In Ontario there is a very competitive market to become a teacher. It is a difficult process for many to get into teachers college. Then to secure meaningful employment is even harder. For the few that are lucky to get on the supply list you can wait many years to get a permanent position.
I have currently been teaching for six years. I knew no one in my school board, and received no special treatment, yet I supply taught a mere six days. Then, I was then offered a short term occasional position followed by another LTO for the rest of the year. I continued onto another LTO position before finally being hired permanent in my third year. This year I am in a classroom however the majority of my career I have supported other teachers in working with ESL students.
I have seen the inside of many classrooms, many different teaching styles and classroom management strategies. Some effective and some were not. However I always dreaded the days the classroom teacher was away because the class was chaotic.
As a classroom teacher I must carefully plan lessons for the supply because you never know what to expect. You could get a great supply but you may also need to spend the next day cleaning up the multiple environmental and academic messes that have been left for you. I don’t intend this post to be a negative supply teacher bashing however if your goal as a supply teacher is to eventually gain a full time permanent position there are some things that you should be aware of.
Here are some tips that helped me when looking for work along with my wish list of qualities that I hope each supply teacher who enters my room has.
1. Manage the Classroom
Determine what strategies you are going to use to manage any classroom that you go into. Have these management strategies preplanned ensuring that they are developmentally appropriate for the division in which you are qualified to teach. You don’t have to follow the classroom teachers management strategy do what works for you. Your goal is to manage the classroom one strategy does not work for every teacher. Whether you use tickets, or points, marbles or goldfish the strategy is up to you. There are many different strategies on the web. Personally I use whole brain teaching and love it.
2. You’re the boss Applesauce
You are the leader of that classroom you must present yourself in that way. Take the lead and be clear on what behaviour is expected and what behaviour is unacceptable. Be consistent and fair and don’t let anything slide. Have high standards for behaviour and be prepared to be tested. If you want more positive behaviour praise the positive behaviour if you want more negative behaviour then continue to waste time dealing with it. Be clear with what you expect and praise the students that are following your directions. Deal with negative behaviour away from an audience remove the offending student and deal with it separately. By allowing the negative student to take over the class you have lost.
3. Know your Curriculum
If you are qualified to teach in a specific division be aware of the curriculum in these areas as well as the best practices in teaching this content. The last thing you want to do is teach something the wrong way. Follow the plan to the best of your ability but it’s okay if somethings don’t get done because you run out of time.
4. Leave it the way you found it
Supplying in a classroom can sometimes be chaotic however don’t leave for the day until the classroom is put back to the way you walked into it or better. If a classroom teacher returns to a mess they are less likely to want you back as their supply the next time they’re off.
5. Never sit down alone
While the students are working make sure you are always circulating around the classroom. A good teacher barely sits at her desk but is working with students who need additional support.
Make sure you know who the students with special education needs are and ensure that they are following and understanding your instructions.
6. Advocate for Yourself
The principal hires you so make sure the principal knows who you are. Introduce yourself leave a business card for both the classroom teacher, the principal, and the school secretary. As a classroom teacher if you have done a good job I am sure to share your name with my colleagues so that they can use you as their supply teacher the next time they are also off.
7. Do the job you want to be hired to do
If you want to be hired as a classroom teacher be a good classroom teacher. If people see that you can manage a classroom they’re more likely to hire you the next time they have an available position. When you walk into my classroom pretend that it is your own what would you do if this was your class instead of mine.
As a classroom teacher I need to trust that you can handle my students behaviour, maintain an organized and safe classroom, and appropriately teach curriculum using best practices.