Supply teachers need instructions

Last week I had a supply-teaching placement covering a PE lesson. It wasn’t my best lesson. In fact if I am honest, I felt the lesson was quite chaotic.

It wasn’t helped by the fact that I spent the first 20 minutes of the lesson struggling to open the games store cupboard.

Then, when I finally managed to open the games store cupboard, my students rushed in to get their equipment… and enough balls came out to scatter the children to different areas of the playground in separate mini games.

As I was on my own, I found this situation tough to manage. I could have done with a large tannoy speaker.

When I got home that night, I started to think about how this day could have been better managed. I concluded that all my problems came down to the brief I was given.

So how can a school prepare for supply teacher cover?

Take the time to put together a simple instruction document or even a supply teacher’s handbook, so that:

  1. Both the school and the supply teacher have an essential point of reference.
  2. Logistical issues are considered and addressed before the supply teacher starts work.
  3. Trust and understanding can be developed between the school and its supply teachers.

Make sure a supply teacher’s instructions/handbook:

  • Includes a brief section detailing the school’s policies.
  • Details where key facilities are located, i.e.:
  1. Toilets.
  2. Gym.
  3. Library.
  4. Head master’s office.
  • Provides a timetable (times of assemblies etc.).
  • Highlights primary tasks that need attending to.
  • Explains where resources can be found to enable the tasks to be completed.
  • Includes warnings. Do not expect the supply teacher to second-guess processes that are familiar to you.

In this instance a simple set of instructions would have told me that rather than spending 20 minutes trying to force a stiff lock… I simply should have turned the lock the other way.

In conclusion, by providing your supply teacher with detailed instructions that cover all of the bases, you can be confident that:

  • Your supply teacher will be informed.
  • The handover to the supply teacher will be seamless.
  • Teaching staff and students alike will benefit from an organised day.

Does my experience sound familiar to you? Do tell me if you have a supply teacher experience you would like to share?

Rick Smallwood, Founder teachweb supply teaching agency
Rick Smallwood, founder, teachweb

 About the author: Rick Smallwood is a former chemistry teacher and founder of leading London and the South East supply teacher agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

chemistry supply teacher‘Zippin’ up my boots. Goin’ back to my roots…Yeah!’

Yes, this week I have gone back to the place where my career started. Back down to earth… supply teaching in London secondary schools.

My name is Rick Smallwood. I am a qualified chemistry teacher. During my teaching years I worked in many schools that used a large amount of supply. I also worked as a supply teacher.

Now as founder of teachweb, I spend a lot of my time giving supply teachers advice about how to get the best out of their day.

But is my advice correct? Am I focusing on the right issues? Has the lot of a supply teacher changed over the last decade?

There was only one way for me to find out. To fully understand a supply teacher’s real issues, I needed to get my hands dirty and go ‘back to the floor!’

Therefore over the last couple of weeks or so, I have been doing just that. I have booked myself into supply teaching jobs with the objectives to:

• Engage with teaching staff and students.
• Experience at first hand the day-to-day reality of supply teaching.

Over the next few weeks I will be feeding back my experiences to you and letting you know the lessons I have learned.

So far, I have I learnt:

What my students think of me

Much to my surprise, due to my shaven head, students regularly mistake me for a character in EastEnders.

Lessons learnt (or to be debated?)

Is it better to fess up to being Rick Smallwood, or should I exploit my student’s fantasy that their daily supply teacher moonlights at night as a soap star?

How to get inspiration: Get a muse

During one of my placements I was tasked with attending a Eucharist church service.

I was amazed at how a modern vicar was able to generate energy and capture the attention of students from a very urban area.

In fact I have to say the vicar managed to engage both students and staff.

Year 11 students were enlightened to the importance of their work this term and next.
They appeared more than happy to let this dare I say ‘unlikely’ muse motivate them to prioritise their work over and above their social lives.

So please do watch this space. I am indeed looking forward to reporting my findings… the good, the bad and the ugly of supply teaching.

In the meantime if you have any of your own stories to tell, please do pass them on.

Rick Smallwood, Founder teachweb supply teaching agency
Rick Smallwood, founder, teachweb

 About the author: Rick Smallwood is a former chemistry teacher and founder of leading London and the South East supply teacher agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.