So having returned to the UK in July, my options for work were pretty limited since returning so late in the academic year meant I missed out on nearly all the last job vacancies advertised for Sept. So I’ve taken the scary plunge into the world of Supply Teaching which I have never done before, since I graduated, and I’m finding it a pretty interesting experience so far. In the UK, most schools use an agency to find a supply teacher to cover absence. They use the agency which is probably a preferred agency known to the school, and request a supply teacher either in advance for a teacher being away on a course etc or on the morning of the day cover is needed. The agency then phone around to find a teacher suitably experienced or qualified who is available. If you don’t answer the call in time, they’ll just continue down their list and ring the next person. If you aren’t quick, the work has gone. I know this from personal experience, where I was driving when one of my agencies phoned. I obviously couldn’t answer but pulled over and phoned them back. The work had gone in literally minutes. Sigh!!! It’s a tough world out there in Supply Teaching and you’re completely dependent on work being available.
Supply work is hardly plentiful either at the minute. In the UK, one of the worst areas to be looking for a teaching job is the North East so its kinda sucky at the minute. I’ve only been getting one or two days work a week. I’m told the work will pick up in the next few weeks so I’m keeping hopeful. You can’t live off 1 or 2 days work at a supply teacher rate. Of all the regions in the UK, the NE has one of the very poorest rates of job advertisements etc and it seems supply is in short measure too, at least for now. I haven’t done supply for long, but looking at popular forums, I can see even those who have done it for a long time are finding the work is drying up. It helps if you make a good impression and schools the start to ask you back by name. I haven’t done enough work yet I think to get asked back!!
It’s also kinda stressful. Waiting in the morning for a phone call incase you actually get work that day. Then if you do, a frantic search on googlemaps to find it. Placing my entire trust in my Satnav to navigate me there. Not knowing anything about the school, or the class dynamics or any of the 30 or so kids you’re teaching. Looking to see if there is a plan and if you do find one, then having to rummage around somebody else’s classroom to find the stuff you need. Not knowing routines or timetables. Not knowing anybody in the staffroom. Not being able to use the computer or whiteboard because you don’t know the password!!! I’m also finding out pretty quickly that it’s a pretty lonely job. I’m hoping once I start getting into several schools a few times, I’ll start to get to know a few people. That will be nice when I have some sort of interaction with familiar people once in a while.
It’s definitely diverse. I never know what I’ll be teaching or what kind of school. Although I have noticed that I’m starting to become a bit of a PE expert! Do teachers always plan their PE lessons for their PPA time or what? What’s happening here? How come I can almost guarantee on a supply day, there’ll be a PE class! Getting Early Years children to change for PE must be one of the most time consuming tasks in a day I swear!! It has been fun getting some nice ideas into practice for PE and playing some fun games.
I have found the attitude of some teachers towards supply teachers pretty poor. I have experienced some very lovely members of staff whilst working on supply so far, but also some pretty rude members. Of course, you try your best to just grin and bear it, but sometimes it’s hard to do that. You have to, but it’s not nice feeling such hostility. Some people say on forums, that full time permanent staff are jealous of supply teachers because they don’t have any planning/ assessment/ paperwork etc of a full time teacher but I’d do anything to have my own class again and be back with a full time job with a regular paycheck at the end of the month. I’d love the consistency. I’d love the regularity. I’d love being part of a team and a school. And best of all, I’d get to work with a delightful class and see their progress throughout the year which is just a wonderful thing to see and reflect on.
I like that I get to teach without the hassle. I do. I like to see lots of schools and experience teaching in different age groups. I like interacting with students. I like to see great ideas on paper from somebody else and try them out in class. I like that I’m becoming more adaptable and flexible as well as experienced. But how much can I really do without being at a school for any length of time? How can I see progress? How can I measure the work I’ve done and the lessons I’ve taught? I’m not sure I can. Supply agencies sometimes offer long term work which is an enticing possibility. Yet in the UK, there are more than 10,000 unemployed qualified teachers. Too many teachers, too few jobs. The competition is tough. Just recently, I saw two Nursery posts recently in the NE come up so I’m off to get those applications pimped up and ready for battle in the shortlisting showdown 😀 Wish me luck!!
What have your experiences been as a supply teacher? Did you like it? What did you learn from it?