Why I will continue to supply teach

This post has been half written and forgotten about in my drafts for a while now, however a conversation with Dave at the weekend brought it to the fore front of my mind again and as today is #WorldTeachersDay it makes sense to publish it now!

I’m often asked if or when I will go back to full time teaching and my answer, more often than not, is that right now I can’t see why I would.  Of course there’s the benefits of a regular guaranteed wage which I certainly don’t have at the moment (though I have been extremely lucky to have a couple of long term bookings over the last couple of years which have eased the pressure there) along with sick pay and a pension.  But, right now I’m not sure that’s enough to tempt me back into a full time permanent teaching post.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a primary school teacher.  There was nothing else.  No other job appealed to me.  In fact I would go so far as to say that I didn’t see teaching as my job, it was just what I am.  I am a teacher.  It was (and I guess still is) my vocation.  Nobody goes into teaching for the money or the holidays (or at least if they do they don’t last very long).  You have to teach because you love it.

Family photo

The end of the Summer term marked 4yrs since I left my permanent, full time teaching post in Leeds.  Four years.  I can barely believe it.  Although it was scary at the time, it was the best decision I ever made.  I love teaching, I really do.  But I don’t love what the profession has become.  I don’t love what the government has done to our education system and to our children.

Last year was a tough school year in many ways, with the pressure on teaching staff and pupils more than ever before.  As a supply teacher I often feel as though I’m viewing the pressures of teaching in the current climate through a bubble – they affect me, I feel the force of them yet I am protected.

Until recently I was teaching in the same school (solely) for around 18 months and in that time they were put into Special Measures by Ofsted.  The following year saw them fight tooth and nail to get back from that judgement.  Although I was only working two days a week, somehow every HMI inspection seemed to take place while I was at work.  I saw the stress it caused and I did what I could to alleviate this, to help people out and of course do my very best just in case an inspector inadvertently came to observe me.  But really the pressure wasn’t the same.  I cared about the outcome for the school – for the staff and children I care about, but ultimately the result wouldn’t affect me.

Supply teaching allows me to distance myself from the stress of full time teaching. I get to do the bits of the job I enjoy – the actual teaching – and then go home.  That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park, I find myself in more than my fair share of “tricky” classes and I earn my money, but it’s different.  I know, if I need to, I can walk away.

My babies

Aside from the work / life balance which supply teaching offers, the most significant benefit as a parent of three young children is the flexibility.  Supply teaching means that I could take half a day to go watch Ben’s ‘moving on’ assembly as he moved up to the juniors.  It means I can choose which days to work, I can enjoy the school run and I can be there whenever my children need me too.  I know how lucky I am.  I never thought I would be able to drop my children off for their first day at school, to go to their class assemblies or to have much of a relationship with their class teachers.  This isn’t something I’m going to give up in a hurry.

So for now, while my babies are just that, I will continue to supply teach.  I will continue to choose a more flexible way of working.  I’m not saying I won’t ever go back to full time teaching, I’m just saying not now.

13 thoughts on “Why I will continue to supply teach

  1. I could have written this whole post! I love teaching children but I don’t love teaching as a profession. I left 5 years ago now and have been doing supply for the past 2 years. After my maternity leave is over I will go back to supply and can’t see I will go back to full time before the kids are in secondary school, if ever! Happy world teachers day!! xx

    1. It’s certainly not the profession I dreamed about as a kid or even the one I joined some 13+ years ago. I hope that things improve over the coming years so that full time teaching is more appealing when my kids are older!

  2. My husband is a teacher in a primary school.They have had Ofsted inspectors in last week with 24 hours notice and the stress they have caused is unbelievable.All the teaching staff thought they had done exceedingly well but unfortunately they have been told they are not good enough so will all be watched and advised again.It’s very disheartening and many don’t understand that because schools are so under budget financially that the teachers are actually contributing with their own money on items needed in the class room.It’s despicable and i’m afraid i really think this country has gone wrong and i can see a national shortage of teachers soon caused by teachers leaving because there is very little incentive in the profession.I think you have made a good decision and it will defintely be less stressful for you and i wish you well.

  3. I used to teach 16+, and I actually stopped that and switched to Support Work because I was a single parent and wanted a day a week to do all the housework etc, and I wanted to finish at 4pm and be home for my kids, and be there all evening.
    The amount of extra work that teachers have to do now is horrific – tests to check they can pass tests and that the kids can pass tests, and that they can teach kids how to pass tests. 8 people needing to put a tick in the right box, 14 sheets of paper to say a child can spell their own name. Filling out sheets seems to come far above actual teaching and learning now – it’s not education, it’s administration. I don’t blame any teacher who just says ‘f8ck it’ and teaches kids to copy the right answers parrot fashion – it’s all they have time for – and it’s all the curriculum allows for!
    There, that got that off my chest 😀

  4. I totally understand. Leaving a school was the best for my mental health. 11 hours in school and more at home. My son tried to book in with me for breakfast at 5am. I resigned soon after.
    I was on supply when my boy started school and again last year (he’s 9 now) those were family driven days which I don’t regret one bit.

  5. I can absolutely relate to this. I have considered supply as I love teaching too. Yet as i specialise in sixth form and an options subject there is less need for supply. I have been offered plenty in English but that is not the subject I love.

  6. It’s hard when your vocation stops being your dream – I felt very similar about journalism 10 years ago when I made the move into social media. It’s just not valued the way it used to be, and it’s a miserable way to earn a living these days. Sometimes you have to put what makes you happy first!

  7. I loved reading this, because so much resonates with me. I always wanted to be a secondary school teacher. There was nothing else I would consider, but it is a very different climate now compared with when I started 16 years ago.
    I am sorely tempted to go to supply teaching, but it is the worry about security that holds me back. It is good to see that it is working for you.

  8. It sounds like you found a great balance Colette. While I can’t relate to teaching, I can relate to working part time and the benefit that beings me. I’ll be looking at the way I work again next year when my eldest starts school as I want all the things you do to support your children x

  9. I like your attitude to your profession – I like that you constantly strive to do your best. Your decision sounds like the best for you, your family and the children you teach. They will get a fresh teacher who is fully committed when she is with them. Unfortunately I do know a few teachers who have openly admitted they have gone into teaching for the hours and the holidays and it shows.

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