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Triumph and Disaster

With supply teaching you can have some brilliant days while there are others you would rather forget! 

Triumph and Disaster​ - Treat those two imposters just the same! 

Supply teaching is littered with triumph and disaster and in my view, we would all be well (and I counsel myself as much as anyone else, as I write this) to do the Kipling thing and ‘treat those two imposters just the same.’ Especially since many of your sweetest successes will go untrumpeted and your mistakes – well, they’re bound to be noticed, am I right?

I find that teaching gives you no option but to put your heart and soul into the role. What’s the choice? You have 30 children in front of you (often complete strangers, about whom you know nothing at all) and they are yours and you are theirs for the day. They’re looking straight at you, with a doleful kind of hope in their eyes. They want you to be funny and kind; or pacy and pithy; to let them play ‘heads down thumbs up’ all day or to understand the rules and follow them to the letter; to be a carbon copy of their real teacher or to be the exact opposite in every way. There is no time and space to do anything apart from give it your best shot, you would be mad not to.

Often on supply, the support on the ground is wonderful. There can be cups of tea when you’re on playground duty, and there can be whispers in your ear, which help give you a meaningful and sometimes sad context for the behaviour of a child whose tantrums and pen-throwing will move you to smoking a single Silk Cut and listening to Hard House down a side-road at lunchtime (I never would of course, but I’m sure there are some that do….)

But there are just as many times when information that would help to spark useful compassion and empathy towards certain children, is never offered. You are late for assembly because you don’t know the timings; you are parched all day because you are moving between classes; and someone complains about something you did or didn’t do, as though your job is to absorb what is required by some form of downloadable cranial osmosis. Am I ranting, maybe a teeny weeny bit…

Mindfulness is probably the way forward – finding a calm space in your head that will allow you to gaze on your successes and failures through a safety glass window for moment or two. Just until you are ready to consider the ups and downs of your teaching day more holistically (sorry I'm having a Gwyneth Paltrow moment). In short, you will know if you have done a good day’s teaching, and the children will know. Let it be. 

What do you do to cope with the up's and down's of supply teaching? We would be interested in hearing your view. Email Megan ( for more information. 

Tags: Miranda, Manchester, NQT, supply

Category: Australian Teachers

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