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Started Supply and its HELL!!!!!

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by artbot, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. I am a fully qualified teacher who has decided to do supply. The problem is I go to a school and find the pupil's behaviour is outrageous, not listening or not doing what I require-They purposely play up because I am new!! When a "normal" teacher is there they are VERY cooperative-I try to copy exactly what he/she has done when he/she leaves the room and they ignore everything I say. The school then says they dont want me back!! Is this the life of a supply teacher?? What can be done? (I am wife of artbot by the way!)
  2. There are also classes of angels, but I find myself working in challenging schools more often than not. You didn't mention the age range. KS1 are more likely to be good, in my experience.
    In my experience, the school is the main difference in challenging catchments, whilst they all have children with backstories that would make Waterloo Road scripting, there is a huge difference in how the schools address behaviour and support teachers in the supply role.

  3. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    When you say 'a' school do you mean 'every' school or just one in particular? Is it true of every year group you cover? I personally find the younger ones are often more of a nuisance than the older ones, especially Y9.

    Whatever your prior experience or previous status, you are now (as a supply teacher) somewhere between NQT and Amoeba in the students' opinions, and in the opinions of not a few staff as well.

    There is a divide and rule technique I've adopted that I call 'Head Waiter Mode'. I hasten to add that I don't teach in urban ghetto schools but it 's fair to say some of them are harder work than others. Basically what I do is not take the class register by calling out names from the front, but by going from student to student and ticking the list. As I give them a tick I makes sure their exercise book is open, their textbook is open at the correct page, they have something to write with (I have an endless supply of pencils), and I ask each one if they know what they have to do, and if they need any help. It can take up to 15 minutes to get round a typical class, but by the end they've each had individual attention from a teacher and can't hide behind any group dynamic or pretence that you haven't done your job. I never forget my pleases and thank yous and always over praise if they cooperate. I try not to raise my voice as that attracts an audience, and do my level best to stay calm and collected. I give them clear choices if they're being awkward and warn them of the consequences of making the wrong choice (and yes, reverting to this namby pamby behaviour management speak makes me puke too). If the set work is questions I make a point of going through some answers about a third of the way through the lesson so they get feedback. I do the same again later. I politely nag those who do sweet Fanny Adams and make a note of their names for Sir or Miss to sort out when they return. This is in the full knowledge that Sir or Miss will probably do sweet Fanny Adams about it, as in their opinion I'm just a semi-evolved lifeform and barely sentient. I always tidy up the room before I leave, even if I found it in a sh*theap. That way they can't say the bloody supply trashed their seat of learning.

    So it goes. This is the daily life of a supply teacher. Longer term assignments gradually become easier if you're in the right sort of school. Doing the daily stuff to begin with helps you identify the right sort of school. Good luck with it ;-)
  4. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    That about sums up what it's like for most, if not all, supply teachers.
    I find that only those staff who have been on supply themselves at some point understand what is going on.
    The pupils see us as fair game for larking about and doing as little as possible when their regular teacher is away. They bank on enough of them joining in the 'low level disruption' to make it impossible for a supply teacher to apply the sanction system properly. They take advantage of us not knowing names.
    I often marvel at the effrontery of pupils who are submissive and polite when the HOD arrives and explains the work in EXACTLY the same way that I just did (with only a few pupils paying attention).
    It has long been my earnest wish that CPD for all HOD and SMT should involve them being sent to an unknown school for one or two weeks per year to work as supply teachers. A group of schools would choose a convenient period to swap teachers. They should be allocated a range of ability levels (not all top sets!). They'd soon see that their wonderful class management is like when they only have the status of 'the supply'!
    I was on teaching practice when a recently retired Deputy of a large, inner city school arrived on his forst ever supply day, teaching his MFL specialism in a similarly challenging school to the one he'd recently been in. He was pale and visibly shaken at morning break and said he'd not managed to teach a single thing to a single pupil as they completely ignored him, were out of their places etc. The following day, a boy sent out on the corridor reported to me that the same supply teacher had just hit someone in the class. I thought the teacher must have flipped as he was so rattled the previous day. I spoke to the HOD. The teacher had only done the one day and was not in school. The regular teacher was back.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Yes, unfortunately I'm afraid it is.
    Do you remember back when you first started teaching or moved to a new school, when the children tried 'testing the waters' / 'pushing the boundaries' call it what you will? Children will always try out 'the new one'; supply teachers are always seen as 'fair game'. Used to only be the reserve of secondary pupils but I now find this across all ages. Classroom managementcan be one of the biggest problems for us supplies & one of the biggest weapons in our arsenal.
    You have to constantly 'go in strong', tough & be prepared to tackle any issues as soon as possible. Then sometimes this will backfire- nobody tells you the child who constantly shouts out hasTourettes for example & needs handling differently. . . . I don't know what your usual style of teaching is but generally on supply one has to be tougher than you are able to be when one can build up relationships with children.
  6. Supply's a totally different kettle of fish to full-timing. It's only when you switch from FT to supply that you realise just how much of your status and reputation within a school makes life easier for you as the years go by. You get class teachers who'd set you up to fail almost in terms of what they leave you with no indication of where things are or who's what ability group or whatever, and you get some instances where Heads rattle through 30 different supplies in an effort to find Mary Poppins so by the time you're sent to the school the class have had umpteen faces in for a day each (as the head's rang each evening with a "no that one wasn't any good either" to the agency) and they know they're not seeing you again so they're hell on wheels.
    Then you get the class teachers who are ex supplies, who know the kids will push their luck, forewarn you of who to watch and give you a name to threaten to send any troublemakers to - and are really really understanding when you say that little Damien hasn't done much (because he rarely gets past the date and title in their own lessons either).
    I find any morning where I collect a line of kids from the yard to be greeted with smirks and "are you our substitute teacher" is one I know I'm in for a day of hell.
    Oh and I also love the 2.45 in the afternoon "oh Dwayne has anger management issues, and Josh is autistic - did nobody tell you?" as well!
  7. I think magic surf bus, has given a good breakdown of some of the tactics. Importantly get some names. Other things important to me are.
    Get to the classroom before them if you can.
    Tidy the classrooom if you can.
    Meet and greet at the door.
    Never faff about at the start of the lesson.
    Positive praise, and tell the group you will be telling the HOY what a nice lot they are,
    End of lesson at the door, Have a nice day, great group.great work.
    Registers sometimes I do them at the start sometimes I do a walk about tick off like Magic surf bus. When doing pastoral tutor groups on supply, the walk about tick off can be a great help.
    Off to work now. (lucky me for a change)

  8. Great point, do not judge a school by the cover. In the secondary game it is more the dept than the school which is the significant factor.
    Agency- Great school - great children - fantastic. If an agency says this, then be wary. They have sent supply in to a particular dept (your subject) and it is probably the supplies fault in their view. You go and find a row of supply have been in a particular dept! So what was so fantastic. The agency view is correct, Fantastic school, but this is a whole school view.
    Agency say nuffink- You may have heard of the school. You try not to be non judgemental when you check the postcode and location. You go in dept is ok it is not a bad trip. Again the agency have a whole school view they have sent rows of supply in to all departments. The agency know the school is challenging from the whole school view.
    You never know how it is going to rock and roll in a secondary school. I have done indie schools. faith schools (all have enriched my spiritual personal development) I say that to keep them sweet, I also mean it. EBD schools, secure schools. PRU units.
    Perhaps the most challenging of all for me is significant EAL. Even EAL can be dealt with creatively

  9. Artbot - I think every supply teacher has had at least one day like the one you've just described, but if you stick it out you do get better days.
    My OH kindly wished me luck on my first day of supply by saying " we used to give supply teachers hell when I was at school so good luck"!
    I would always try a positive but firm approach - use any school rewards for pupils who are listening, doing the right thing, etc.
    Children (and often adults!) will always try it on as they're testing the boundaries and know that there will often be no come back if they mess you around wheras they'll have to face a perm teacher again.
    Once you get a bit more experienced at supply (and it is a steep learning curve) I've found you get asked back by the same schools - this makes it easier as the children remember you and you remember the ones to watch out for.
    Sometimes the threat of "Mr C has asked me to let him know who worked well today" can work too.
    Good luck - try another school, go in with confidence and hopefully your next day will be better.
  10. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    And one day when you write your name on the board and some kid sneaks up when you're not looking and writes 'legend' under it you'll know you've arrived.

    It'll make your day too ;-)
  11. What about walking up to three classes, all waiting for their teachers and hearing the loud chant,
    "WE WANT THE LEGEND!" from all three classes and then getting your designated class to line up properly and they all do with the other two classes showing their disappointment by moaning and groaning about not having you...now that's what I call success even before the lesson starts![​IMG]
    ...and I've had that as well! It does take time...

  12. Couldn't agree more. Sometimes the 'tougher' schools have much better support mechanisms in place and appreciate experience and honesty.
    My husband's school (quite tough) just asked for a supply teacher not to go back because the supply teacher said everything was great when quite clearly it hadn't been.
    I've only ever done primary supply but it is definitely a mistake to think you'll have a nice day in a 'nice' school. Best advice I had about doing supply (which pretty much sums up what has been said here previously) is:
    Get them in, Get on with them, Get on with it, and Get them out.
    Have spare pencils, paper, rulers, coloured pencils, sharpeners etc and activities. Always have a story to read (primary anyway). Know a name to refer to. Mark the work as you go round - that gives you status and makes them accountable. And yes, leave a note and leave the room tidy. I find in primary it is useful to write on a big piece of paper (so they can all see) the names of the children who are behaving well and leave it up for the class teacher.
    And accept that you won't always be asked back because you will get days like that. Usually those schools are the ones you wouldn't want to go back to anyway. Remember you can refuse schools too - I have done this because some of the schools were just so damn disorganised and supply unfriendly that I couldn't bear to work there! You only really need to worry if you continually get 'blacklisted'.
  13. Thing is when I am doing the supply job, I act like a teacher at all times, however I often introduce myself to a class as a supply. I even talk about my supply job to a whole secondary class. I explain a little my day. 'I thought I would be watching telly all day, but teachers like the students are sick sometimes so I get called to rush to a school'. So I here I am, this day, . . . . .
    For some reason they are interested to hear a little about the behind scenes of the supply teacher.. I know it sounds risky. I do not do it all the time. However your Intro as a supply is so significant. Every Intro I do is different, sometimes I read the riot act (what will happen if you mess me about) sometimes I do not.
    In secondary it is unlikely even with the best teacher in the world leaving the work, that a seating plan is available which matches the class in front of you.
    So some standard teacher stratagies are out of the window. However you can get around this.
    Links to numeracy- If a supply loses one pencil a lesson how many pencils do they have to buy from Wh Smith on Saturday? if they are in your school for a week?
    Give us a pencil sir? "Who do you think I am Wh Smith", go on, I pass a pencil with a smile, make sure you give it back as I will probably forget to ask? I won't forget as I write down the number of pencils given out for the class. I still lose them though!.
    Geffone the NQT - overhearing a conversation ten years ago. "Don't worry about him he is easy",
    Geffone the supply teacher experienced. Here he is Hitler the supply! I loved that comment I wanted to give him a merit point!
    So I start a lesson like I am Hitler and finish like I am in the telly tubbies.
    Walking down the corridor I hear the class I am tasked for (I normally try to get there before them) however the class has never met me, it ain't my fault they are kicking off. Then I am thinking how am I going to play this one. I find it all a giggle,
    This forum used to be full of laughs. However in the current climate it is hard to keep the humour going.
    Also we are a little reluctant to post to much on 'managing the classes', as our unqualified colleagues will monitor the forum for tips of the trade if they are smart.
    Turkies voting for christmas comes to mind!

  14. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    I find they love hearing about other schools, especially if they're worse schools. Most kids are actually quite proud of their school, truth be told. They're also quite astounded that Supply Teachers wait by the phone each morning wondering if they have work. Some are quite sympathetic when they hear that.

    I was waiting in a room the other day when I heard a kid say "Uh oh, it's a supply teacher" and another kid looked in and said "Oh it's OK, he's the coolest teacher in the world". I asked him why he said that and he said "When Miss was away last time you said you were Miss and you'd had an overnight sex change and grown a beard".

    Sometimes you can catch them with your opening line ;-)
  15. littlelebowski

    littlelebowski New commenter

    I can only aspire to being a 'legend'! That is definitely cool...
    The class I had yesterday were not settling down to the work as much as I would have liked them to and I calmly and quietly reminded them that they would finish the work at break if I didn't feel they had done enough. A child sitting near to where I was standing who had given me a hard time in another lesson leaned over to her neighbour and whispered "And she means it too." Ha! No more Ms. Nice Gal!

  16. Supply teaching can, as we know, be a pretty thankless job - when you can find any, of course... I find the old 'start as you mean to go on' routine can help. Make it clear what you expect of the class, having also familiarised yourself with the school's discipline policy/classroom ethos beforehand. A supportive, sympathetic school/dept. can make a big difference too.
    And how many of us have found we're covering classes whose regular teacher's tolerance of bad behaviour makes a rod for any new supply teacher's back? That really IS an uphill struggle.
  17. vou


    Everyone has given lots of good advice to you about being a supply - but this one thing keeps me sane - Don't take it personally. At the end of the day - some kids will always play up - just keep cool and remember they would behave this way to ANY supply teacher standing there!!
  18. Totally agree with geffone's comments above - grabbing their attention at the start is vital, whether it's by a story, for eg: how you came to be here this morning/live in this area and have 'chosen' this school to work in now "you'll be seeing me around some more no doubt"/how you're a 'proper' teacher, used to be HoD, and although History isn't my subject I DID do History A level so we should be ok today... or whatever - the whole introductory chat has got to be right, but different every time!
    Fact is that we do all get bad lessons from time to time, but it's worth persevering if you feel you have something to offer which I'm sure you do! It's a totally different job from usual teaching so it's a totally new set of skills you're developing.
    Half term now, so enjoy![​IMG]
  19. darkness

    darkness New commenter

    It doesn't help when there is no work left or you take a class for say English in a completely different block to the English department. So chance of getting work from HOD is zero. What I found many schools started doing was even though they had cover supervisors, they would not give them tough classes. Always seemed to end up with the well known bad class. Basically you get sh*t and scraps.

    Stick with it. I worried for a time about no work left and behaviour, but then thought, if they leave no work then what is someone supposed to do when just walking in on day supply (secondary) and often in a different block, so no access to resources.

    My advice, get the disciplinary guidance from reception and stick with that all day. there is not much excuse for not maintaining order I am afraid. You can threaten detention and the kids might know you have no idea what you are on about due to the fact some schools have a scaling system where you cannot give automatic detentions. Already you can look weak in the students eyes.
  20. This sounds just like my position and reading your comments has made me feel so much better. .

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