Supply teaching is tough. Airsupply look at some strategies to feel calm and help keep things managable.
Many teachers find a transition from permanent to supply very demanding. Dealing with uncertainty, tricky agencies, and a lack of structure is by no means easy. Over the last couple of years teacher wellbeing has been in the spotlight. But for supply teachers, unlike their permanent counterparts, there hasn’t been the same focus on wellbeing.
Being proactive about your wellbeing is just as important for supply as it is for permanent members of staff. These are some of the strategies that we hear about from our teachers to keep them happy and healthy.
1) Managing negative interactions
We’ve had moments in the classroom which have gone pear-shaped. Poor behaviour or negative experiences with staff members are a fact of life for all teachers. But we’re even more exposed to it as supply. After a bad lesson or a bad day, try to consider all the other factors which might have played into things turning sour. Remember that there are countless reasons as a supply teachers for why odds might be stacked against you. Particularly on a daily basis, it’s impossible to know what a class or a school have experienced. Don’t blame yourself and move on.
2) You’re part of a community
Being a supply teacher can feel lonely. When you’re in a permanent role you’ve got a network of teachers around you. Suddenly, with supply, that’s gone. Remember that you’re one of tens of thousands of supply teachers across the UK all doing important work in schools every day. There are more ways than ever of interacting with this community. Forums and Facebook Groups give space for supply teachers to share ideas and experiences.
3) Positively frame the slow periods
There will be days or weeks in which there is little in the way of work. This is not just dejecting, but can also lead you to feel rejected, especially if you know a school may have picked another candidate instead of you. At the time it can be really hard to see this as something to be grateful for. Reminding yourself of the benefits which come with no work can make you feel better. Celebrating the days of rest and trying to use them as opportunities to get other things done can make a difference. Keep in your mind that the work will come and this is an opportunity to rest and pursue other interests.
4) Keep other interests going
The great benefit of supply is its flexibility. With this flexibility it does become easier to squeeze other interests in and around your work. Whether this be a sport, another career or a hobby, keeping another interest in mind will make the experience of supply more sustainable. It can also make you a better teacher. The energy and enthusiasm that you might have for something else will spill over into classroom.
5) have a “supply kit” ready
We’ve written in the past about having things that you take to schools ready. This can make the stress of the morning that much more bearable and psychologically make you feel prepared for whatever it is that the day might throw at you.
6) Manage the wait
One of the things that supply teachers find most difficult is the “wait” endured each morning. This is not only “dead time” (in which you can’t seem to do anything productive), but can also be incredibly stressful. You might find yourself checking the phone every 20 seconds. On a quiet morning this feeling of angst might go on for a long time. This is unpleasant and exhausting, leaving you tired before the day even gets going. Think what tasks you might be able to do in this period. TV, Music and chores are all good distractions. A little bit like point 3, if you can turn this wait into something which is more relaxed, or even slightly productive, you’ll find yourself earning time and feeling happy.
As a supply teacher looking caring for your mental, and indeed physical health, is crucial. We’d love to hear about any strategies that you have as a supply teacher. We’ll update the blog accorindingly.