Supply teaching is rewarding, varied, tiring work, so it’s essential you look out for your wellbeing. A big part of this is ensuring you’re well prepared for unforeseen circumstances that might arise in the course of the day. As with many jobs, it’s appropriate to apply the old adage: 'Better to have and not need, than to need and not have'. Here I cover five of the ways you can best look after yourself as a supply teacher.

‘Better to have and not need, than to need and not have’

1. Prepare food ahead of time

Sometimes when you’re supply teaching you don’t know in advance whether the school will provide you with lunch. I find the best thing to do is to prep a filling salad the night before so that in the morning you can just grab it and go. You’ll need plenty of energy for a day of teaching, so seeds and nuts can be a perfect snack to fend off the morning break hunger pangs. Also, make sure you always get some sort of breakfast, even if it’s something you eat on your commute like a cereal bar.

2. Carry a water bottle at all times

A common cause of fatigue is actually dehydration, so it’s essential that you keep your fluids up when you’re doing lots of teaching. This also has the added advantage of staving off losing your voice after a full week of projecting it to new classes. Avoid the temptation to replace water with cups of coffee as the caffeine hit can leave you feeling exhausted after it fades.

3. Have an emergency activity

When I’m going into new schools and don’t know what to expect, it makes me feel far calmer to know I’ve got something in my back pocket if we wind up with unexpected free time. It’s a weight off of my mind, so I carry a book of riddles suitable for a wide range of ages that can be used to settle classes if needed. This can give you important breathing space while you do things like take the register, and read through the instructions for the day.

4. Prepare for all weather

You never know if you might be supervising an unexpected football lesson, or caught in the rain during lunch time duty. Whatever the season, British weather is often unpredictable. I always carry a small umbrella and pair of sunglasses with me when I’m heading out to schools. A compact waterproof jacket certainly never goes amiss either!

5. Get some down time

Teaching can be so all consuming that you find yourself still mentally running through the day’s events well into the evening. Although some reflection is good, and can be a great help in revising and improving our teaching techniques, it’s also important to know when to switch off! Find something that absorbs you, whether that’s a good novel, going for a run, playing the guitar, or anything else that takes your fancy. Winding down is necessary to ensure you don’t feel burned out, so remind yourself to do so regularly!


Melissa teaches through Zen Educate. Ready to give it a go? Find out more about supply teaching jobs with Zen Educate