A day in the life of a Supply Teacher
6:20am and the alarm goes off. I immediately switch my phone on as my agency might ring from 6:30am. No pre-booked work today (got 2 days booked in for next week though) and so I’m listening out for my phone to ring. It's pretty much inevitable that it will as it’s been busy lately – lots of illness, last minute cover needed or CPD courses.
I grab a quick shower and catch up on the morning’s news with my usual bowl of cornflakes. By 6:40am, my phone has rung and after a friendly chat with David (my consultant at the agency) I’m booked for the day! It’s my preferred key stage and within 15 miles of home (my ideal radius) so I’m not having to travel too far.
A quick Google search of the postcode (the agency has texted me the details) and I know where I’m going. I’m congratulating myself on being prepared last night and having already made myself a sandwich so that saves me a few minutes which I use to have a skim through the school’s website – I like to be prepared. I’ve been told I’m teaching PE as one of the lessons today so I dress accordingly (no heels today), grab my bag where I’ve already put my DBS and photo ID and head off.
Parking at schools I’ve discovered is either super easy – especially at the recently-built Primaries whose planners actually recognised the need for car parking – or rather tricky. The schools in the middle of older housing estates or nearer the city centre have practically no spaces and so today, I’ve found a space on the road up to the school. Lucky I’d left the house in good time! I find the entrance and introduce myself to reception – I’ve been given the name of who to ask for and what year I’m teaching so it’s a straight-forward sign-in then I’m whisked off down some corridors decorated brightly with children’s work and to my classroom for the day, having had the toilets and staffroom pointed out along the way.
A slightly flustered but smiling TA is already there and tells me she is very pleased to see me. I think I’ve saved her from a day of teaching. She’s managed to find me some planning, points out the timetable on the wall and gives me a quick lowdown of the movers and shakers in the class. Between us, we get the register up and working and I have a look through the morning’s planning, ask a couple of questions about prior learning so I know the context of the lessons I’m teaching, check I’ve got all the necessary resources and most importantly, get a whistlestop tour of the rewards/sanctions procedures and the names of a couple of ‘dependable' children. I’ve always found knowing what rewards and sanctions a school uses is so powerful as a supply teacher. That and a smiling face when the children come in and the early use of something like, “I’ll wait for you to be quiet before I begin”, establishes my position as being a credible teacher who is friendly, rewarding but isn’t going to take any nonsense just because I’m not the usual class teacher.
The morning goes well and it’s soon breaktime. Before the TA dashes out for her much-deserved coffee, I check on the marking policy -what colour pens to use (honestly, you would not believe the variety of colours out there!) and what symbols to put. I’ve got a coffee sachet in my bag and a flask of hot water so I use my time at break to mark the work done so far rather than visit the staff room. I manage to time it just right and squeeze in a toilet visit just before the bell rings and I’m collecting the children from the playground and asking about what they’ve been playing. A liberal spreading of ‘well done such-and-such’, stickers, house points or class dojos from the morning’s work helps to ensure the children are ready to learn in their lessons up to lunch and before I know it, we’re at lunchtime. Personally, I like to use lunchtime to mark work and have a more in-depth read through the afternoon’s planning as for me one of the great advantages to supply teaching is not having to stay after schools for hours marking and having meetings etc. But schools are generally very welcoming places and an insistent invite to the staff room shouldn’t be ignored. On these occasions, I get the planning read quickly, mark a few bits then join them in the staff room with my sandwich for a chat. Mostly, it’s them that talk rather than me – no-one appreciates a full-of-themselves supply with opinions too readily offered but I chip in when asked. In the world of supply teaching, repeat bookings with schools are valuable so establishing yourself as friendly, easy-going and a team player is important.
Today’s school however is one where few teachers seem to sit in the staffroom so I’m able to plough through the marking, sandwich in hand. The afternoon is a mix of topic and PE; I’ve taught the Egyptians many times so I bring in my own subject knowledge to the lesson too and we have a thoroughly enjoyable if not gruesome discussion about the removal of bodily organs and their subsequent stuffing into canopic jars! Then, the class get changed for PE and we’re out onto the field via the PE shed for equipment (I’d asked the TA to sort out a bucket of balls, bats and stumps earlier in the day). The field is slightly soft underfoot so I say a silent thank you to my agency for letting me know to wear trainers rather than ruin a pair of heels or not being able to model the ‘perfect’ bowling action. I’m no James Anderson but I do at least stand a chance of not sinking into the dirt or tripping over a dress on delivering the ball because I’m in my trainers and joggers. A good giggle amongst the class at some of our wayward deliveries and a multitude of encouraging words later we trudge in from the field and prepare for the end of the day.
At 3:30pm, I take the class down a corridor and out to their parents and it’s lovely to hear the slightly begrudgingly given comments from one or two of the lads: “You’re alright, Miss.” or, “We’d have you again.” Praise indeed! Back to the class to mark the last of the books, tidy up (a class teacher always appreciates their classroom left tidy!), a note left about how the children got on today and I head for reception to sign out. I take a moment to say thank you to the lady on reception - I know which side my bread’s buttered and I strongly suspect it’s her rather than the Head who’s booked me for today so a direct thank you hopefully makes me more memorable for rebooking.
Into the car and home… and guess what? It’s only 4:15pm. Winner!