Supply teaching is a fun and rewarding career that provides teachers with the opportunity to work at many different schools. Headteacher and NAHT vice president Gail Larkin shares her wealth of knowledge in a talk at a Randstad Education Seminar in August 2013. In this part of the video series, Gail shares her advice on how to be an effective supply teacher.
Video Transcript - Being an Effective Supply Teacher
Being an effective, efficient supply teacher so you get the job, so you're going into school. I speak generally, because for me, if you work in school, you have to treat it as professionally as you can. It's about getting confidence, about people having respect for you and the only way you're going to get respect in any school is by acting professionally, by being very professional and that includes how you dress, how you look because we are professional people and children pick up on that very quickly. Those of you who have been in school, sometimes it's a great boost for your confidence if you go in wearing something a little bit different.
They go oh miss, you look very pretty today. They do notice children about what you're wearing, what you look like and they pick up on that. I'm not saying every day you've got to go in your best gear and get it ruined, especially if you're in a reception class and crawling about or out in the playground pulling trolleys along with children sitting in it, but it is quite important that you look the part and you act professionally wherever you go, whatever you do. People will notice that.
I will say to you before you go into any school, find out as much as you can about the school. A little knowledge goes a long way in teaching. Do some research. The school website has got a wealth of information. If you can get some key names from the website, when you go into a school, you know the name of the Head Teacher. You do quite like it if the supply comes in and goes “oh, Mrs Larkin pleasure to meet you.” You think oh, they know who I am. That's just a personal touch is always really important.
There's other key players as well. It's very important to get to know the school business manager. They're going to pay your salary at the end of the day. They also often are the ones that employ the staff. You need to kind of suss that out a bit because different schools have different people who actually do the contracts, but I know for my school, a key player would always be the school business manager.
Caretakers are always great to get on your side. I don't know if you've found that already, but if the classroom is kind of churned up at the end of the day. It looks like you've had the rice out to do the collage and it's all over the floor, it's a really good idea if you've got the caretaker on your side, because otherwise they come moaning to the Head Teacher going “don't employ that one again. They always leave the place in a mess.” It's really worth getting to know the caretaker.
Also on the website it's really important you understand the school times, the school structure, how the classes are organized, so you can get a picture of where you fit in and what you're going to be doing. You get a nice picture of the school, the pictures on there, the photos on the website. If it's a good school it will have a good website, especially these days and it gives you a wealth of information. And always, although I do criticise them a lot and I do meet with the chief inspector of Ofsted quite regularly with the NHT, read the Ofsted report. It just gives you another feel about what the school is like, where the good teaching is in the school. It just gives you that all around picture of what's happening.
If possible, and I know this isn't always so, but I used to encourage it and I know other heads don’t. I try to get you into the school before you're going to start. It's really handy if you could get in the night before whether you've got lesson plans all ready for you to teach. Whether you're going to have something for yourself that you're going to have to go in with, so that you know where you're going to go, that you've met people who you might need to. That isn't always possible. I know. That's why I say find out in other ways about the school. If you can get in, it is really helpful.
Talking about lesson plans, I know this varies a lot from school to school and what you have and what you don't have and everything else. It's really important you've got resources yourself. There's some great websites actually. While I was looking at this, I found some good ones; the Guardian Teacher Network community. Seen that one? I thought that was good. The TES primary supply kit? That's a good one and of course Amazon has got loads of books on there about how to be good supply teachers.
But one book I do suggest you read and I made all my staff read this book by Paul Dicks, called 'Positive Ways to Manage Behaviour.' One of the criticisms in the Ofsted report today was about poor behaviour management that they saw from supply teachers. It is the most difficult aspect of the job I reckon. Any suggestions you have that can help you with that is vital.
Look out for relevant policies as well. You can get those on any good website for the school. The suitable policies you need to look at; health and safety, behaviour policies, so that you understand the behaviour management policy of the school so that you're consistent with other members of staff when you're dishing out rewards or sanctions. Children pick up that straight away. They know if they've got somebody there that's going to give them 100 house points in the day and they'll say, oh our teacher always gives us loads of house points. Yeah right. Make sure you know the behaviour policy of the school.