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A Day in the Life

Get an insight from Hannah about a day in the life of a primary supply teacher. 

When arriving in a new classroom for the day, I need to check for three things: a note, resources and timetable. If any of these three components are missing, I have to go into superhero-save-the-day-with-creative-yet-challenging-ideas mode (in the rare case of the first two). If it’s the latter (usually is) I have to shuffle around the school until I find a trustworthy informants of the order of the day.

As a teacher of the primary years, I cover all subjects. What I am really looking for in the timetable is what subjects I’ll be covering. Almost without exception, a morning will contain register, assembly, phonics, literacy, break and numeracy. This may be at different times or in a different order, but this is what I go in expecting. I am very rarely met with no note or planning, although I am prepared for this eventuality, usually something is scrawled out that I need to complete.

Schools that stream children around corridors and classrooms for the core subjects are not a supply teacher’s dream. Particularly if the children need prompting to go to the right place. If there’s no one to say, “Abbie, remember you’re with Mrs Coates? Take a whiteboard and pen, that’s right,” and my note just says ‘the children know where to go’, we have a high potential for lost children wandering the corridors.

Time is ticking away. I will not get this particular group of children back again, so if I don’t plough through the phonics, the handwriting, the starter, the paired talk, the show-me mini whiteboards, the mental maths test and any plenaries required, we’ll never actually finish the written activity that will be all I will have to show for the lesson.

I try to get everything marked at lunchtime, as the afternoon subjects are usually much more laid back, and if I can get the classroom tidied up and read a story before home time, I give myself a housepoint.

As afternoon subjects go, their topic is usually very clearly explained. Topic might be history, geography or science or vaguely all three, such as ‘coasts’ or ‘water’. Even if all that is left in the note is ‘Coasts - watch BBC learning zone clips’, there are so many resources online for free that we can watch and play and make our own of. Art and DT are generally quite anything-goes, and much more in line with my skill-set. If the notes just say ‘minibeasts with pastels’ or ‘meadow from story with watercolours’, the teacher is hoping for something recognisable, but not to put-on-the-wall ‘best work’.

P.E. is wonderful for the afternoon because there is no marking, and nothing to ‘prove’ that you did anything vaguely building on what they should be learning, but trying to manage them in an echo-tunnel of a dinner hall or a wide windy playground is not something I hope for when reading the notes from the teacher. The other vice for me is Music. It’s not that I don’t like Music. If I know the school and know where the instruments are kept, how to use them and who to group together for minimum chaos, it could be a good lesson. But usually, I am left the music book with the express train on the front and the CD jammed into the back. I often have no computer or CD player, so this is the first challenge, and it often gets worse as the song is weird and the lesson involves sounds cards I hadn’t realised I needed. I usually just end up teaching them a fantastic song I already know.

So that is what covering a day in primary is like, obviously interspersed with assemblies, break duty, performances, minor first aid incidences, and newsletters that were supposed to go out yesterday.

Hannah is a primary teacher who works with our Bristol branch. She has recently joined our blogging team and has already covered a wide range of topics. 


Tags: Hannah, Bristol, primary, teacher

Category: Australian Teachers


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