A day in the life of a supply teacher

There are three types of work a supply teacher does. One is a long term placement, teaching your own subject. This is the preferred option for many of us. The second is the prebooked placement – meaning you know where your going before you get up the next day, but the third, the third is the bane of my life.

You wake up around 7, get dressed, have breakfast and a cup of something hot. Then you take your place by the phone and wait. There is, what is called on the TES forum for supply teachers, the ‘golden hour’ between 7.30 and 8.30. If no phone call arrives then no problem, get back into your PJs and go back to bed.

If the phone does ring, the conversation goes something like this:
Agent: Good morning Miss B, how are you?
Me: Fine thanks, and you (and I’m thinking, please don’t send me somewhere horrible)
Agent: Are you free for work today?
Me: Yes (well, it depends, where am I going?)
Agent: Would you like to go to X school today?
Me: Erm, where is that exactly?
Agent: It’s really close. Should be no problem to get there.
Me: Let’s have a look on the journey planner. Oh. Two trains and a bus. Ok.
Agent: Great, I’ll let them know you’ll be there in half an hour.
Me: Hang on! There’s no way. Tell them I’ll be there by the second lesson.

Agent: Oh, I’ll just check that with them and get back to you.

At this point I get my bag together, collect my stuff and get ready and the phone rings again.
Me: Hello
Agent: Hi. Sorry, but we’ve found someone who can get there sooner.
Me: Ok (grr)
Agent: We’ll let you know if something else comes up.

Ok. Often I do work. This is how those days often go.

I turn up at school as soon as I can to be introduced to the cover manager. If it’s a school with a good supply policy she (for it’s always a she) hands over a folder with the behaviour information, a map of the school and a class list for all the lessons I’ll be teaching that day. If it’s not a good school I’ll get a list of classes, with the teacher’s initials and a classroom. Nothing else. “Oh, so I’m doing Maths, Biology, Food Tech and English today. Great!”

First lesson – Yr 10 Science – take a register. If I have a class list great, if I don’t it has to be a piece of paper which they write their names on.

“I didn’t know Bob Marley was alive and in year 8?! What do you mean your real name is I P Freely?! OK. Let’s get on. According to your teacher you’re in the middle of some coursework at the moment, so you know what you’re doing. Would someone get the folders out? So you’ve finished? Sure? Right well here’s a textbook. No, I’m sure Mr X didn’t say you could ‘chill’ when you’ve done. No, I’m sure your teacher doesn’t let you listen to music. I don’t care if you concentrate better. I don’t allow it.”

Lesson 2 – Yr 7 Maths:

“Yes, you do have to sit on your assigned seating, yes you need your exercise books, yes you can give out the textbooks, here’s a pencil, I need it back at the end of the lesson, no, you may not go to the loo, you’ve just had break, no I didn’t see little johnny stick his finger up at you……” OK, so that’s not a supply, that’s just year 7.

These experiences repeat themselves over and over all day. If you’re lucky the teacher will have set a poster lesson. Fascinating! Make a poster on health and safety in the Textiles classroom. Obviously, as an MFL teacher, I can help and guide them with this. I’m also qualified to explain photosynthesis, bake cakes and talk about rhyme, metaphors and similes.

Then comes the killer, you get paid. As a cover supervisor. Brill! Do it all again tomorrow.

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3 Responses to A day in the life of a supply teacher

  1. Karita says:

    God, I hope you get out of this sooner rather than later.


  2. This sounds awful! I totally couldn’t do it, at least not without strangling someone, most likely a child!

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