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.

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