teachweb raft raceLast weekend intrepid supply teaching recruitment consultant (me) led an audacious teachweb team into battle at the annual Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race.

Since its launch in 1975, this event hosted by The Lewes and District Round Table has raised in excess of £500,000 for local good causes.

Courageous race participants are awarded prizes for “Fastest Time”, “Most Devious Means” and “Best Decorated”.

It has to be said teachweb’s entry into the race was a last minute decision. However undaunted by the challenge of building a raft in a day, I believe I demonstrated dogged determination in my efforts to source:

• Skipped wood.
• Scaffolding batons.
• Chemical barrels.

And it has to be said, a flair for design when constructing my fine vessel.

In fact, shiver me timbers… indeed there lurks an inner DT teacher within me!

Once the teachweb raft was declared sea faring and the battle began, my heroic team was tested to its limits.

My team fought to remain steadfast as throughout the route merciless onlookers pelted us with flour and eggs.

At times paddling the raft felt like paddling a bus. Also due to the constant onslaught of eggs and flour, at all times we had to keep our wits about us to avoid ending up in Davy Jones’ locker!”

Despite our best efforts, as well as the help of a passing speedboat that kindly gave our unwavering team a tow… we finished last.

Yet we were delighted to complete the race in one piece. Furthermore taking part was a superb excuse for us to get together and we certainly enjoyed our celebratory grog.

In fact I enjoyed the event so much I would like to form a teachweb team for next year’s race.

Therefore…

  • Are you a daring teacher?
  • Do you have the design and technology skills we need to construct a raft able to cut through the water with ease and speed?
  • More importantly do you have the cunning to help us to win the prize for the “most devious means”?

Then we would love to hear from you.

2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race. Please do get in touch if you would like to take part.

Contact us for more information.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

How supply teachers can master body language for successThey say your body communicates 55% of what you have to say in face-to-face interactions.  You don’t get much more face to face than when you are a supply teacher standing in front of thirty 11-16 year olds.

Therefore we thought supply teachers would benefit from 5 clever tips for using body language to command attention in a new classroom.

When I visit schools for sales purposes, the people in charge of cover sometimes tell me: “We can tell within 5 paces whether someone is going to sink or swim, or somewhere in between.”

  • So what is it that speaks so loudly about sinking and swimming?
  • Further more can we control it?

How to communicate confidence

When I was learning to teach, my mentor said: “When you speak don’t touch your face and don’t waggle your head about.”

She demonstrated these movements by acting them out. I was amazed how much difference they made. It almost made her look like someone else while she was speaking that way. Keeping your head still while speaking is something all authority figures practice.

How to stop looking anxious

Craning your head forwards makes you look anxious.  When you are next standing in a class, check your head is balanced vertically above your shoulders. The best way to do this is to discretely back up against a wall. If your head has a long way to go back, you are craning way forward and look anxious.

How to communicate your interest and attention

Be aware of your body language. Notice when your:

  • Fingers are drumming.
  • Legs are bouncing.
  • Hands are straightening clothes or tugging at an earlobe.

Know that these movements communicate to the people around you that a bit of you wants to be somewhere else… desperately.

How to communicate your authority

Stand straight up, with your chest open and keep your head still while talking. Gently move your gaze evenly around the room.

How to dress to impress

If you feel comfortable with the way you look and feel you will immediately exude confidence.

So take a glance at your clothes before you enter the classroom to reassure yourself that you have not got toothpaste on your chin, or your bed head hairstyle!

These tips should put you well on the path of giving you confidence and communicating control in the classroom in a short period of time.

Of course if you have any further tips, we would be delighted to hear them.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

It’s a very sad coincidence that a week after we posted an article here, drawing attention to the number of editorial’s on student threats to teachers, Ann McGuire was stabbed to death in school.

I posted a comment last week on verbal and online threats made by students. I chose this topic because I knew that teachers in many of the state schools and academies would be able to relate – often a large number of times – supply teachers drawing a disproportionately large number of threats (and it is expected you’ll deal with them). I thought it would make common ground for a discussion in which many would be able to share experiences. I didn’t for one second think that, 4 days later, we’d be aware of this heinous event.

The inference of violence was always around when I taught, and sometimes exploded into actual violence between students – although this was the exception rather than the rule. I don’t think I ever witnessed this violence against teachers.

My teaching experience ended in 2009 but I have inferred that since then violent or otherwise poor behaviour is tolerated much less than is was between the mid 90’s and 2007.

This article from the Guardian includes graphs showing much the same numbers of declining rates of exclusions due to violence. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/apr/29/ann-maguire-stabbing-how-common-is-violence-against-a-teacher

 

What do you think ? Are secondary schools and academies places where you always feel safe? Have you seen or heard about weapons being brought into school and has gang / intra pupil related violence ever spilled over into your classroom? Any comments welcome.

When teaching professionals become mothers

Isn’t it a shame mothers don’t have a better pathway back to work after several years out having children. If more part time work were available – more work would be done by more mums, who have had a few years out to bring up children.

Time and time again I register skilled teachers at the agency, women who wanted to give their children their full attention for 4/5 years and then find themselves feeling that returning to full time teaching immediately is still:

a) Not possible.

b) Too big a step given their slight “rustiness”.

They join a supply teaching agency in the hope that we will be able to find part time supply teaching work in the London area.

I see the returning to work thing from 2 angles. Firstly from the husband angle and secondly from my work as a recruiter of supply teachers.

We have many candidates who come to us seeking part time supply teaching work, many of whom are mothers and many of whom are very good teachers. If only we could put two of them together to work a full teaching timetable!

My wife needs a part time job role in the profession she qualified in (in her case as a lawyer, which took years and cost a small fortune)….but employers do not want part time (lawyers)  or job sharing lawyers – only your 12 hour day mum (with nanny since the age of 3 months is welcome) it seems!

The same applies to teaching. The teachers who register with our agency and want part time work suffer a similar lack of success, because although:

a)      They are often really excellent teachers and
b)      They teach in-need secondary subjects in an environment of teacher shortage, schools are reluctant to take them on part time job share basis because of expense and because it is viewed as a risk.

I will explain what schools said about job shares further down this article.

The fact  is for most families life is simply too expensive to have one adult family member earning (and one not earning). Also part time work is a more attractive method of getting back into work than waiting until children are much older and then going back full time after a decade of being out of work.

Inevitably it will put women in a really difficult situation. To get a job of any kind they must avoid taking any significant time off work OR they must have fewer (or no) children!

It can be enormously frustrating for us, as a recruiter of effective teachers, when we see schools make poor recruitment choices because they do not want to hire part time job sharing teachers.

The government is clearly keen on getting women back to work – it is heavily in their interests! But realistically whilst it suits some women to go back after 3 months of recovery and bonding time, there are always going to be many who want to stay out of the workforce for several years.

We need to make a pathway that encourages reintroduction gradually and sensitively to a group who have inevitably become “rusty”, but often have very valuable knowledge and indemand skills and too much potential to be permanently put out to “career pasture”.

We hope that the coming post recessionary cycle – during which schools traditionally become desperate to recruit teachers– will help those teachers seeking job-share work a chance to gradually re-enter the school environment.

Next week – what schools say about job share arrangements.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

Supply teacher travel planningOne of the joys of supply teaching is the flexibility it offers.

Supply teachers often find contracts end slightly before the end of term, by mutual agreement with the school.

As a result supply teachers can benefit from significant travel savings.

Now is the ideal time to start planning your summer getaways. So to help you on your way, we have compiled 10 top tips to help you save money on your travel plans:

1.  Book off peak

Some supply teachers are free of the commitment to be at school until the very last day of term. Some schools terminate positions at May half term. So book early and take advantage of huge off peak savings.

2.  Travel at the cheapest times

Supply teaching also means that you are not tied to a Monday to Friday week. So don’t travel at the weekend. Save money and travel midweek.

3. Plane, train or automobile

You can often make considerable savings if you investigate a wide range of travel options.

4. Book yours ticket now

Make the most out of early booking discounts. The closer to the holiday season, the more expensive tickets will get.

5. Use public transport to get to the airport

Don’t leave it until the last minute to leave for the airport. Use public transport and enjoy the savings you will make.

6. Avoid airport currency exchanges like the plague

Know you will get a much better deal if you buy your currency at your post office in advance – or buy a cash card specifically for foreign exchange. The more you change the better the rate at the post office. Know that bank rates are dire and include many hidden fees.

7. Book an apartment as opposed to a hotel

Great apartments can be found at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. We suggest Air B and B – or a private room in a hostel.

8. Camp

Why not make the most out of the glorious summer sun? As with hostels the extras on a campsite or in a hostel are so much less expensive than the extras in a hotel.

9. Beat baggage charges

Pack as light as you can. Challenge yourself to pack hand luggage only. At the same time avoid arrival baggage handling queues.

10. BYO food

Airline food, apart from being unappetising, is notoriously expensive. So plan ahead and take your own and don’t forget a water container to refill!

The days are getting lighter. Summer will soon be upon us. So start planning your summer holidays now. You know it makes financial sense.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

Supply teaching: What to expect

  • Have you recently completed your teacher training, but have yet to find a permanent teaching position?
  • Do you love teaching but want a break from the administrative constraints of the role?
  • Or perhaps you have taken time out from teaching and would like make a return to the classroom?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then supply teaching may offer you a solution. Many teachers enjoy the benefits of supply teaching which include:

  • Flexibility.
  • The opportunity to work in a variety of schools.
  • The opportunity to develop your skills.

One thing is certain. Life is never boring as a supply teacher in London and the South East.

If you are thinking about trying out supply teaching, here is a good article for you that details what you can expect. Also, take advantage of the tips within the article for getting the most out of a typical day:

A day in the life of a supply teacher: What to expect

Of course if you have any tips of your own, please do share them with our readers.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

What supply teaching agencies can learn from matchmakersHow do we find out if candidates and schools are right for each other? The answer lies in matchmaking.

As it is the season of love, we have been thinking about the skills needed to be a successful supply teaching agency matchmaker.

Like a matchmaker who is paid to help people find love, a successful supply teaching agency consultant needs to be equipped with attributes including:

  • Relationship management skills.
  • People and communication skills.
  • Time.
  • Energy.
  • Passion.
  • Drive.

To ensure candidates and schools present themselves in the best possible and accurate light and to make the perfect match.

Matchmaking for schools

Of course building and maintaining strong relationships with schools has to be at the heart of any successful supply teaching agency business. Therefore when making a match for a school, a good supply teaching agency will deliver:

  • A professional service that combines a positive and realistic attitude and the ability to listen and understand the schools needs.
  • Excellent lines of communication.
  • An excellent vetting service.

So that schools can be confident that they will be introduced to the right person with the right skills and attitude to do the job.

Matchmaking for teachers

Very much like modern dating, a supply teaching agency’s initial contact with a teacher will be online. It will speak to you without actually seeing you.

Although a supply teaching agency will be more interested in a teacher’s CV than its photo, it will be aware that some “artistic license” can be used to embellish attributes!

Where a supply teaching agency differs from an online matchmaker is that it can check up on past performance!

Furthermore, unlike an online matchmaker, a supply teaching agency can ask previous (employment) partners for references.

In fact online matchmakers should take note of this feature of our service. Wouldn’t it be great if you could vet potential partners in terms of:

  • Tidiness.
  • Flexibility.
  • Ability to get on with your friends.
  • Punctuality.
  • Attendance… and more.

Sorry, I have become distracted. But surely, this would save so much time?!

Back to matchmaking for teachers. A good supply teaching agency will:

  • Have great relationships with a wide range of schools.
  • Provide a quick and simple job finding service (easy to register and regular updates of available positions).
  • Create exceptional job descriptions.
  • Provide help and advice to get teachers through the interview process.
  • Be skilled in negotiation so teachers can be confident they will benefit from the best rates of pay.

Unfortunately in education recruitment unlike some matchmaking agencies, we do not get the chance to wine and dine our candidates.

However I am going to make a late new year’s resolution to meet as many teachweb teachers as possible for a drink and a chat.

Why?

Because that is how teachweb started and that’s what it is all about!

In conclusion, whatever you are doing this Valentines day, enjoy it and know that we are extremely enthusiastic about your relationship with teachweb!

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

Supply teachers: How to engage a classWhat can be more distracting and frustrating for a supply teacher than having to manage a pupil that:

  • Doesn’t easily participate in class activities.
  • Regularly demonstrates poor behaviour.
  • Doesn’t complete its homework.

Well, you will be pleased to hear that help is at hand. Senior Leader at Shoreham Academy Emlyn Hall has developed an effective new approach to managing pupils with behavioural issues.

Read Emlyn’s article: Helping students to re-engage with their education and you will be able to introduce your school to new strategies for:

  • Getting students to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Salvaging strained or broken pupil/staff/school relationships.
  • Getting pupils with behavioural problems to work together with troubled peers, so that they can ultimately achieve their potential.

Finally, find out how you can help your school, like Emlyn’s school Shoreham Academy to benefit from significant success in re-engaging the most challenging pupils.

Of course and as always, we would be delighted to hear your experiences on this subject. So do let us know if you have any advice you can pass on to teachweb supply teachers.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

Why academy schools strike fear into supply teachersIn part three of our expose on why contract teachers are turning to supply teaching, we turn our attention to academy schools. We reveal why enforced new terms and conditions set by academy schools are driving teachers to rethink their careers.

teachweb supply teachers have been more than willing to share with us their experiences.

Many teachers told us they felt they were being taken for granted. Unfortunately, many also told us they had turned to supply teaching as an exit route from the profession.

It is a fact that academy schools are free to invent new terms and conditions for new staff. On a positive note, the majority of academy pay scales do not tend to vary much from national norms.

Yet worryingly, according to a report by the Times Education Supplement: “Some academies require staff to be available during school holidays, while others put no upper limit on working hours.”

According to the NASUWT, academy schools can propose all sorts of changes to pay and conditions.

Some existing academies insist on Saturday working, whilst others enforce longer school days and longer school years. In some, slightly more pay is offered for these extensions to working hours. In others, this is not the case.

Furthermore the NASUWT also states: “Existing staff who agree to a change of contract following conversion to academy status are bound by any new contract devised by the academy, which may not include provisions for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.”

The NASUWT adds: “New contracts also rarely cover leadership and management time. Also new contracts can result in teachers being required to undertake a range of administrative tasks that do not require their qualifications or skills.”

For many of the more desperate teachers teachweb spoke to, the ultimate decision to leave the teaching profession came only after their contracts were changed when their schools turned into academies.

The majority of teachers found their teaching days lengthened by an hour. In addition they were required to cover after-school activities as well as to stay for meetings until 7pm on at least one night a week.

On top of that, teachers still had to find the hours required to complete marking and paperwork.

In conclusion, in many schools teachers who are already stressed and overworked are now essentially being forced to work an extra hour, every day for the same pay.

Therefore it’s of little surprise that changes to terms and conditions in contracts, applied by academy schools have been the final straw for some good teachers who choose to supply teach while they are retraining.

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

Supply teachers reveal why they disagree with teaching to the testTeachers become teachers because they love to teach. Yet it is becoming apparent that under the enormous pressure of tests, league tables and classroom management objectives, many teachers are questioning their career choices.

In a follow up to our last post: The uncomfortable truth: Why teachers are turning to supply teaching, we reveal why teaching to the test is making them so unhappy.

According to many teachers questioned, Ofsted is constantly changing what it expects to see in an outstanding lesson, making it harder and harder to get the coveted grading of “outstanding”.

One teacher told teachweb: “Every child has to be engaged all the way through the lesson to get ‘outstanding’. If just one child is off-task, then you won’t get an ‘outstanding’.”

For anyone who knows children, it seems fairly obvious that at some point during a thirty-minute lesson, at least one child is going to disengage. They’re children for heaven’s sake! On top of that, the lesson isn’t all that will be judged.

Another teacher told us: “You can teach the most amazing lesson, but if you aren’t completely up to date with your marking, you’ll fail.”

More and more teachers get the impression that Ofsted is just looking for ways to catch them out and label them as inadequate.

“It’s meant to be about raising standards, but it feels more like a witch-hunt to me.” said one teacher.

Another teacher said: “I can think of one four letter Tory word for why people would want to leave teaching.” Yes, Mr Gove has a lot to answer for.

Mr Gove has repeatedly insulted teachers by calling them “whingers” and insinuating that they are lazy. He wants to raise teaching standards by adopting performance related pay and forcing out under-performing teachers.

But will these proposals really drive up standards? Of course not. They will just cause more stress and decreased morale in the profession.

Hands up if you know who said this? “The Government must take responsibility for driving so many experienced professionals out of the classroom by tying their hands in red tape and watering down their powers.”

This statement is so true. However it might surprise you to know that this isn’t a quote from one of our teachers. It was actually said by Michael Gove back in 2010 in an attack on the Labour government.

Has anything changed since then? Has red tape been abolished? Well, whatever has been done isn’t enough to stop teachers from quitting, that’s for sure.

Are you thinking of leaving the teaching profession? We would welcome your comments”

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 teaching agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.