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Your survival kit

Good cover teachers arrive prepared. So we asked staff what they always take into the classroom. Thank you everybody who told us on

* "I'm considering adding latex gloves to my workbag. I was tidying a room today after a class had departed and picked up a couple of colouring pencils off the floor. They were smeared with either snot or phlegm! Luckily I had a pack of wet wipes in my handbag but I was desperate for the lunch break and the opportunity to get my hands in hot, soapy water."

* "Whiteboard pens, chalk, pencils, energy bars or chocolate, A4 file with open-ended activities to suit all ages. Sense of humour. An A to Z.

Unflappability. Own mug. Lots of pens and pencils. Flexibility, thick skin.

Take some of your own work as a back-up. Do your homework - find out as much as you can about the school beforehand."

* "A small hand bell."

* "Stickers - I have books of them from Canada which are different to what the children normally see; good for bribes! Stampers for bookshands (only if I've checked with someone first - unless I know the school). Puppets - useful for getting the attention of even the most badly behaved. Digital camera to take pictures of any good displays or interesting work for reference."

* "A newspaper for when I'm not included in staffroom conversations."

* "My essentials kit is very small. I'm a person who likes to think on her feet. If the work is not there, I will ask the head of department or other appropriate body. This is because I want to make my face known as a conscientious teacher, not afraid to ask for help, someone who is willing to have a go. If I were a primary supply teacher though, I would definitely have some generic activities that pupils could do."

* "My A to Z (or at the least directions on how to get to there if it's my first time). My supply folder - this contains the handbooks of every school I have been on supply at. I take it with me to ensure I have a copy of a map of the school, the timetable and other procedures.

My contract from my agency - just in case. Most issue identity cards too, so I have that as well.

A4 lined paper - I have been in schools where everything is under lock and key and you can't get any paper for love nor money. A4 plain paper - this can be worse to get hold of than lined paper.

Biros and pencils - I lend these to the children but I always take their name and don't allow anyone to leave until I have had my equipment returned.

A ruler - you always get one that has no ruler and insists on underlining everything.

Coloured pencils - setting poster work or copying work and having my own colours handy is useful, especially if everything is locked away.

Whiteboard pens - I'm a geography teacher: diagrams are always easier to read if they are colour coded.

Chalk - yep, some of the schools I've been in still have blackboards."

* "Handover notes. Having worked for a term as a temporary teacher,I appreciated it when notes were left as to how my classes behaved and progressed, therefore I make an effort to leave notes for each class I teach. I try to pass these onto either the head of department or into the persons pigeon hole - I don't like leaving them in the classroom, especially if there is confidential information on them.

Handover notes have made a difference in being invited back to the school.

I have two regular schools who both invited me back after half a day and who both ask for me when booking supply. I know these notes have made a difference because I have been thanked by many teachers I have covered for.

I even got a box of chocolates from one! Even the headteacher at that school has told me personally how impressed with me they are. (Sorry, blowing my own trumpet!)"

* "Timesheets. Spare cash. I don't carry a purse in school and never more than pound;5. I usually forget my dinner so having some coins can be useful. Trainers - I leave these in the car in case I'm doing PE. Sense of humour. You really need one of these on supply because children will test you to the absolute limit, and you've got to laugh it off, otherwise they'll beat you into the ground."

* "I don't carry resources for my subject, geography, because it is such a diverse one that I have found schools are nearly always on different topics to one another, and I know my subject knowledge can help me through most of the lessons. Unless I am told in advance."

Compiled by Joanne Shepherd Smith

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