Sustainable Supply: 10 Tips for Managing Your Wellbeing As A Supply Teacher

Photo of Duncan Verry
Duncan Verry
CEO, Airsupply
Nov 30th 2018 in Health & Wellbeing
Supply teaching, at times, can be tough. In this article we look at strategies to feel calm and help keep things manageable.

Many teachers find the transition from permanent to supply very demanding. Although there are many fantastic reasons to become a supply teacher, you may also have to deal with more uncertainty, tricky agencies, and a lack of structure.

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 quite the same focus on wellbeing.

Airsupply is taking a lead in building a strong culture for supply teachers around wellbeing, rewards, benefits and maintaining CPD. This article looks at the day-to-day self-management of wellbeing. For those that need more of a listening ear, we encourage you to reach out.

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 can reinforce wellbeing. Strategies we've heard and talked about with our teachers, to keep them happy and healthy.

1) Don’t take negative interactions personally

We’ve all had moments in the classroom that have gone pear-shaped. Poor behaviour from pupils or negative experiences with other staff members is 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 that might have played into things turning sour. Remember that there are countless reasons for why the odds might be stacked against you as a supply teacher.

Particularly on a daily basis, it’s impossible to know what a class or a school have experienced before your arrival. The most important things to remember are: don’t blame yourself and don’t take it personally.

You may want to try writing down exactly what happened to get it out of your head, or talk to a trusted person (if the matter isn’t confidential). These are great supply teacher mental health strategies to help you see what happened more objectively and release any strong emotions that may be tied to the experience. You can then move onwards and upwards, fulfilling your true potential as the brilliant teacher you are.

2) Remember 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. As a supply teacher, you may feel like this network is suddenly no longer there.

Actually, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a network for you – you may just have to look a little harder to find it. Remember that you’re one of tens of thousands of supply teachers across the UK, all doing important work in schools every day.

With the Internet, 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.

You’re invited to join our new Airsupply teaching community on Facebook for supply teachers across the country. Being part of a community like this is excellent for boosting supply teacher wellbeing, as you’ll feel less alone, be able to connect with others having similar experiences to you, and learn from each other.

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 mind that the work will come. Boost your supply teacher wellbeing by remembering that this temporary lull is an opportunity to relax and pursue other interests. When you’re working again, you’ll probably wish you had more free time!

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.

Pursuing other passions outside of work can also make you a better teacher; the energy and enthusiasm that you have for something else will spill over into the classroom.

If you’re not sure where to start, have a think about what you enjoy doing most or what you’ve always wanted to do. What lights you up? What do you feel passionate about? This might be knitting, crafting, gardening, dancing, writing, mountain climbing, skiing, cycling or any number of things!

One thing is for sure: focusing on yourself and your personal passion projects is key to maintaining positive supply teacher wellbeing and mental health.

5) Have a ‘supply kit’ ready

Having a pre-made ‘supply kit’ can help make preparing for your next supply teaching assignment very easy and efficient. Getting everything ready the night before, or just having your supply kit ready at all times, will help to alleviate any stress you may feel in the morning of your assignment. This way, you’ll feel psychologically prepared for whatever may be in store that day.

Your supply kit can be composed of whatever you may need for your day, including basic lesson plans and ready-made teaching resources that can come in handy. We also suggest bringing your own pencil case with coloured pens for marking, a flask of tea or coffee, stickers and a kitchen timer for classroom activities. Feel free to edit this list and add your favourite teaching tools!

6) Manage the morning 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.

To change how you feel and boost your supply teacher wellbeing, think about what tasks you might be able to do in this period. TV, music and chores are all good distractions. 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.

7) Prioritise your self-care

Regardless of how much you are working, whether it’s every day or once a week or month, self-care is essential to maintaining good supply teacher wellbeing. This means simply making time for yourself to recharge, connect with yourself, feel good and be rested and rejuvenated.

You might like to journal, take a bubble bath, do some mindfulness colouring, listen to a podcast, do a meditation or go on a nature walk. Whatever self-care looks like for you, make sure to carve out this time for yourself to help you stay in top form.

8) Regularly check in with yourself

Avoiding burnout is key to supply teacher mental health. You may feel like there are lots of demands on your time and it’s difficult to stay on top of it all. If so, make sure to take time to check in with yourself.

Checking in with yourself simply means slowing down enough to ask yourself how you’re feeling and really tuning into how your body feels. You can do this by sitting quietly with no distractions and being curious about what comes up for you in this moment. You might also like to try writing about how you are doing.

If you’re feeling exhausted, this is a sure sign to stop and take some time for relaxation. You can then adjust your schedule to allow more time for rest around any other commitments you may have.

9) Cover the basics

Enough sleep, enough exercise, healthy food – we all know the drill. Although these basics can seem obvious, one or all of them can easily get out of balance, having a big knock-on effect on your wellbeing.

When supply teaching, you may find it difficult to keep a routine in the morning or throughout the day, as each day can look different. Planning a post-teaching routine for the afternoon or evening can really make a difference to your wellbeing as a supply teacher.

Perhaps you can take a short walk around your neighbourhood to clear your head, eat a nutritious meal and take some time for rest and relaxation in the evening. Ensuring all of your basic needs are covered is key to boosting supply teacher wellbeing, setting you up for success for the next day at school.

For extra support with meeting your wellbeing needs, check out what you can access with Pirkx. If you’re a teacher signed up to Airsupply and complete 40 hours of supply teaching a year, you have free access to this rewards platform. Here, you’ll find offers, discounts and benefits on everything from your weekly shop to mental health counselling and gym memberships.

10) Reach out for more support if needed

If you’re really struggling with supply teacher wellbeing, you don’t have to struggle alone. There are many people and organisations out there ready to support you if you require a little extra help.

There’s no shame in asking for support. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to tell someone you need some help. If you feel comfortable to do so, you can reach out to a family member, partner, friend or colleague. If you feel more comfortable speaking to someone who doesn’t know you, or you feel like professional support would be best for you, here are some places you can turn to:

Which supply teacher wellbeing strategies will you use?

As a supply teacher, caring for your mental and physical health is crucial. Feeling inspired by these supply teacher wellbeing strategies? Perhaps you can now take some time to reflect on which areas you can focus on in order to boost your overall wellbeing and feel even better.

If you'd like to know more about the Airsupply wellbeing, rewards and benefits package, take a look at our dedicated page.

We also invite you to join Airsupply to connect with like-minded supply teachers across the country and boost your workplace wellbeing with flexible, well-paid supply jobs. Here’s to feeling good and making a difference.

Find better paid supply teaching jobs

Airsupply teachers typically earn £30 per day more, doing work they choose.

Are you a school? Find out more