Robert, an experienced London supply teacher, shares ways to succeed on your first day of primary supply teaching. A helpful guide if you’re wondering what to bring to school.

If you are new to supply teaching (or an experienced supply teacher looking for new inspiration!), I hope these tips will help make your first day at a new school smoother.

Supply teaching is different from full-time teaching, and there are certain aspects that are essential to excelling in the role. Supply teaching requires the ability to adapt quickly to changing situations - for example, being asked to cover a different class from the one you were expecting. But don’t worry, with this three-point list, you’ll have the confidence and necessary peace of mind to face anything - believe me, I’ve been there!

So, what are the three essential things you need to have before you set out from home in the morning to a new school?

1. Essential Documents

The two pieces of information you always need to bring with you, even to repeat bookings with Zen Educate:

  • Most up-to-date DBS
  • Photo ID

I’ve always used a driving licence, which most of us carry all the time anyway. Make sure the DBS form you bring is the one on the update service. I fold the form into a small A6 plastic wallet to keep it in one piece. After all, you’ll be getting it out every day as many schools request a photocopy to keep for themselves. Keeping the form safe ensures it doesn’t fall to pieces!

2. The tools of the trade

You’ll find out very quickly that each school has a different marking policy, and this means a different colour of pen is needed each time. It may sound trifling, but I carry around a four-in-one colour ballpoint pen - just like the one you probably last used as a child. This means you’re covered for all eventualities and don’t need to go hunting around the teacher’s desk for the sacred marking pen of the right colour!

The other tool I find handy to carry around is a thick white-board marker. Not all schools have working interactive boards, and even if they do, it can be hard to get a login at short notice. On the other hand, all schools will have a whiteboard or flipchart somewhere in the room which you can tackle with your marker.

Last but not least, I’ve personally found value in bringing a small egg-shaker with me (rather like a mini maraca). Some teachers use a tambourine or bell to ask the class to stop what they’re doing and await your introductions, but they can be cumbersome to use. They also make a ridiculous noise when you’re running for the bus in the morning! An egg-shaker easily fits in your pocket and is lightweight to carry around.

3. Food and water

If you’ve ever taught before, you’ll know how essential drinking water is throughout the day, due to all that talking! Bring a full water bottle to work, as you won’t know in advance how far away the staff room is, or indeed if you’ll have time to fill anything up in the morning.

The same goes for food - come prepared! The school you’re in might not have lunch options within walking distance, and whilst schools can be welcoming to have a school meal, this often involves setting up an electronic payment account with the school. Finding someone with the information to set up an account can take a large bite out of your eating time. The effortless and time-saving option is to bring your own food.

I hope these practical tips will ease your entry into the world of supply teaching. Do get in touch with any of your own suggestions on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always great to share ideas!

Robert Pokorny is a teacherpreneur and founder of Scheme Support, a directory of schemes of work for the English National Curriculum. You may enjoy reading Robert’s guide to balancing business with supply teaching or want to browse for London primary school roles.