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There’s no doubt about it, the first days in supply teaching are nerve racking! So, I’ve put together some tips which might help to calm your nerves on day one.
The night before, pack your bag with your DBS certificate, your ID (driving licence or passport), water bottle, snack and a bag to put your lunch in. Then decide what you are going to wear. Look at the agency dress code and find some smart but casual clothes and comfortable shoes. Don’t wear jeans or trainers. And maybe look at the weather forecast for the following day. You might want to put an umbrella, gloves, hat, sunscreen sunglasses, sunhat or an extra layer of clothes in your bag!
The journey to the school could be a good time to catch up with your emails, listen to a podcast, read a book, or look at the sunrise out of the train window. So as soon as you get a job look at the email to check the name of the school, the nearest station, the postcode, and the name of the street. Try the TFL and City Mapper apps to find the best journey. If you get lost, don’t worry, call the agency and ask for help. And if you’re running late let the agency know and give them an idea of when you might arrive at the school.
When you’ve signed in, someone from the school will show you to the classroom. Find the timetable for the day, and write it on a piece of paper and keep it in your pocket or on the teacher’s desk where you can see it. Make sure you have the class register ready online or a paper register. A teacher will find all the flip charts for each subject for the day and explain what you have to do. It’s a lot of information to take in so make notes for yourself if that helps. Find out if you have a playground duty to do and what the children call you.
Children who don’t have their teacher for the day can be anxious. So, try to reassure them from the moment they walk into the classroom. Find out what the usual daily routine is and try to stick to it, and if there is a class schedule on the wall use it. Tell the class what your expectations are and keep reminding them about the noise level, good sitting, good listening, paying attention etc. Look for the behaviour schedule on the wall and ask the children to explain it to you and use it. At lunchtime I have an amnesty and put everybody ‘back on green’ and start again with the behaviour chart! And ask them all about the rewards system and dish them out freely all day. Ask for help if you are struggling with the class or individual children.
When it’s time for the children to do their independent work, give them the instructions at least once, and ask if there are any questions. Then go round and check they’re doing what you said, and if they aren’t explain some more!! The class teacher will expect you to do the marking unless they tell you otherwise. If there is no marking policy on the wall, look in their books to find the right pen colour to use. All you really need to do is mark the maths, tick everything, write ‘S’ or ‘supply’ and look for punctuation and spelling mistakes.
I can promise that 99% of the time the planning will be ready for you. But just in case, and so you feel secure, have a generic lesson ready that would work for every year group. I find someone else’s PE lessons difficult to teach, so when possible, I try to use my own plans – and my own whistle!!! Put a cheap whistle in your bag so you can stop the class in PE lessons!! You might find the lesson finishes early so have a selection of games and activities ready to fill the time. Hint – they ALL like Heads Down Thumbs up!
At the end of the day, insist that someone from the school dismisses the children. It’s usually the TA from the class. Stay until the last child has been matched up with the right adult or gone off to a club. Say thank you to the TA who has supported you all day, and if you’ve had a good day say it was nice working with them. Double check you’ve done all the marking. Make sure the classroom is tidy and leave a note for the teacher if you want to. Say positive things about their class!!
Pat Thomson – Vision Teaching Primary Supply Teacher