The best and worst of supply teaching

A good day

Up and have quick shower. No time for dallying as have to get to work many miles away.

Arrived safe and sound to a lovely smiling face, that even seems to know I’m coming and where I’m teaching. Love those sorts of office ladies, but they are getting rarer.

Meet my TA for the day. She offers to make me a cup of tea. I just know today will be a good one. Smiling receptionists and tea-making TAs, what more could I need?

Children come in and settle themselves with something to do. WOW I didn’t even ask them to. Get the usual questions of “Are you a teacher or a TA?”, “Teacher”, “Yes but are you a proper teacher?”, “No, utterly improper!” Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.

Aggghh! Supposed to be on the way to assembly and haven’t even finished the attendance register, let alone the dinner one. Some teacher’s handwriting is atrocious; can’t they type a list for the register? And as for the unusual names….

Late for assembly and so get ‘looks’. I smile and shrug in return, what else can I do?

Give out address labels for children to write their names on to stick on their tops. Even though I tell them to write their name before peeling off the backing paper there is always one who doesn’t and so spends ages with wet paper towels trying to get the label off their desk!

Maths: It goes without a hitch. Children seem used to self marking which is great as it means I don’t feel bad about not marking their books myself.

Break. Apparently my break duty and I smell a rat. How is it teachers always go on courses on their duty days?

Literacy; extended writing. They planned this yesterday and are doing the actual writing today. What about the children who were absent yesterday? I can’t possibly know what they should do, so they quickly copy someone else’s plan. The class is writing happily and unaided and after 20 mins I’m bored. Very bored. If I was a ‘proper’ teacher I’d have heaps of paper work to do, but I’m not and I don’t. I keep reminding pupils they can ask for help if they wish, but they don’t seem to. I’m being paid to watch children write.

Guided reading with orange group. Who is in orange group?? Where can I find out? What book are they reading? Where is it? What do the other children do? Where is that lovely TA? Finally settled with a group (who knows if it is the right one?) and a book (again who knows if it is the right one?). The rest are settled reading by themselves and the TA is now listening to individuals read.


Say goodbye to my lovely TA and eat my lunch while reading my instructions for this afternoon: ‘Do whatever you like.’ Great! Shakespeare it is then! I’m not marking literacy as I can’t possibly know if the work they produced is good or bad for them, nor can I set targets for future work as I don’t know what their future work will be. In fact they probably have a literacy target already, but I can’t comment on that as I don’t know what it is.

I ask someone to go and get the register, but apparently they don’t have the register in the afternoons. I thought it was a legal requirement to do so, but not much I can do about it so no point fussing.

All the class seem to have heard of William Shakespeare but it worries me that one of them very confidently says that the great man wrote his plays in 1910! I know The Bard is generally thought of as genius, but writing from the grave?

After a lovely afternoon of reading, drama and storyboards we clear away. It is so funny that when the children see Countess Olivia with Viola/Cesario and I mention a priest behind them, the children always spontaneously break into the wedding march, ‘Dah Dah De Dah…’ at the top of their voices. Happens every time and I always worry about next door classes.

Send the children off home. Parents pop in to ask if letters about a skiing trip have gone out earlier in the week. Errrr I’ve no idea. Don’t they notice I’m not their child’s normal teacher?

All tidied up and notes about children’s work and behaviour left for the class teacher. Also leave apologies about the unmarked literacy. Not sure why I always feel guilty about not making something I couldn’t possibly mark, but I do. Timesheet filled in. Now I need to find someone willing to sign the thing.

I’m in the car park on my way home with no work at all to do this evening. I’m freeee!

Home! After stopping at the village newsagents for a paper, the village butchers for some chicken for tonight and the village nurseries for some veg, am sitting relaxing with a cup of tea, a piece of cake and the Daily Mail crossword. I remind myself how lucky I am to be a supply teacher.


A really bad - and thankfully rare - day
It was an ominous start to the day when I arrived at 8.15am but found myself waiting outside the school building for around 15 minutes before anyone let me in. 

9.00am all the year 4 children in my cover class arrive and ignore me completely. I need to know the children’s names so give out address labels and ask them to write their names and then stick the labels on their jumpers. Two children stick theirs to their desks and write ‘Keep off’. Others help each other to write ‘F*** Off C****’ and stick it on their foreheads. Charming, but I suppose I should applaud their teamwork. I don’t, however, and use the first step of the school’s behaviour system to remind them of a rule that was broken. Suddenly, a scary looking child starts yelling and swearing at the teaching assistant (TA) and I need to go over to sort it out.

Things are a little calmer, so I start the maths lesson. I begin to explain the worksheets left behind by the usual class teacher when the TA shouts across the room “Supply teachers should not attempt to teach” and told me to just give out the sheets.  Any calm that I had managed to create is immediately disrupted by this intervention, and the children wreak havoc. 

The scary child begins to walk around the class slapping children randomly. I tell him off and he takes himself off to the cool down area. After a short time, his behaviour worsens and I ask the class teacher next door to have him in her class after the TA refuses to do it. The teacher declines to have him despite the fact that I am following the school’s behaviour policy. 

Assembly is at 10.10am according to the extensive notes left for me by the usual teacher, so at 10.05 I begin to get the class ready.  I cross looking headteacher arrives and asks why I am not in assembly and I have to explain what the notes say. He tells me that assembly is at 10.00am and I am late and promptly takes over my class, leading them to the hall. I feel like crying, while the TA smiles smugly.

At break time, a few of the girls in my class pop their heads around the door to say that a nicer TA will be in the class after break for which I am pathetically grateful.

Six ‘extra’ children suddenly arrive from nowhere and say they’ve been told to come to my class. I ask them to get a note from their teacher and they tell me to ‘F*** O**’’. 

Literacy begins and all is well for a while until the scary child starts playing up. So, I send a few responsible children to the headteacher to ask him to collect the scary child. But they soon return saying that the headteacher said that he has better things to do than help put supply teachers who can’t cope.

At lunchtime, I phoned the agency to let them know that I although I will finish the day here at the school, I will never return in future. 

Afternoon goes a little more smoothly after a challenging ICT session. And finally the children go home. The class teacher’s notes say that supply teachers are expected to stay until 4pm. But I’ve finished and I’m never coming back. I do a quick tidy up, try to find someone to sign my timesheet, but most of the teachers have gone home. I eventually find someone, in fact the first kind person I’ve met all day, she sorts out my time sheet and I head straight for the door.

Need more advice? Visit Supply teaching