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Issues of being a supply teacher

Susan discusses the issues of being a supply teacher when you've been a head of department for 6 years. 

I have been teaching for 15 years, which included six years as a head of department. I loved my job where I was for ten years, but for personal reasons last year I quit and decided to go travelling. A decision I have not regretted apart from momentary thoughts, and something I would recommend to anyone who can afford to. Get off the hamster wheel of life and see the world before you have too many ties and can't. I have a dog so I can’t travel for too long but have been off for 5 or 6 weeks at a time, and when back in the country have done supply work.

Initially, I was concerned that with so many teachers in my subject struggling to get permanent work, I would struggle to get much work and therefore aimed to be back in a full time post at Easter. I was pleasantly surprised. So far, every day I have been in the country and willing to work I have had work, and nearly always for my subject. I was lucky enough to get two separate long term posts in the first part of the year. I say long term, four weeks and seven weeks in between my travelling. It has not been so great this term as some weeks I have been in four different schools, but I have still had full weeks work when I want it. Now when you get a longer term post it's great as you begin to build relationships with the pupils, feel part of a team, feel needed and useful. Yes, you have to plan, mark, stay later after school but I love this as part of the job. It’s part of the way you succeed.

In daily supply, not knowing where you are going to be, what the procedures are, who or what you will teach is much harder. Well I say harder, it can be damn easy! You rock up, set the work the class teacher has set and either wander around checking on their progress or sit and do some work of your own. But you have no work as you have no planning? Therefore, this can become boring. If you get to teach your subject for the day it’s more interesting, it makes you think more and obviously you can be more involved as you know the subject. The issues for whatever subject you get on daily supply are the schools procedures and people’s perceptions of you. Procedures differ from school to school. Organised schools give you a supply teachers pack with lots of information in, although I am yet to find a school that has thought of everything!

Mobile phones are a big discussion point. My last job had a complete ban on them. If you saw one you confiscated it. On one of my long term posts the kids used them in the corridors which I hated. There is no need to be on phones all the time, they need to interact! Anyway, when on supply I go into my lessons and state ‘if I see a phone I will confiscate it, so if you want your phone don’t get it out.’ This generally works. However, I did manage to confiscate two in one lesson last week. When talking to other cover teachers they commented ‘you’re brave!,’ I don’t think I am. It’s a standard that should be upheld. If you let them win on any rule front then you are lowering your expectations and the pupils start to take charge.

I said at the start I have not regretted quitting and travelling except on occasions. Those occasions have been on daily cover. The worst part of it is the low opinion pupils in particular have of you.  I am a great teacher, I have lead a great department, but to stand in front of a class of fourteen year olds who think you are nothing but an adult who has no authority can be demoralising. I have had comments ‘run away she’s only a cover’, and ‘who do you think you are, I don’t care what you say’. This is when I hate being a cover teacher. I am worth more than that, and will deal with their behaviour and make sure it is punished but it still hurts.

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing how other schools work, the good and bad points, and feel I have learnt a lot to take with me. However, I need to get back to a permanent job where I can make a difference, can earn respect, can feel like I am achieving my goals of helping pupils progress. Supply can pay the bills, can allow you to get away from the stresses of paperwork, politics and long days but it’s not a long term plan for me. I do however know that if necessary there is work out there, it can be fun and therefore is always an option.

We understand that when working as a supply teacher it is possible to feel you are alone and isolated. This doesn't have to be the case with Protocol Education! We will be celebrating supply teachers in upcoming National Supply Teacher Week. Find out what we can do for you when working as a supply teacher

Susan is an experienced secondary teacher who is currently working a supply teacher with our Chelmsford branch. We welcome her aboard our blogging team and look forward to her next blog. 


Tags: SusanW, Chelmsford, Secondary,

Category: Australian Teachers


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