Relief teachers are an essential part of the education system, providing the flexibility that keeps classroom teachers in peak form. These casual teachers use a specific skill set to ensure that when a full-time teacher is sick, on holidays or on a PD day, their students don’t miss a single educational beat.
Whether you’re thinking about getting into relief teaching or looking to hone your craft, keep reading to learn about the top 10 skills you need to be a highly requested relief teacher.
Relief teachers tend to work in varying environments and with different age groups, so you’ll need to be adaptable and flexible to excel in this role.
Be ready to adjust your teaching style to accommodate the needs of different students and classrooms, and quickly pivot when you encounter variations in requirements from different school administrators.
But the benefits of being adaptable aren’t just for your students and employers. UNSW Sydney conducted research on educators’ flexibility, finding that ‘when teachers were more adaptable, they tended to report better well-being.’
In other words, if you handle change well, your chances of experiencing fulfillment as a relief teacher increase.
This is an essential skill for all educators, but it’s especially crucial for relief teachers. Why? Because casual teachers have to manage classes without the familiarity that comes from being with a class full-time. Classroom management involves:
- Time management
- Creating a safe learning environment
- Balancing fun and productivity
- Maintaining an engaging teaching style
- Conflict resolution
- And much more
Communicating effectively as a relief teacher involves much more than being able to deliver a lecture from the front of the room. Relief teachers need to communicate with a wide range of people including students, parents, and school staff to ensure that everyone is aware of expectations and objectives.
Also, remember that communication is a two-way street. Your ability to actively listen — i.e., understand what you hear and react appropriately to it — will maximise your impact as a part-time influence in the classroom.
While classroom teachers are typically required to leave lesson plans for you, that doesn’t always happen, due to emergency absences and other extenuating circumstances. Therefore, you’ll need to be comfortable quickly putting together effective lessons. This can involve:
- Familiarity with the curriculum
- Preparing multimedia materials
- Developing engaging, effective strategies that can be adjusted to different levels of student ability
Rapid rapport building
Given your often temporary presence in a classroom as a relief teacher, you must be adept at quickly establishing rapport with students. Doing so fosters a positive learning environment and helps you gain respect and cooperation from your students. Skills associated with rapport building include:
- Confident body language
- Conversation skills
- Social awareness
You could be assigned to any grade or subject, so a thorough understanding of the local curriculum is critical. This includes knowledge of subject matter across a variety of disciplines.
Keeping up to date with your state’s professional development requirements is one way to ensure you have the knowledge you need. But you can set yourself apart as a truly skilled relief teacher if you go the extra mile by keeping your curriculum-relevant knowledge up to date on your own too.
In a new or changing environment, you’ll face unique challenges that require quick and effective problem-solving abilities. This might involve addressing the following relief-teacher issues:
- Difficulty navigating a new school (finding parking, getting to the right classroom on time)
- Unexpected student behaviour
- Unclear expectations from the classroom teacher
The role of a relief teacher can be demanding and sometimes unpredictable. And it’s idealistic to think that every single assignment will go as planned. Having resilience helps you cope with challenges, maintaining a positive attitude and perseverance even when faced with setbacks.
Australia and New Zealand are diverse countries, so a relief teacher needs to be sensitive and respectful towards students from a variety of cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
As a relief teacher, you need to find ways to get everyone in the class involved and show understanding towards diverse learning needs.
Technology competence is one of the most valuable skills for modern job seekers, and relief teachers are no exception. Technology plays an integral role in modern education.
You need to be comfortable using various technologies, from interactive whiteboards to learning management systems, and you need to be comfortable integrating these tools effectively into your teaching.
The ability to troubleshoot is also essential to quickly solve any connectivity or device issues that arise to avoid losing control of the classroom.
Show administrators you have the relief teacher skills they need
If you’re looking to break into relief teaching, you’ll first need to prove to school administrators that you have the abilities listed above.
The best way to get that process started is to prepare a well-designed resume (you can find many great free options online) that lets administrators quickly evaluate your skills, as well as your:
- Teaching qualifications
- Professional development progress
- Relevant experience