No doubt, teaching is a noble profession. Every single human being has been touched (shaped) at some point by a teacher. Due to overwork, illness, retirement or discontent, teachers are dropping like flies- usually from total burnout and exhaustion or from illness. A cover teacher is always a welcome addition to a school’s staff when others just aren’t available. See my story of how I jumped off the teaching wheel and tried to regain my sanity here.
Supply/cover/substitute teachers will always be in demand. The chance of a school operating on any given day with only its own set of permanent teachers is an absolute rarity. So if you’ve had to leave your regular teaching post by chance or by choice, don’t despair at all as supply/cover work is always there and yours for the choosing. As a teacher for more than a quarter of a century, I have picked up on tips and tricks from supply/cover teachers that make life more bearable. Below I’ll talk about the five most important ones.
Know who to please as the teacher in charge
As much as you’ll see more of the kids than any senior management member in your day to day experience, remember it’s the principal and/or his/her nominees that you have to try to please. Chances are that he/she will get feedback from other teachers about you and your work, not from the students.
Be a firm but fair teacher from day one
Students expect this, but they will try to see how far you will allow them to push the boundaries. If you bend even one rule a little bit on day one, you will be faced with everlasting whining and complaining about your refusal to bend a few more. Don’t give in, it’s not worth it.
Be prepared with a few teacher supplies of your own
Isn’t it annoying rushing into a classroom to write the given instructions on the board only to realise that you don’t even have a board pen and none was left out in the room for you to use? You’ll have a whole host of students offering to go get a pen from next door! Don’t trust them! They have ulterior motives and you’ll be lucky if you see them back before the end of the lesson. It is also nice to have a few spare pens and pencils on hand to lend to those who may be without- and there will certainly be a few! I also advise you to have a few stickers or other suitable rewards for the ‘faithful’ and well behaved who are not letting their homes and parents down.
Be on time
The students will already be slightly unsettled when they figure that their regular teacher isn’t in, so don’t add to it by also turning up late! It is best if you are by the classroom door waiting for their (the students’) arrival. If you have a choice, it’s best if you get the students to come to ‘your territory’ (if you have a stable room) than to go to theirs. Behaviour tends to be better when they are in your territory.
Do everything you can to enjoy it and to be in control.
These sessions sometimes do drag on so you need to do some self-motivation in order to enjoy it. These things come to mind: smile, think of really enjoying your next meal, plan a birthday surprise for someone (all in your head, by the way), or dream up your next holiday somewhere nice. Before you know it, the session will be up and you won! So rejoice and be ready to face the next set, it will get easier.
So the job will always be there, you’ll always have choices and I would certainly suggest that you have your priorities in the right place, take discipline seriously from day one, bring a few necessary supplies of your own, certainly turn up on time and then enjoy the position while it lasts.
If you can think of a point or two I have missed, or indeed if you don’t agree with my ideas, let me know why.
Drop us a line in the comment box below.
Have a great week xoxo