Surviving Supply Teaching with Infants

Being a teacher in England is becoming increasingly difficult with many teachers now opting for supply teaching as a way of 'having a life'. Although supply teaching means that you can enjoy your evenings and weekends free of all that marking and planning - it is not without a downside. Here are some ways to survive on supply. Arrive Early Always remember that the class you are teaching that day is Not Your Class.

You must enforce the rules and routines already established by the teacher no matter how small. A teacher should be able to leave their class knowing that rules and routines will be carried on in their absence. Of course there will be the odd child that will 'play up' and take advantage but these are easily spotted and dealt with.

Some schools have folders for supply teachers containing valuable school and class information. It is worth arriving early to read through such information. You need to know about any special needs the children in your class have including medical conditions and any behaviour difficulties along with how these are normally dealt with. You will need to know about 'rewards and sanctions' and make sure that you use these effectively. Carrying special stickers or stamps can be very useful as kids love these instant rewards - a bag of delicious sweets is equally useful, but be aware of nut allergies etc.

Planning If a teacher has left planning - that's great. Again it is worth arriving early to read through and absorb. Sometimes other teachers' planning is hard to interpret and you may need to find resources- a difficult task when you don't know where to look and everybody is very busy. There are times when you will just have to improvise so be prepared for this.

Lessons If there is no planning available for you then it is worth having some ideas for lessons written down that are self limiting and don't require differentiation. For a numeracy lesson you could simply ask the children to find ways of making 5, 10 or 20, 50 and so on depending on the age group. For Literacy you could ask the children to make their own books with folded paper, using one of your favourite stories as stimulus. Having some good quality worksheets to hand is always a useful standby. Teaching Assistants If you are lucky then you may have a teaching assistant working in your class. You will find the support teacher will know the children well and be of invaluable help, so talk to them.

Many supply teachers can feel undermined when faced with an unhelpful teaching assistant. You need to remember at the end of the day that it is you who are responsible for the care and safety of the children in your class. Marking Supply teachers often ask about marking children's work. If possible get children to mark their own work. Mark work as you go along - this will save time at the end of the day.

Use the marking policy in place. Staff Room Many supply teachers tell me that they don't go to the staffroom at all. Some staffrooms are friendlier than others but don't take it too personally if you are ignored - most teachers are preoccupied with work and some school staffrooms are just not very welcoming. One of the advantages of supply teaching is that you don't have to go back to schools you don't like. Many supplies spend their breaks marking. Fresh air can make you feel refreshed for the afternoon session.

Staying after School Some supply teachers have been seen scrambling over children to get out of school! Aim to spend some time after school to finish marking and making sure the classroom is tidy. It is helpful to leave a note for the teacher telling them of any incidents. It's always nice for teachers to be told if their class has behaved well in their absence.

New Teachers Supply teaching is a great way to gain experience of many different schools and the way they operate. It is important that you find the right school for you if you want to take on a permanent position. Supply teaching can offer insights into how other teachers operate in their classrooms.

Take the opportunity to gather ideas for when you have your own classroom.

Ann Coveney is a freelance writer and part time school teacher. She can be hired to write articles on a wide range of topics. The web site she uses the most for low cost travel and hotel booking is

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