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First I was afraid but I will survive

Be prepared is a good motto for supply teachers. Brenda Jennings gives her advice for putting together a survival kit

The golden rule of supply teaching is don't assume and you won't be disappointed. Never be presumptive, be flexible and be prepared for as many eventualities as possible.

Several years as a supply primary teacher interspersed with longer spells as a permanent teacher over three decades have enabled me to suss out a fairly comprehensive survival kit that has served me well - even rescued me - on numerous occasions.

Top of the list for my trusty bag of tricks is a snack pack comprising tea, coffee, snack bars and a cheerful mug. Being able to avoid standing about in a strange staffroom until someone thinks to offer you a coffee, makes carrying this more than worthwhile.

Carrying an empty water bottle which can be freshly filled each day and kept on your desk to combat a dry throat is very useful.

It is amazing how many teachers do not keep a few vital basics - pens, pencils, a rubber, sharpener, small stapler, ruler, scissors, glue stick, sticky tape, sticks of chalk or dry wipe board markers - on or in their desk. To this end I carry an all-encompassing pencil case. The contents may seem excessive, but all have been god-sends at some time or another.

A small calculator is a worthy addition to the kit, a pocket dictionary is often called upon (spelling is not particularly my strong point) and A4 and A5 notebooks and scrap paper are useful too.

An old shirt has often saved my clothes from the bombardments of an art lesson and I go nowhere without my trusty Acme Thunderer whistle. Given to me in my early days of teaching (and far superior to modern plastic ones), it has refereed many a PE lesson.

I make sure to take a folder containing useful ideas and activities (not requiring a photocopier) for each stage, P1-P7, should I be confronted with a situation where it has not been possible to provide adequate planning. I also carry a humorous poetry book and a book of entertaining short stories.

Another folder is my next suggestion. It contains my salary claim forms and relevant information, such as submission dates and conversion tables, as well as sheets containing information from the authority which I have been issued on my travels.

Upon your first visit to a school, the secretary will need to extract from you certain details for her files. I just hand over a business card (made on a PC) containing most of the relevant information: name, address, telephone number and email address.

I make sure to take a magazine or book should I require it for lunchtime reading. As it is not always easy to get to a telephone in schools, and almost impossible to get privacy, I carry a mobile phone for emergencies, or at least absolute necessities.

At almost any time of the year, children will blitz pupils and teachers looking to raise funds for their school. A purse holding 10p and 20p pieces, for raffle tickets or whatever, will earn its place in your kit bag over and over again.

My last two essentials are abstract but I never go anywhere without them.

My imaginary armour protects me from hostile children and staff, but most importantly for the job I keep a sense of humour.

Brenda Jennings is a primary supply teacher in West Lothian


A check list for your supply teaching survival kit:

* snack pack

* water bottle

* pencil case

* chalk

* dry wipe board pen

* calculator

* dictionary

* note pads

* scrap paper

* painting shirt

* whistle

* poetry and short story books

* folder with ideas for activities for all year groups

* folder with claim forms and authority information

* magazinebook (for break times)

* mobile phone

* spare reading glasses

* cardigan

* tissues

* loose change

* mental armour

* sense of humour

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