As part of our ‘make an impression that lasts a lifetime’ campaign, we spoke with our candidates about their experiences as supply staff. The campaign is designed to celebrate great teachers, whether they’re permanent or temporary. In this update, we want to discuss what it’s like to work as a supply teacher.

You may have a number of reasons for looking to be a supply teacher. Perhaps you’re a newly qualified teacher and you’re looking for more experience in the classroom before finding a permanent job. You could be a teaching assistant looking for a position that works around your busy life. Or perhaps, you’re in a permanent teaching position and you’re looking for more flexible working hours.

Whatever role you have or at whatever stage of your career, you are currently, we hope that this update gives you the best insight possible into what it’s like to work supply.

First day of supply teaching

“What is the first day of supply teaching like?” That’s a question that we get asked often by our candidates. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous particularly if you don’t have a lot of teaching experience. There are many things to consider, where is the school and how do I get there? What will the children be like? Are the staff going to be accepting of me?

The first bit of advice we can give about supply teaching is to be prepared. Not in the ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best sense’. Be prepared by understanding where you’re going, what time you have to be there, have your bag ready the night before. Gather as much information as possible from your consultant about the school, who you will be reporting to and what your expectations are.

One of our amazing candidates Isabella described what her first day was like:

“Prior to starting my first day I was a little apprehensive and didn’t know what to expect. From only having experience as a student and knowing I had constant support from a mentor to representing an agency and working independently was a big change. However, by arriving in good time I was able to prepare myself for my first day and familiarise myself with the classroom and staff. Which helped to calm my nerves and gave me the confidence to stick to the schedule provided by the class teacher. This gave me an organised plan but also allowed me to teach these lessons in my own way. By the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to find out where I was going to be placed next.”

Advice for supply teaching

As scary as it might be to enter a classroom for the first time as supply staff, it can also be very exciting. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a little apprehensive, most of the candidates we place into supply feel exactly the same way. We have spoken to more of our fantastic candidates to gather their best advice for supply.

Rox works as a primary supply teacher in The Midlands and has been to numerous schools in the region. When we asked her for her best advice she said, ” Get there early, give yourself time to get a hand-over and find your way around a bit. Always carry a backup lesson.”

The backup lesson is a piece of advice that comes up quite often. In some cases, a teacher may not have had time to prepare a lesson plan for you. By bringing your own along you can keep the students busy and manage behaviour more effectively.

Another candidate of ours, Shannon offered her advice by saying: ‘Be flexible, have strong classroom management skills, give each class 100% patience and energy and don’t assume that behaviour should be poor just because you’re a supply teacher.”

Behaviour management is indeed a major concern that many candidates ask The Classroom Partnership about. There is an assumption that students are more likely to misbehave with a supply teacher than their normal teachers. Whilst in some cases, this does occur, it is not the norm. Most of our candidates have excellent experiences as supply and enjoy returning to the schools when the opportunity arises.

What are the challenges in supply teaching?

So far, the supply teaching experience looks glowingly positive, right? That’s because, in the most part, it really can be a rewarding experience. However, at The Classroom Partnership, we’re honest and we also want to give you a realistic view on some of the challenges within supply.

From fitting in with the ethos of the school to having to leave the school after building such a good relationship with the pupils and staff. These are all challenging aspects of supply teaching. Rachel, one of our secondary supply teachers said, “Agencies can vary massively, TCP is great and very supportive. If you don’t like the agency move on. There are good ones who will look after you and pay you more.”

Whilst Angela said, “Names! It’s a great help when the TA puts labels on each child.”

Choosing the right teaching agency

Working as a supply teaching can be extremely rewarding and as we’ve discussed, quite nerve racking. Having the support of a good agency is integral. In our blog a few months ago, we wrote about what makes a good agency. We’re not here today to blow our own trumpet, but if you’d like to read it, click here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this update and that it’s been helpful in make a decision on supply teaching. For an informal chat about your next step, email us today or visit our contact page to find your closest TCP office.