My top tips for being a supply (substitute for Americans) teacher, one year after starting, in no particular order:
Don’t spend everything you earn as you need to remember you get £0 for holidays and sick days and days with no work.
Invest in stickers with your name on as they are “special” (and cheap on amazon). I get no money for that link, I wish I did.
Always ask about script (joined/printing/precursive etc) before the day starts, also about fire drills, first aid, asthma/special needs etc, marking policies, behaviour schemes and assemblies because people don’t always tell you.
Assume you are on break duty – supply normally has that honour.
Take a whistle for PE/Break duty, but check whether one is used – some schools have a no whistle policy, some have bells for breaks.
Be positively memorable for your agency contact – to get work – and your school staff and students – so they ask for you back (have a card ready with your name and agency and number on to hand to the bursar/office/head).
Go over and above – offer to mark, set up for next day etc and don’t race off if you don’t have to, so that you create a good impression.
Be able to spell.
Schools that have supply like to have regular faces so that you get the ethos/kids etc so although it seems like a waste of time, a bit of extra effort can get you regular work!
Don’t hand your timesheet in til the end of the day, it looks like you are waiting out the day.
Try and remember the kids names as quick as possible – I have a talent for this, but the kids settle better if you don’t have to keep asking.
Get the kids to “teach” you what they did leading up to that lesson as a starter so you can gauge what they know/learnt before.
Use the TAs as they know the kids and the work they have been doing.
If there is a trainee – let them teach the lessons they have prepared (easy money!).
Offer to do as many key stages as you can: EYFS, KS1, KS2, and all the types of books that you can handle: day to day, advance bookings, half term blocks, long term blocks and you will get more work!
Take your own pens. I have a 4 coloured biro (red/green/blue/black), a pencil and a black board marker. This means I am not scrabbling around the teacher’s desk relying on children to direct me to writing implements. It helps me remain calm and in control. The pens etc are normally fairly evident, however – I am prepared and I know I am!
Take a thermos mug – again you know you can have a drink and not upset anyone.
Contribute to the tea/coffee fund if you are asked to – it’s a courtesy that you may forget. Your school may pick up on it and if they are having a bad day they many not be pleased – we’ve all been that irritated person who remembers that “they never even paid 20p for their coffee!!”
Turn up on time – and if you are going to be late, let the agency know so they can ring the school. People wont be cross if they are informed.
If you have a bad experience at a school, tell your agency. They are there to make sure their staff are looked after, so the same way they will receive feedback for your performance – give feedback for the school’s positive or negative.
Don’t take rejection personally. With supply schools can be ridiculously and notoriously picky. I was asked not to go back to one school because I hadn’t finished a task with the children – the task was to do the first half of a portrait that they were to complete the following day. A colleague was told she looked funny. In return I happened to point out things like that I wasn’t allowed to park in their car park, the TA disappeared and never came back and a child threw a pen at me. Sometimes you and a school wont work well together – that’s ok. You don’t have to go back!
In the same way – you can make your own boundaries – but this will affect the amount of work you are offered. Last week I agreed to work in a different town. The year group was my favourite, the school welcoming, the kids delightful (“Mrs Gorgeous I love you!”), it took me 1.5hrs each way – so I told the agency with some reluctance that I am not going to go back.
Supply is freeing, and flexible, and confidence boosting and varied. It is also demanding and terrifying, inconsistent and involves a lot of travel.
I love it.