You will always have good and bad days as a supply teacher and it’s worth remembering that things rarely go to plan on the first day. At the same time, you can certainly improve your chances of success and take steps to ensure the students will be receptive to the way in which you want to teach them.
But what teaching tips should you know about in your next supply role?
10 Tips for Supply Teachers to Thrive from Day One
Studies show that lack of organisation is a primary reason for low grades among students and precisely the same is true for the efficacy or quality of teaching. That is to say, an organised supply teacher is far more likely to do a good job than one that fails to take time to prepare for a day in the classroom.
Use binders, folders and check-lists to ensure everything is mapped out for the day ahead. This should be a system you refine over time and a reliable reference for any time you want to check lesson or student information.
First impressions are everything. While the permanent teacher will usually leave a plan with lessons etc, you should not expect this to be the case. It can happen that supply teachers arrive in class and find there is no plan or outline for the day ahead. This is why you should always prepare some ideas of your own and have a plan with relevant lessons that can be used anytime you need them. It also helps to have a backup plan like this because you might use parts of the plan to fill gaps and maintain some momentum when you finish lessons early.
You must establish and communicate your expectations from the outset. Consistency of approach is the key to success when managing behaviour. Be sure to create positive relationships by using praise and incentives to motivate your learners. It is important to address any challenging behaviour away from the rest of the class. Remember, challenging behaviour is a form of communication. Children should feel listened to and supported. Seek advice from other educators and implement the school's behaviour policy consistently.
You obviously want to focus on the details of lesson plans, but getting your bearings is also important. For example, knowing your way around the various rooms and facilities in a school can remove the tedious uncertainties from the mind and allow for more energy to focus on the other items on this list. You can also prepare for such by taking time to read school policies that might pertain to conduct, lunch-times or other aspects of the daily routine. You also want to start out on the right foot as a supply teacher so maybe plan your morning route in advance to ensure that you are not late on the first day!
Your attitude will almost always dictate whether or not you have a receptive classroom. It’s best to keep in mind that most students don’t like change and will likely fear the incoming supply teacher. However, this is also the reason some students will try to test your resolve and potentially behave in a mischievous manner. You can combat these fears by remembering that you are a very competent supply teacher and then carrying yourself accordingly.
Supply teachers are often at a disadvantage on the first day because they are not yet familiar with certain aspects of routine. Some students are sure to test you by saying things like “That’s not how we usually do x and y” and they might even lie about break times! Something similar can happen as a result of not knowing things like the seating arrangements or toilet-break policy. With this in mind, you can’t be expected to know everything on day one so it’s best to use common sense and trust your instincts when making these type of decisions.
Your teaching voice IS important. It's the vehicle for transmitting your knowledge and passion. Find the right balance between stern and sugary. Though the job can be stressful at times, teachers should be careful not to sound angry or exasperated. Whispering is a smart way to quickly de-escalate challenging behaviour scenarios. Instead of embarrassing a student by yelling or correcting behaviour in front of the whole class, show respect by whispering a firm reminder. This gives the student the chance to get back on track without peer influence or disruptive confrontation. Teachers must be cautious not to speak in a tone that’s too flat. You don’t want your students to be bored! Vary your inflection and your volume to keep students engaged. Don’t be afraid to “get into character” and have some fun; your students will pay attention and your lesson will be more likely to stick!
Try not to move things around too much and leave the classroom exactly as you found it. Unruly students might not have the same respect and leave things somewhat messy but do try your best to keep things tidy. You should also get in the habit of leaving a note for the permanent teacher with a brief report of how things went in their absence. This can include a quick review of lessons covered, student behaviour and any other relevant information you think they might want to know. Leaving a tidy classroom and useful report should help you leave a good impression on the first day as a supply teacher.
Teachers are role models! Professionalism is a quality that every educator and school employee should possess. It is important to dress appropriately, be punctual and display a positive attitude. Acting with integrity and showing courtesy to others is an important way to share and maintain your character and reputation at school. Teachers must model strong character traits, such as perseverance, honesty, respect, lawfulness, patience, fairness, responsibility and unity. You must treat every student with kindness, equality and respect, without showing favouritism, prejudice or partiality. Your classroom should promote safety, security and acceptance, always avoiding any form of bullying, hostility, dishonesty, neglect or offensive conduct. The best teachers have the ability to influence students and help them grow.
With supply teachers are in high demand right now, an online platform like Zen Educate is a much faster way of finding vacancies. Speak directly with schools and prevent teaching agencies from taking a huge, unjustified cut of your wages.