This term marks six consecutive years on supply for me – including a short stint when I was recently qualified, I’ve now spent getting on for half of my 15yr teaching career on supply. I’ve been working for the same agency for the past six years and I can honestly say I can count on little more than two hands how many schools I’ve been to in that time as I almost always get re-booked.
People often ask me if I struggle for work as a supply teacher, and thankfully thus far that has never really been the case – of course there are times of the year when it’s quieter but for the most part I get as much work as I need. Maintaining a good relationship with your supply agency and being flexible are key to keeping the work flowing but what you really want is for schools to be asking for you by name and re-booking you. With that in mind, I wanted to share my top tips for getting re-booked!
1. Put in the hours
Turn up on time, if not early, to make sure you know what you’re doing for the day. Sometimes you will end up sitting waiting around for someone to come and show you were you need to be, but it’s always better to be there ahead of time rather than rolling in at 8.30am as your contracted hours start and then chasing around not knowing what your doing. Equally don’t leave with the kids! There’s nothing worse than seeing a supply teacher with their bag packed and following the children out of school at the end of the day. Some days I have nothing to do at the end of the day bar tidying the classroom and leaving a message for the class teacher, other days I have loads of marking to do and will be there long after my official working day has ended – it all balances out in the end
2. Do the marking
Make sure that, wherever possible, you mark whatever you’ve taught – and try to stick to the marking policy. I have a “marked by the supply teacher” stamp which I often use on work I’ve taught as I know when I was teaching full time I always used to mark supply taught work with an “S” to make it clear during a book scrutiny. I will usually work through lunchtime, marking whatever I’ve taught in the morning and then again after school – I have a limit on how late I can work based on what time I have to pick the kids up from childcare but this is a good 45mins after my contracted hours have ended so at that point I think if the marking isn’t done, then there is little more I can do! (As I’ve said, there are plenty of times where I don’t have any marking to do after school so the time balances itself out – I don’t feel hard done to and people notice if you’re prepared to do that little bit more.)
3. Feed back
Make sure you feed back to the class teacher (either in person or via a written note) to let them know how the day has gone. It’s lovely to be told by a supply that your kids were really well behaved but equally it’s important that if there were any issues, these have been communicated – both what happened and what you did about it. I always leave clear notes about how the lessons have gone too – be it on the planning or via a separate note so that the class teacher knows if we missed anything out, had to do things slightly differently or if there were any misconceptions which will need to be addressed the following day. For the most part, because I only work pre-booked, I teach work which has been planned and left for me, but if you have had to provide your own work then make it clear what you’ve done too!
4. Learn the children’s names
I make it a priority to learn as many names as possible whenever I go into a new class – I never ever use name labels, I just learn the names as fast as I can. (For the most part, as long as I’ve done the register, I can learn most of a class by playtime and all of them by lunchtime – I joke that it’s my Supply Super Power) You’d be amazed at what a powerful tool it can be for managing a class – and it shows you care, both about the class you’re teaching and the job you are doing.
5. Talk to TAs
The TAs you’re working with will be the ones who have the biggest say on whether you get re-booked or not – they will be the ones going to the Head saying “Yep, loved her” or “No, please don’t get him back again!” They are also the ones with all the knowledge – the ones who know how the day runs, who know the children well and whether they are behaving in a way that meets their class teacher’s usual expectations.
6. Be Flexible
For me, this means being able to teach right across the key stages – sometimes Reception in the morning and Year 6 in the afternoon – I’m lucky that I have a breadth of experience that means I’m happy to do that. But flexibility also means doing that playground duty, coping with a last minute change of plan, managing without a TA as they’ve been pulled to go somewhere else – doing those things with a smile and a “Yep, no problem”. I’m not saying be a mug and take whatever is thrown at you, but for the most part just get the job done without complaining and you’ll make life easier for everyone! And, making life easier for people is what will get you back into their school.
This all might seem fairly obvious, but they really are the things that get noticed – noticed when you do them and noticed when you don’t. And whilst not marking some books or not learning children’s names might seem quite minor, showing that you care about the job you are doing even though you are “just supply” is what will get you re-booked time after time.