As the owner of a supply agency and a primary school teacher, I spend time teaching in the schools that we work with for a number of reasons: to keep in touch with the developments within teaching, to get to know the staff and the children, to experience the style and environment of each school and finally, because I love teaching! This hands-on approach helps us to establish and maintain great relationships with our schools, accurately inform our teachers about the schools and to appropriately match schools with teachers.
We are very lucky in that the schools that we work with that I have visited treat supply teachers extremely well and do everything that they can to support and welcome them. So well in fact that I feel like I am a fully-fledged member of staff at most! It is so important that supply teachers are given certain information to enable them to teach to the best of their ability and enjoy their time at school but also so that the children have a productive and enjoyable day.
Bringing together all of the different experiences that I have had when spending time in our schools, I would like to share these to allow schools to empower the supply teachers that they invite into their school. I am sure that most schools do these things already but here are the six things that I have found the most useful when teaching as a supply teacher…
A tour of the school: If visiting a school for the first time it is really helpful if the person who shows you in can give you a quick tour around the school. This gives you the chance to clock the important things such as where the hall, staffroom and photocopier are.
Display daily and weekly timetables: As a supply teacher is often only in the school for a short time, it is really helpful if they can stick to the routines of the class. This helps the children as it is only the teacher that is different and not the whole routine of the day.
Photocopier and door codes: So that the teacher can get around and photocopy resources as needed!
Information on the class: At one of our schools they put a list in the register that gives all the important information on the class. This included any medical problems, behavioural concerns and the timetable for that class. As a supply teacher, this really helps you to feel equipped for the day ahead and able to support the children in that class appropriately.
Leaving plans: If the supply teacher is booked in advance then it is great if work can be planned for them. This is not always possible, for example if the class teacher is off ill. When it is possible, this ensures that the work is relevant to the class, targets appropriate learning objectives and is appropriately differentiated for the levels within the class. If it is not possible, it is really helpful if the class topic is clear so that the supply teacher can use this as a starting point for their own lessons.
Up to date policies on website: We encourage all of our teachers to read the schools behaviour and marking policy when booked in advance. We appreciated that these policies are reviewed and amended but it really helps supply teachers if they are up to date so that they can ensure they are following school policy correctly.
Speaking in the staffroom: We know that we might not be back again for a while but it makes a day in a school so much more enjoyable when the staff are interested in speaking to you. We appreciate that schools are busy places but even a smile and a quick chat goes along way. Whilst talking to a lady yesterday, we found that we had a few friends in common. Another lady in the staffroom was Hungarian and I have taught in Hungary so we talked about the difference between education systems.
If you can think of any other ways to support supply teachers at school I would love to hear them.