Day Begins
Your day will begin with you being well prepared and knowing where you are going, or getting up, sitting about and wondering if you are going at all. Hopefully, it is the former. If so, you will have had at least the day before to check where it is, think about alternative routes and methods of transport. I have a car and I found that it is better to phone the school and check if they have a car park or if there is permit parking around the school. You might also want to Google local cafes for lunch, or if you are like me, sit in your car, eating your own snacks and listening to music with the seat back. Having taught for nearly 20 years, much of it full time in the same schools every day, I realise that the best thing about supply teaching is you actually get a lunch break. Make sure you enjoy it!
Always have your clothes ready the night before and on a radiator, when it is winter. Any small thing that I can do to make things more comfortable for myself, I work into my daily routine. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time after you get up. If you wake up at 6 am, get ready and are waiting to go, but don’t know where or when, this can feel very stressful. I try my best to relax by being comfortable on the sofa, sitting up and doing some meditation to calm any nerves. Avoid the temptation to lie down, as you will fall back to sleep and if you get the call suddenly, it will be a real shock to the system. I find that doing some simple relaxation/meditation (Headspace is a good app) and not getting involved in the outcome of the day, provides a better start than accounting for all the variables.
Once you are started on your journey, try to focus on each stage calmly and take your time to check any connections and ask for help if you need it. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stuck at an underground station waiting for a Greater London connection, check exactly when the next train is. If you are at risk of being late, come up to ground level from the station and call the school, where you will get a mobile signal.
When you arrive at the school, wait a few moments to catch your breath before going in. There are many good and short grounding exercises on the internet you may find useful. Have a mint, or a sip of water and steady yourself. Let go of the journey and calm your breathing. Remember to smile when you enter the school and enjoy the day being with the children as much as you possibly can.