Outside The Box: What I've Learnt From Working With Supply Teachers



Supply Teachers get a lot of stick. When I'm surfing the internet looking at all types of blogs to inspire my own posts I constantly come across comments such as "They are a nightmare. The reason that most are supply teachers is that they can't hack it in the classroom" or " the vast majority are truly terrible, on supply because they cannot get permanent jobs". Although it can be a mixed bag, it's sad to thing that so many don't get recognised for the hard work they put in, just because a few here and there haven't met the criteria.

Before you go on to tell me that there's plenty of evidence to support your claims, I would like to point out that there are 'bad eggs' in every industry. Some people are great at their job, they succeed, they put their all into everything they do and they make the most of what they've got, and then some just don't...

Most supply teachers that I meet as I sit in the office are doing their best in awkward and difficult situations. Most of them have cars full of random Pinterest worksheets so that they have something to offer when no work is set. They get up and wait by the phone, then they head to work early, sometimes at a moments notice and come home late after correcting all the class work (that they aren't expected to do). Some weekends are spent preparing for "would be" classes, others are spent worrying about whether they'll have enough work to pay the bills next week. The only thing that motivates so many of them are the children and perhaps some wonderful feedback from their fellow colleagues. There is no career, and little recognition here. I wouldn't be able to take it if I swapped places.

Plus, there are a whole load of challenges a supply teacher must face (that a full-time teacher may be free of!). Take for example the fact that they have no choice but to walk into the unknown every day and then walk away, with no idea on whether they'll face the same class again, or teach the same subject. They have no time to build rapport with students and in most cases there is no long-term commitment to a particular child's success, so when looking at it closely, you could say that it's a completely different career than the one you're comparing it to.

We can all claim to be thick-skinned, but a room full of children and the tag of a 'supply teacher' will soon separate the weak from the strong. It's so easy for us to stand here on the outside, looking in and judging them for not handling a situation in a way we see fit, but at the end of the day most of these individuals are trying their hardest. Sometimes after a hard day in the office and 56 phone calls, I try to remind myself what it would be like if I had to stroll into a brand new job every day, with brand new colleagues, find my way around an unfamiliar building and work on a project that I may, or may not know much about.

Maybe it's just me, or maybe I am biased, but I really do think that supply teachers should get more respect. Let's face it, where would the school system be without supply teachers to take over whenever a teacher is ill? How much work would be forgotten about if there wasn't somebody to stand in? If you want to continue thinking that every Supply Teacher 'fails' our children on a daily basis then that is completely up to you,  but the fact of the matter is that applications to study teaching are at an all time low, NQTs are accepting jobs outside of the UK due to a shortage in jobs and supply teachers play a crucial role in addressing short-term gaps in the educational numbers. With children continuing to achieve fantastic grades and a record number of students being accepted into UK universities and colleges, I think it's about time we gave some credit to those that stand in on a daily basis and are clearly partly responsible for these positive outcomes.

So for all of those Supply Teachers out there that continue to feel inadequate, take it from me, you're bloody brilliant.