10 essential tips for casual teachers

Casual teaching can be a great way to enjoy flexible working and avoid staff room politics. Here's our 10 tips on how to make sure your time in the classroom goes as smoothly as possible.

Tes Editorial

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What makes a good casual teacher?

Life as a casual teacher, or relief teacher, can look pretty good from the outside. You work when you want, you avoid things like parents evenings and when the bell rings at 3.30pm, you’re pretty much done. That said, you can end up in the firing line if you’re not properly prepared. With that in mind, we asked some experts for their essential casual teaching advice to help make that school day a little bit easier.

Read our seven reasons to consider relief teaching.

1. Get there early

There are a few key things that you will need to be familiar with as a casual teacher, like the school’s behaviour policy, the teacher's written plans, staff toilets, locating the tea and coffee and, most importantly, the printer, so it makes sense to get to the school in good time.

2. Find out if the work is pre-set

Will you need to bring your own ideas or has the teacher left teaching plans to follow? Also, check to see if you will have use of a smartboard and, if so, that it will be set up for you.

3. Bring your own resources

It’s a good idea to have suitable teaching ideas up your sleeve so that you have something to fall back on if you need it.

Casual teacher Marianne Hupalo from New South Wales says: “Always have a few emergency lessons you can pull out – Tes is a great resource for casual teachers.”

4. Introduce yourself to everyone

The maintenance manager is often a great source of practical knowledge, and office staff can be helpful, too. Smile and say hello to other teachers and staff within the school: not only is it good to see a happy face but it leaves a great impression.

5. Ask about the children

Someone in the school who is familiar with the class should make you aware of any children with particular needs. Be sure to take into account any pupils who might find change difficult.

6. Make yourself familiar

Get to know the timetable for the day, the school’s writing style, class rules for behaviour, how children are expected to move around the school, and whether there are any children who need medication. Ask what ways you can help or if there are any tasks you can take on to help the full-time teachers.

Alison Hislop, primary school casual teacher from Victoria, says: “Show a willingness to do whatever the school needs you to do for the day (including yard duties). Schools really appreciate the offer to do a duty if your teacher doesn't have one. As a full-time classroom teacher, it can make your day for someone to do your yard duty.”

7. Find out about routines

The start of the day is crucial to how well the rest of the day will go, so make sure that you are aware of the daily routine. Children will be reassured those routines haven’t changed and that you are in command.

8. Know your groups

Not off by heart, of course. But have names of children and relevant groups to hand so that the class can be easily organised. The children will usually know which groups they are in, but you may get a few who will play around so stick the list on the wall.

9. Have fun ideas for time fillers

There are always times of the day when you will need to fill short gaps, such as when a session finishes early or assembly is running late. It’s always worth having a few entertaining ideas, and a cupboard puppet seems to do the trick for some.

Alison says: “Don't be surprised if children finish tasks early. Have a collection of five-minute fillers ready to use for literacy and maths to keep the class on task and engaged. Ensure the activities can cover a variety of age groups so you can use them regularly.”

10. Know your bathroom limits

Manage toilet needs by having a maximum of two children in the bathroom at any one time. There could already be a rule about this though, so check with another teacher. You want to avoid half the class visiting the toilet at one time.

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