After serving as a Headteacher in a Primary School in Surrey for 5 years, Colin Franklyn wanted to have a year back in the classroom before starting another position. We caught up with Colin to ask him about his experience as a teacher and a school leader and why he chose to work as a supply teacher through Zen Educate.

Colin, you were a Deputy Head early in your career and now you have more than 5 years experience as a Headteacher. What got you into teaching in the first place?

I always wanted to be a teacher. I struggled through university but after I started working as a teacher I found I had a knack for connecting with the children with the most difficult behaviour. They would listen to me and I had a way of getting them to do things others couldn’t.

Why did you decide to work as a supply teacher this year?

I’d been in Leadership roles for many years and when I finished this role I decided I would take some time off from it and step back into the classroom. I knew it wouldn’t last for long and so I thought working as a supply teacher would be fun as I would get to work across many different age groups and see many different schools.

“I thought working as a supply teacher would be fun as I would get to work across many different age groups and see many different schools”

With all the agencies out there, how did you choose who you would work through?

I initially signed up with one of the big agencies everybody knows of, but then a former colleague told me about Zen Educate and so I thought I’d give that a try too as I liked the ethos of saving schools money. As a former Headteacher, I know exactly how expensive agencies can get for schools.

And then how did you choose who to stick with?

It was actually surprisingly easy just based on the registration process. Walking into the large agency I got offered a coffee and then a young consultant looked at my CV, checked my documents and after about 15 minutes said I’m good to go. At Zen Educate it was a different ball game altogether. After submitting my documents I had an interview that felt like a real job interview. They asked me about my behaviour management strategies, specific experiences I’ve been through and all the things I would ask anyone who was going to work for me. It was quite obvious to me which company I would trust more as a Headteacher looking for supply cover and so it was easy to commit to Zen Educate.

What has the supply cover been like for you?

It’s been really interesting and I’ve experienced some really different school environments. Most schools have a plan ready for me when I get there and some of the more organised schools have slides or resources as well as a supply teacher pack ready for me. I usually try to read the school website, behaviour and marking policies and the last newsletter before I get there and then once I’m there the trickiest part is just knowing the timetable of the school — where to take the kids for lunch, where to take them at the end of the day and similar things. It’s also very helpful when someone briefs you about the class before you start your day.

“I usually try to read the school website, behaviour and marking policies and last newsletter before I get there.”

Has it changed the way you think of supply teachers at all?

There have been quite a few situations where I’ve walked into a classroom and there was no time to get any instructions from anyone or the school hadn’t yet decided what class I’d be best teaching that day. It required me to adapt very quickly which fortunately I could easily do as I’ve been in the system for so long. A lot of the agencies I worked with as a Headteacher have a lot of NQTs or overseas teachers new to the school system here on their books and I can see how dealing with these last minute changes could be difficult for them at first.

What would be your top advice for a supply teacher?

In most schools children will assume this new adult in front of them has no idea what’s what and who’s who, which is not far from the truth when you’re a supply teacher. So they test the limits of the behaviour policy constantly. When doing supply it’s critical to have really strong behaviour management skills — skills of working with children and understanding why they behave a certain way and how you can get ahead of it — are the key to having a good day.

“Strong behaviour management skills are the key to having a good day”

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