Supply and demands: your essential guide

12th January 2001 at 00:00
THE ART OF SURVIVING IN SUPPLY TEACHING. By Martin Dougherty. David Fulton. pound;11

Any book which aims to provide support and advice can easily be sucked into the realms of theory, self help, confusion and self gratification. Martin Dougherty's The Art of Surviving in Supply Teaching avoids all such potential obstacles by recognising the many reasons people become supply teachers, and providing a sharp and incisive indication of the perils and pitfalls of this undervalued area of the profession.

He takes a realistic view of the modern classroom, dealing with situations using wit, understanding and compassion. He manages to offer practical tried and tested methods of effective teaching, classroom management and planning.

With the teaching population at crisis level, the demand for supply teachers has never been higher. Conversely, the majority are newly-qualified teachers.

The situation of facing a new class is daunting enough in any instance, but to be potentially facing a new class every day of the week can seem unsurmountable for the inexperienced. This is where this book comes into its own.

Rather than preach about methods, Dougherty suggests solutions - in a style that makes you feel as if you are sitting in a pub with a friend discussing your job. He is reassuringly friendly but knowledgeable enough for you to listen.

Working as a supply teacher may not be everyone's ideal, but anyone who doubted the validity of their choice will find themselves totally reassured after readingthe book. The first chapter, "Getting Started", exudes the positive: you will immediately feel a sense of worth, that you have found your support group.

The book moves along in a logical order. Practical tips are offered throughout, from how to find jobs, what to always keep in your bag and the questions to ask the school about pay, terms and conditions.

The most beneficial chapter, "Effective Supply Teaching", offers bullet points on how to establish control of a suspicious class. It is direct and helpful and, more importantly, easy to recall under duress.

On the whole, the book manages to pull back from creating an overly romanticised view of the job. It would be a fallacy to create a Clint Eastwood figure who rides in to a school, sorts out the class in a day and leaves with the staff asking "Who was that masked man?" It does demonstrate the negative aspects that you will inevitably face.

From my own experience, I can say that many a pupil's face will light up when a supply teacher enters the room. They think: "Great, a student to the slaughter."

This need no longer be the case: the bullet points throughout the book make it handy for last-minute revision on any situation before you go through the school gates to the unknown.

The only advice that I could add is to take your own mug and tea bags, ask before you sit anywhere in the staffroom and be prepared to be ignored. Remember, you don't have to go back. Good luck!

Peter Briley is a supply teacher in London.

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