After having worked in secondary education at a lovely school, I decided to switch gears and start supplying. The two have plenty in common and yet are very different at the same time. From many supply colleagues, I understand that there are a variety of motives for going into supply teaching. The most important one for me was the time-flexibility aspect of it all.
Teaching - as we all know - is not just a job. You basically live and breathe the thing and before you know it takes over. And in many cases that is a good thing, as there is nothing more beneficial for children than to have a dedicated and experienced teacher guiding them through the tricks of life. As teaching takes up so much of your time and headspace, it can be really difficult to endeavour into other extracurricular adventures.
"Supply teaching is the perfect solution to make that happen- I still get to teach, but have less responsibility before and after I get to a school."
A few years ago, I started my own business and a couple of years later I realised it still came second after teaching. And although I still loved teaching, I needed more headspace when not actually being in a school building to work on my own little company. Supply teaching is the perfect solution to make that happen- I still get to teach, but have less responsibility before and after I get to a school. It has freed up a lot of time as I do not spend hours checking tests or planning lessons. For all of you out there looking for a school to settle more long term, it is the perfect opportunity to check out the different options available to you.
The benefits of supply teaching for me are all time related- more time for other things, less time spent preparing and checking. As a supply teacher, you do fly solo and you should be able to cope with that. I run a little design company and as this involves a laptop and a table at a coffee bar, any hours I can put into that are welcome. The teaching hours are therefore perfect for me - provided I am not absolutely used up after a day with a tricky class. Supply teaching is demanding, but use your energy wisely and you end up with a lot of time left each day to do your own thing, whether this is to explore the city or run your company.
As I come from abroad, supply teaching has also given me a good insight into real London life, something not many get to experience. Each neighbourhood has its own characteristics and I have learnt that children attending schools in those neighbourhoods are only slightly affected by that. Meaning, kids are kids and in the schools I teach, many children share harsh backgrounds and challenging home situations. The way a school deals with those issues makes all the difference and that in itself does depend on management and input from the council.
Being a supply teacher is not that glamorous all the time. Often you are called in the morning, you travel to the school in question, your class is pointed out to you and you are then to fend for yourself - being inventive, resourceful, patient, level-headed, and flexible are invaluable. Other times, a team is there to welcome you and you get a lengthy introduction and wonderful lesson plan to help along. The start of the day can depend on the school and on the day. A good day at a school transforms your view of a school and a bad day at a school may spoil it forever. Try not to let a single bad day at a school affect your opinion as each class brings its own challenges. For me, the best schools -- the schools where I enjoy teaching -- are the schools that actually thank me at the end of the day or come and say hello during the day. In the end, a lot of it has to do with appreciation.
Having been a supply teacher for over two years now, there is not much I have not seen. I have been at wonderfully managed schools and schools where I hope management will undergo thorough changing in the near future. I have also learned that all schools greatly appreciate flexible supply teachers who are not fazed by last-minute changes, lacking lesson plans and personal input from the supply teacher. As you want to be remembered by a school, make sure you personalise your lesson. The TA will notice you and your lesson will be so much more enjoyable to teach, which means the kids will have fun and it will be a success all around.
"Work on relationships first, knowledge will follow."
Trust your gut! You are the new face in the classroom, expect some kids to pull up their defence mechanism, but do not fight it, work with it. Work on relationships first, knowledge will follow.
If you are a person who is up for a challenge, who loves exploring new settings, is not fazed by a tricky kid once in a while, who does not expect a thank you every day and is determined to make the most out of each day, supply teaching is for you.
Read about another supply teacher's personal reasons for doing supply.