Supply teaching is a rewarding job, but it can have its challenges.
It allows you to work in a variety of settings, with children from a variety of backgrounds.
But being in a different class each week can mean not knowing what the school you are walking into may be like.
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And this means that it is essential that you are prepared with the right tools for the job, to help you adapt to any situation (this also creates a good impression, which can be vital in securing future work).
The supply teacher survival kit
So, whether you’ve been a supply teacher for years or are just getting started, take a look at this list of essentials to keep in your handbag, ready to go at a moment's notice.
1. Post-It notes
As they are a staple in every classroom, you may overlook packing these. But they are a must-have for any supply teacher.
They can be used for organising work, labelling spare sheets and adding handover notes to the teacher. They ensure that you leave the classroom organised, giving a great impression when the teacher returns.
2. A tambourine
Yep. It may sound odd, but having a noise-maker is a fantastic behaviour management tool, especially in schools where you do not know their policies and routines.
A tambourine or similar instrument catches the children’s attention when you need it, and saves your voice as well.
3. A storybook
We’ve all been there: covering a lesson and the children finish half an hour early with no extensions left. A high-quality storybook can be a lifesaver in times like this.
It maintains the children’s interest, promotes a love of reading and will have the class silent and hanging off your every word.
4. A handover sheet
In some schools, you may not have access to a computer or printer. It is a good idea to take a hard copy handover sheet with sections for “lessons taught”, “behaviour comments” and “positive feedback”.
This helps to keep your handover notes neat, organised and concise, even if they are handwritten.
An essential for any teacher, stickers can be even more useful when you’re on supply. If you’re not familiar with the school’s reward system, stickers are a simple way to motivate students.
Having personalised stickers is even better as they are different and exciting for the children.
Many teachers love to collect stationery. This is the time to use it all! If you aren’t familiar with the school’s marking policy, take pens and highlighters of every colour imaginable with you.
That way, whatever colour they mark in, you’ll be prepared. It also shows you’re using initiative.
7. A watch
This one may sound obvious, but there have been several occasions when I’ve left my watch at home.
If you are placed in a classroom with no clock, or are asked to take the children outdoors, not having a watch can lead to losing track of your timings and, consequently, behaviour management can be poor.
Having a watch is a simple thing that can help you keep on top of your lesson pace and classroom management.
OK, so this one isn’t something you carry in your handbag. But positivity is extremely important when supply teaching.
You haven’t built a relationship with the children yet, so smiling in the face of any challenges and using positive reinforcement rather than sanctions can make a huge difference to how the children respond to you.
Make the most of every opportunity, do your best and show each new school what a fantastic teacher you are.
Suzanne Taylor is a supply teacher working in schools across Merseyside