It is a rare occasion that we, as children, remember much of school and what we do remember is often exaggerated to make it out to be far more awful than it actually was. We remember our favourite teachers, we remember feeling like it was a day off when a supply teacher came in and we loved watching videos (or DVDs) in class.
So you might think, as a fresh faced supply teacher, you will want to make a positive impression on these new children. Still, when faced with a class of 25 – 30 young children, many of which you have never taught before, this can be a daunting and frightening experience.
So what can you do to make yourself stand out? While you may not be able to cultivate the same relationship as their day to day teacher, it is still important that you are able to communicate effectively with your supply class, regardless of how short term your position may be.
Take a look at five of our top tips for defining yourself as a supply teacher.
Make an Effort to Learn Names
It is simple etiquette! Some children may have unpronounceable names, so look them up online and make an effort to learn them. It goes a long way in establishing a good relationship with the children early on and it gives them the impression that you care about them as individuals, instead of looking at them as one teachable unit. It is important to remember that each child is his or her own person, so to get them on your side you need to treat them as such.
Be Firm – Establish your Lesson Plan Early On
Even when the regular teacher is ill or absent, the students will have a lesson and educational plan as set out by the governing board. By making sure you are well aware of this lesson plan, and of the lessons that have come before and will follow the one you are covering, you are adequately prepared for staying on track throughout the day. You will also be more prepared if some pupils have questions about the previous lesson, and this will give you an advantage as a knowledgeable teacher; one who is listened to and respected.
Don’t be a Pushover!
While it is important to establish a friendly relationship with the students, it won’t do any good to let them walk all over you. This is partly why memorising the lesson plan is so important as well as knowing the particular ‘rules’ of that classroom. Some children are eager to push boundaries and may make up their own classroom rules, so being familiar with these is essential. You can be friendly and helpful, but be firm if children start to stray from the intended lesson plan. Group discussions are great, but if they are descending into stories and petty arguments, it might be a good idea to move onto the next point in the lesson.
Give out Little Rewards
The phrase ‘you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ often rings true with supply teachers but you must be careful not to overdo it. Something as simple as sparkly stickers or just a funny ‘thumbs up’ stamp for doing a good piece of work is sometimes enough to turn a bad day into a good one for a child. Receiving praise for good work instead of praise for simply doing the work – as some unruly students are wont to receive – is often overlooked as good children do not make ‘ripples’ as such. Make sure to reward all students equally and always address them personally; they will remember your kindness.
If You’re Unsure of Anything – Ask Beforehand
There is nothing to be earned of not being prepared enough. If you feel as if the regular teacher has not provided you with enough material for the lesson, make sure to say so. Ask if any of the children have any particular quirks, or if certain kids don’t like certain things. While it is important not to mollycoddle the kids, you also want to make them feel comfortable in your presence and establish a friendly relationship. Taking time to learn about their habits beforehand will be infinitely useful if an incident were to occur.
Although you are only their teacher temporarily, you are still in charge for the time being. Some pupils may consider supply teachers to be of ‘less importance’ than their regular teacher, but it is essential that you remind them they still have a lesson plan to follow. You may not be there for very long, but their education is still important and they need to know this. Don’t take any stick but a strict supply teacher is not often welcomed into classrooms even on a temporary basis. It is important to strike a happy medium.
With practice and experience, you should be able to establish a good working relationship with all your future students. Just remember to give them equal respect and remember that some children will play up no matter who happens to teach them, so take it all in your stride. You’re doing just fine.
This article was provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the education sector – working together with a selection of schools and related outfits, including teacher recruitment specialist RedBox Teachers – who were consulted over the information contained in this piece.