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How Short-term Supply Helps You Learn For The Long-haul

Miranda is about to take on a long-term role and shares her experience in how supply teaching has prepared her for this. 

I am about to begin a long-term full time supply role in Year 3. I am nervous about it and, apart from a massive high-rise of planning and reading, I’ve had to kick back a little over the Easter holidays and remind myself that I’m up to the job. In fact, I made a list of what I had learned in supply teaching, which might even (at times and in a fair wind) give me some small advantages over teachers who stay in the same school, same class and same year-group.

Firstly, we’re hearing a lot about teachers who are simply being ground down and soul destroyed. Maybe this will happen to me, maybe it won’t. But so far I’m not ground down. If I am really unhappy somewhere I don’t go back (this happens rarely but it does happen…). I arrive at this long-term role with the freshness of someone who has seen how bad things can get, yet recognises that there is choice involved in the job one chooses to do.

As supply teachers, we have seen it all. The short-cuts, the way experienced teachers cleverly twist the rules and scheme with the curriculum timetable to give children the breaks away from the desk. We have seen what happens when teachers are afraid of their  pupils and what marvels can be achieved when parents are genuinely inspired to become partners in their children’s learning through feisty, and interesting attempts to involve them in learning, in cross-curricular activity sessions and areas of the curriculum where their passions and experiences lie. Supply teaching supports a dynamic, knowledge-based understanding of teaching.

Seeing eight or nine different ways to teach number bonds in Reception – for instance - supports my understanding of the possibilities for learning in this area. I can mix and match ideas, I can try one thing and drop it if it doesn’t work, then try another. In the Spring term,  I taught Year 3 on five separate occasions. However, I also taught Year 1 in three different schools and two different Year 2 classes. Supply teachers can differentiate up and down the curriculum depending on the children who are in front of them.

Supply teaching has made my attitude and approach to learning more portable and flexible. I am often surprised that teachers siloed in particular schools, can consider that their way is the only way of teaching something. Jargon is rife, and each school assumes that any decent teacher would be ‘speaking their language.’ Any decent supply teacher will of course adopt their language but retain their knowledge and practice…Supply teaching is a workaday version of CPD, though I appreciate that we don’t always have the space and time to look at it that way.

As a supply teacher, I’ve been interviewed by an Ofsted inspector Head teacher; I have been inspected by Ofsted; and I have seen the bonding or devastating impact Ofsted can make on a teaching team. I have observed observed lessons, supported phonics screening and SATS tests, watched students being mentored and planned and observed all manner of interventions. All of these experiences provide me with a viewpoint and an idea about how I might handle things myself. Because I’m a supply teacher, I have been able to learn (and to make mistakes) at my own pace.

I’m looking forward to my own class and some of the rigours of a long-term role, but I will be taking with me all that I have learned from ducking and diving through so many diverse schools.

Are you looking for a long-term role in September? Our latest vacancies are updated daily on our website job search. Click here to go there now. Or are you considering taking up supply teaching? Speak to any of consultants about the opportunities in your area. 


Tags: Miranda, Manchester, NQT, supply

Category: Australian Teachers


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