A Checklist for Schools and Supply Teachers

By Eddie Gardner 

Supply is a perennial issue for teachers and schools. The quality of temporary teachers has improved since John’s experience in the earlier article and so has schools’ ability to manage them. Most of the time visiting teachers have a positive experience. They have the information they need well in advance, the students are great, and schools have protocols and support in place. But some schools, and invariably the ones that need a lot of temporary supply, and some teachers, still have a lot of work to do. There’s plenty of advice online for supply teachers but all of them assume you have plenty of advance notice, all necessary information and plenty of time when you get there; and that schools are welcoming and staff have prepared everything you need. Here’s how some schools make it more difficult than it needs to be…

1. Temporary teachers are often looked down on and made to feel unwelcome.

2. This transfers to the students who can feel disregarded and unfairly treated themselves.

3. No established routine for welcoming visiting teachers and helping with things like registers.

4. Schools should send a set of documents and links to helpful information as soon as they can.

5. Seating plans with pictures and names work well.

6. Put bodies in rooms rather than taking a few minutes to find out where a particular teacher’s skills would be best deployed.

7. Not all schools have behaviour support systems that work. Test it and make sure the students know their rules and consequences.

8. Appoint a student in each class who will record points and stickers etc.

9. Arm the visiting teachers with incentives and rewards so they can create a positive relationship in the short window of opportunity they have when they first meet new students.

10. Make sure all staff have a comprehensive set of lessons and resources ready for unexpected absences.

And supply teachers…

1. Understand that they will be disappointed to see you. It’s not personal. It’s just that it’s their classroom and their lesson, and it’s their teacher that’s missing.

2. Have a signature strategy for getting attention then have an attention grabbing question, statement or starter that impels them to listen. Your first few words and

how you say them makes a lasting impression – you only have a short window to do this.

3. If it’s the first meeting, take the time to get as familiar as possible with their names and them. Have a set of questions that could stimulate a discussion that helps you to get to know them a little.

14. Assertiveness skills – the essential basics of calm, voice, clarity of expectations (both for behaviour and learning – how well you communicate these is probably the most important thing).

15. Learn to respond paradoxically and give ‘key messages’ (like ‘I’m not going to allow anyone to waste time in my lesson’. I will follow up on my threats).

16. Spend as much time as possible focusing on students who are on task, rewarding and praising in a ratio of at least 5 to 1.

17. Issue a clear warning to the very first rule breaker and follow-up with a quick minor sanction if necessary. They need to see that you’ll follow through with any threats so make them brief and small. The main thing though is to get back to positive reinforcement asap.

There’s loads more help and suggestions online. Finally – don’t work for less than £120 a day. Some agencies pay £200. Shop around. The best schools know how important good supply teachers are and are prepared to pay more. The best agencies also know this and pay a fair rate whilst also providing the best support.

Let us know the best agencies that you have worked with and tell us if you’ve anything to add.

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