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Five Things I wish I had known! Part Two

Darren is an Irish trained teacher who has recently made the move from Ireland to the UK to teach with Protocol Education. In Part Two of his debut blog, he gives further advice for teachers coming to the UK for the first time to work as supply teachers.  

3. Familiarise yourself with the school and classes routines as much as possible.

Each teacher and each class will have their own routines and systems. You can familiarise yourself with these quite early on after walking into a classroom. A simple look around the room can inform you of quite a lot.

There will usually be some kind of chart on the wall giving an indication of the class' behaviour management system, this will probably have the students' names written on pieces of paper and stuck on with Blue Tac. If they behave well they can be moved up on the chart and given some kind of reward, if they behave badly they can be moved down and be sanctioned.

There may also be wall charts informing you of book monitors and line monitors. There may be classroom rules which you can refer to and guided reading charts. If the students are already in a routine for lining up or have a set of rules they are expected to adhere to in the classroom it is good to stick to these and to make reference to them. It's also a good idea to lay out one or two of your own golden rules at the beginning of the day. This helps to establish that, while some students may see you as a hapless supply teacher, you are in fact the authority figure in the room.

My own golden rule is usually something like “no one is, at any time, to leave their seat or speak out of turn to get the teacher's attention. If you need anything, put up your hand and sit quietly and I will help you as soon as I can”. This helps to just keep general order in the class and allows me to help individual pupils after they have started working. It's also a good idea to familiarise yourself quickly with things like the school's policy on students going to the toilet during class, leaving the room to change their reading books or leaving to get a drink of water.

4. Have a quick look over marking concepts like 'Next Steps'.

As a supply you will be expected to mark the students' work at the end of the day. As someone said in a previous Protocol Education blog, this is the legacy you leave at a school. It's what the class teacher sees of your lesson after they have returned. It would be good idea to familiarise yourself with the most common marking concepts like 'Next Steps Marking' and 'Two Stars and a Wish'.

If you're familiar with these you can quickly look back over the class teacher's own markings, see what they are using and stick to it. This will benefit you later in terms of your reputation with schools and it will be valuable practice for when you start working at a school full time.

Most schools also allow for a system of verbal feedback to students. This is usually represented by placing a 'verbal feedback' stamp next to the work or simply writing the letters “VF” along with your initials and “supply”.

5. Accept from the start that you will make mistakes and enjoy learning from them.

The fact is that, no matter how much you read in advance, things are always going to go wrong. You will make mistakes and there will always be a learning curve. The point of it all is to enjoy learning from your mistakes and to take some solace in the fact that every mistake makes you a better teacher. Protocol Education provide a number of free CPD courses which can help you address most problems you may be having.

Working as a supply teacher puts you in touch with many experienced teachers from many different backgrounds who can be an invaluable source of advice. There are lots of teachers' forums and websites that can help with some strangely specific problems you may be having, you'd be surprised how many teachers will have gone through these same problems before. Above all, don't be too hard on yourself. No one expects you to be the perfect teacher from the moment you begin. You could be in this profession in 20 years time and still be learning and, while you may think you're not up to things early on, inspiration can come at the unlikeliest of times.

feeling completely at a loss, 100% convinced that I would never get to grips with supply teaching and sure that my pupils that day would leave with the impression of me as a hapless, hopelessly inept teacher that they would thankfully never see again

I spent one afternoon in a classroom back in September feeling completely at a loss, 100% convinced that I would never get to grips with supply teaching and sure that my pupils that day would leave with the impression of me as a hapless, hopelessly inept teacher that they would thankfully never see again.

About 10 minutes before the end of the day, a student from the class approached me with a drawing she had done during the class' Art lesson. She gave it to me and said it was a “thank you” for teaching them that day. A few minutes later, 2 more pupils from the class gave me items they had made... I now work full time in that same school and I'm truly happy that I stuck out my stint in supply teaching when I did. I'm still travelling up a very steep learning curve but these days I'm much happier to be there.

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Tags: DarrenC, Protocol, Ireland, Irish, Overseas, Moving, Wish, Known, Learning, Teacher, Discover, Behaviour, Classroom-Management

Category: Australian Teachers

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