At best it’s not easy and at worst it’s absolutely petrifying. Walking into a classroom of unfamiliar students in an unfamiliar school and providing excellent teaching – that’s quite a feat! Not only do you need to be adaptable enough to teach whichever age group, ability level and subject thrown at you – you also need to maintain the pace, standard and tone set by the teacher who you are replacing.
Sounds like a Herculean task, doesn’t it? Winning the respect, trust and good behaviour of an unknown group of students in a matter of minutes is just another huge hurdle that supply teachers across the world encounter every single day. So how do excellent supply teachers do it? Are there any tricks to the trade? In this article we’ll be providing 5 essential survival tips that all supply teachers should have in their educational arsenal.
1. Kick off with some “settlers”
As soon as pupils realise there’s a supply teacher in the mix, they’re going to try to see how far they can push things. The key is to get in there before them! As soon as the class enters kick off with some “settling” activities. These are little mental warm up games which will immediately grab the classes’ attention and give you time to suss the lot of them out!
Try and keep these warm up tasks lesson-specific. For example, for an English class learning about Hemmingway, write up the author’s name on the board and ask the class to find as many words as they can within his name. Award points to the winners to set the precedent that good performance and behaviour will be rewarded and do not give poor behaviour any leeway. This not only sets the tone but also allows you to get a good feel for the mix of pupils in front of you.
2. Bring your own equipment
You can’t prepare for an unknown group of children, but you can prepare all of your equipment. Of course schools have stationary and equipment available but it can take a lot of faffing and searching to get everything together on the fly. By having a prepared set of teaching tools you leave no room for time-wasting which can encourage children to get off-task, behave poorly or believe that you can be taken for a ride!
3. Do your homework
This isn’t always possible but, if you have enough warning, do a little homework on the class you will be teaching, the school you will be working at and the topics you’ll be covering. Gather together information about which children have special requirements, which have behavioural issues and which require a little bit more of a push. Get hold of group lists for classwork, this will prevent any messing about and ensure everything runs smoothly. Learn about rules and routines at the school to ensure your pupils know you are on-the-ball and can’t be trifled with!
4. Take to the stage
It can be helpful to imagine each supply teacher role you fill as a performance. Every school you visit will have a different style and a different tone so you’ll need to be able to convincingly adapt to each new environment. For example, a progressive grammar school may require a more confident, casual, inventive and informative style, whilst an inner city comprehensive may will require a stricter, more authoritative performance. As you go through your supply teaching career you’ll learn a lot about the broad categories which most schools fall into and the teaching styles you’ll need to adopt for each one.
5. Have a contingency plan
No matter how well prepared you and your temporary school are, things can always go awry! If a lesson plan goes AWOL, if the PowerPoint presentation you were banking on mysteriously deletes itself – you’ll need a contingency plan. Have a few fun time-fillers on hand to keep everyone occupied which you try to fix whichever issues arise, try to build up a little catalogue of lesson plans suitable for a range of subjects just in case disaster should arise!
About The Author:-
MPS Education are the leading supply teacher agency in Wales, matching superb supply teachers to placements across England and Wales. To learn more about MPS Education and how you can get into a successful career in supply teaching, visit the website today.