The secret to becoming a successful supply teacher

Published: Wednesday November 09 2016 by justteachers

supply teacherFor the past ten years we have been learning, developing, discovering and testing what it is that makes a successful supply teacher, and why those teachers get called back for more assignments again and again. Why keep all this information to ourselves? We have compiled this Top Tips check sheet to help you find your perfect supply teaching job. We hope you find this useful and of course, if you have any additions we would love to hear from you...

Get there early

There are a few key things that you will need to be familiar with, like the school’s behaviour policy, the teachers written plans, staff toilets, tea and coffee making facilities, and where you can prepare resources, so it makes sense to get to the school in good time. Display a sense of humour and a caring attitude. Demonstrate that you value the school and its pupils, you’ll enjoy the day more and you’ll find the school will want you to return to teach again and again.

Smile – it’s free

supply teacher

An easy way to stand out is to smile; they are free to give and free to receive. You may find that walking in to some staff rooms can itself be draining as the permanent teachers are dealing with ongoing school issues, as a justteachers supply teacher you have the opportunity to breeze in to the school like a breath of fresh air.

Bring your own resources

It’s a good idea to have suitable teaching ideas up your sleeve so that you have something to fall back on if you need it. Most schools will have electronic whiteboards so it is a good idea to carry a USB stick with your favourite selection of tried and tested resources to use if required, make sure you check with the relevant person that you are ok to use both the USB stick and the resources. We strongly advise using the USB stick for teaching resources only and nothing that is personal to you outside of the classroom.

Ask about the children

Someone in the school who is familiar with the class should make you aware of any children with particular needs, so that you can organise use of teaching assistants, adjust any plans, and take into account those who would find change difficult. Have a clear idea of how the lesson is going to go before you step into the classroom. Confidence is key, even though you may be nervous don’t show it.

Make yourself familiar

Get to know the timetable for the day, the school’s writing style, class rules for behaviour, how children are expected to move around the school, and whether there are any children who need medication. Every school has different behaviour management policies what was acceptable in one school may not be acceptable in another school you teach in, if in doubt check before you act.

Find out about routines

The start of the day is crucial to how well the rest of the day will go, so make sure that you are aware of the daily routine. Children will be reassured those routines haven’t changed and that you are in command.

Know your groups

Have names of children and relevant groups to hand so that the class can easily organised. The children will usually know which groups they are in, but you may get a few who will play around. Keep a register of the names of all the pupils in the room for each lesson. If access to the normal class register is restricted, a quick list of names on a sheet of paper is just as effective. Make allowances for errors by the pupils, the staff and yourself.

Have fun ideas for time fillers

There are always times of the day when you will need to fill short gaps, such as when a session finishes early or assembly is running late. It’s always worth having a few entertaining ideas.

Volunteer for playground duty

Check whether it’s appropriate first, as some schools have a rota of teachers. It’s an especially good way of getting known and is popular at primary schools where children readily tell parents and teachers about the nice new supply teacher. If you have a free period, ask if there’s anything you can do: it will go down well. 

Marking and Handover

Leave a note at the end of the day, detailing the work done, where you are up to in set work, any incidents, whether books were marked (if applicable – all Primary work should be marked appropriately), and if so, where they’ve been put. For secondary school teachers, this will mean more notes, one at the end of each lesson. Even a brief sign-off saying either that a lesson went smoothly or naming the miscreant pupil (s), is useful information to a returning teacher. Keep accurate records of any instance of challenging behaviour exhibited by pupils. justteachers will provide you with handover sheets, make sure you use them. 

Say goodbye

Thank whoever’s been looking out for you during the day. Some larger schools have a dedicated supply supervisor who does this, or it may be a parallel classroom teacher who sits next door and is on hand for your queries. If you’ve had a good day, tell them - schools enjoy getting positive feedback, too - and say you’d love to be rebooked.

Information sourced from TES 10 Essential Tips for Supply Teaching -

Categories: supply teacher