Being a Supply Teacher: Everything You Need to Know


Being a good supply teacher means being able to take on a lot of different challenges while still retaining a consistent working life. Most supply teachers can expect to receive work at very short notice, or might have to put up with long delays between individual jobs. Supply teachers are also subject to abuse within different classrooms, and have to be able to deal with difficult classrooms and students. Psychological strength and confidence is therefore crucial to being a good supply teacher, as is the ability to put things into perspective. 

The following tips represent some ways of thinking about best practices for supply teaching:

1 - Flexibility

Supply teaching is essentially based around being able to fill in for others, whether due to long term sick leave, or as the result of emergency needs within a school. A good supply teacher has to be ready to teach five days a week, and should prepare each morning as if they will be called. Good supply teachers also need to be able to commute within a reasonable distance, and to be able to work in a range of different schools. Supply teachers might also have to take on extra responsibilities at short notice, although this should never be in unfair proportion to other teachers.

2 - Planning is Everything

Classroom experience is one of the only ways to really develop a strong sense of what works for your particular needs. In time you will be able to deal with difficult classrooms, and will know what plans to fall back on if things go wrong. Having a backup of different lesson plans and subject specific or general plans will make it much less stressful when a school or teacher doesn’t provide the right information.

3 - Never Lose Your Temper 

Pushing supply teachers into losing their temper is an unfortunate trait of students, but should be accepted as part of the job. Losing your temper is never going to help, and it will only make lessons more difficult. The most important approach to take is to be able to understand when a lesson has reached the point that it needs extra support from another teacher.

Don’t be worried about calling for support, but don’t rely on it too much to avoid difficult situations. In the same way, try to build up a set of responses that you know work with particular students. Try to use their names to identify regular troublemakers, and don’t let yourself become intimidated. Displaying a sense of humour will also help you to deal with any jokes or direct abuse, no matter how nasty it might seem.

4 - Keep Things in Perspective 

While it can be easy to view supply teaching as stressful, it can also be very rewarding. Good days can make up for a bad school experience, while making contacts with schools and building a strong reputation within an area and an agency will help your future prospects of a fulltime position. Ultimately, the only way you can know if a supply teaching job is right for you is to get experience in the classroom. It’s not for everyone, but can be financially rewarding and challenging for the right person.

About the Author 

CJ is a mildly exasperated mother who gets wound up by most things school related, it's already December and she's already thinking about extra revision courses next year!

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.
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