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And Then I Became a Supply Teacher

Lauren is a Canadian-trained primary teacher who works for Protocol Education's Surrey team. Lauren is a very organised person and she explains the challenges she has found with organisation and supply teaching.

And then I became a supply teacher...

You should have seen my planner in university.  Besides containing the typical due dates for school assignments, I would also write down what times specifically to work on different aspects of the assignments. 

That’s not all.  In my final year, it got to the point where I also started to fill it in with daily chores, and yes, of course, the times to do them.  Example:  “Go get groceries at 10 am until approximately 11.  Go to the mall.  Call grandma once you get home.  Read for History- 4-5:30.”  Above all, it was also colour coded. 

This is how I was last year.  And it made me comfortable seeing it all laid out there in front of me.  Watch out if someone asked to hang out while I was supposed to be researching for my final English assignment.
And then I became a supply teacher.

People enjoy doing supply work because of the flexibility.  You go to work, enjoy your day, and can look forward to that weekend trip because you do not have to do any planning.  Long term work is ideal in other regards, but when I just moved here from overseas, I wanted flexibility and time to learn their curriculum.

However, my every-detail-planned-out-and-comfortable-because-of-it self would get a shock when I walked into the classroom that first day.

The mornings are my hardest time as a supply teacher, and I have discussed this with many other supply staff who feel the same.  The students have not even arrived, yet I am the most stressed out that I will be that day.

You walk into the classroom and suddenly need to memorise a whole day’s agenda in a place where you do not know the school routines, or even necessarily the school times.  I love when I find the day’s agenda and the teacher has told me the times of the day, and where to receive the children.

Transitioning to this morning panic has been my biggest struggle as a supply teacher.

The number one thing supply teachers need to know is that you are not going to know absolutely everything (and there is no way at that moment that you can and this is ok!), and to just go with the flow. Here are some things that help:

  1. Write the times of the day up on the board with what you are doing at each of these times.  Seeing it visually represented has a calming effect. It will remind you, and also allow the students to help you with it if you forget.  They enjoy being able to assist a teacher.
  2. Find out what kind of register they have (be it paper or online) and make sure that you have the login details.
  3. Look through your plans, and write down any questions you have.  Write lesson plans out in simple steps if need be.
  4. Check that you have the correct resources for your lessons.
  5. Your fellow staff is there to help!  We are all there for the students and they will be happy to assist you in being ready for them.  Once I have done all of these things, I go in search of my teaching partner or teaching assistant armed with any questions I have.  The first piece of info I always ask is where to pick the children up in the morning and the times of the day, as well as any health issues.
  6. Break the day up.  Focus on the morning first, and know that you have your lunch hour to prepare for the second half of the day. 
  7. Just go with it!

The go-with-the-flow method has been a major lesson as a supply teacher.  We all go through it in the morning, and yet it always works out.  Remember that you are not expected to know everything, and that it is a team environment where you can, and are encouraged, to ask for help if needed.  You are in a school learning environment after all!

Enjoyed Lauren's blog? Have you found similiar challenges? Let us know my emailing your comments through to Megan at

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Tags: LaurenK, Canada, LondonSouth, Canadian-trained, supply, challenges, overcome, organise, preparation, flexibility

Category: Australian Teachers

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