The behaviour question

6th December 2013 at 00:00

I am a supply teacher and most of the time I feel as though I'm trying to nail jelly to the wall when I attempt to maintain the children's attention. It's mainly low-level but persistent chattering - so disruptive. It's really hard to discipline children easily and quickly when you don't know them or have a relationship with them. I try to ascertain and implement the school's behaviour policy to show I'm not a soft touch and acknowledge good behaviour with rewards. What else can I do or what should I do better?

What you said

I always used to take a roll of sticky labels with me and give the students one to stick on their sweatshirt with their name written on it. It makes a huge difference to be able to talk to them by name. If you are having real problems, you should ask management for help. If they are any good, they will support you.

I lay down the law and deal with any problems in the first 10 minutes. Steer clear of negativity and remember to praise constantly. You can expect only a certain amount when covering for the day.

The expert view

The supply teacher lives in a peculiar limbo. The best things to do are:

  • Get a class list in advance.
  • Sketch out a seating plan or get hold of the class teacher's plan.
  • Have them sit according to the plan, even for a single lesson. It might "waste" five minutes, but it will send a powerful signal. You can sometimes get a friendly teacher to come in and help settle them.
  • Get the students to put their planners on the desk so that you know their names.
  • Good schools will have a teacher pop in halfway through - ask if this can happen.
  • Know which senior staff you can report back to.
  • Pass the names of those who misbehave on to the regular teacher.
  • Follow up - praise the ones you can, and hold some detentions if you have the time and energy.
  • Most of all, don't expect miracles. With many supply classes, just getting them facing the front and working is a win. This doesn't mean you shouldn't have high expectations of them and yourself, just that you shouldn't beat yourself up if they don't all fall in line.


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