Relief teaching can be a great way to enjoy flexible working, avoid staff room politics and be free of marking responsibilities out of work hours (am I right?). However, it can be a fairly competitive environment if you are living in a high density area and there’s thousands of teachers vying for the same spot in the classroom.
So how do you stand out and make a lasting impression? Aside from having a well maintained teacher profile on ClassCover, we have come up with ten tips to help you to become the kind of relief teacher that gets constant callbacks.
1. Get there early
There are a few key things that you will need to be familiar with as a casual teacher, like the school’s behaviour policy, the teacher's written plans, staff toilets, locating the tea and coffee and most importantly the printer, so it makes sense to get to the school in good time.
2. Find out if the work is pre-set
Will you need to bring your own ideas or has the teacher left teaching plans to follow? Also, check to see if you will have use of a smart-board and, if so, that it will be set up for you. In many instances the teacher will be asked to email a lesson plan to the school for you to follow, or there will be a programme/timetable ready and waiting for you.
3. Bring your own resources
It’s a good idea to have suitable teaching ideas up your sleeve so that you have something to fall back on if you need it. Your bag of tricks will save you every time!!
Always have a few emergency lessons you can pull out. There are plenty of free resources available for you to use. This one is great to use and is available on this link.
Another highly recommended resource is this one which was compiled and written by one of our own Relief Teacher Course Managers who has had over 20 years working as a Relief Teacher. Click on the following link to access this resource.
4. Introduce yourself to everyone
The school admin office is often a great source of practical knowledge, and support staff can be helpful, too. Smile and say hello to other teachers and staff within the school. Not only is it good to see a happy face but it leaves a great impression. Make sure you are generous with the compliments, a few kind words in the right direction will go a long way and make a lasting impression. This place is usually the engine of relief teacher bookings and have the power to choose who gets placed on the top of preferred lists.
5. Ask about the students
Someone in the school who is familiar with the class should make you aware of any students with particular needs. Be sure to take into account any pupils who might find change difficult or who may have specific health care plans.
6. Make yourself familiar
Get to know the timetable for the day, the school’s writing style, class rules for behaviour, how children are expected to move around the school, and whether there are any children who need medication. Ask what ways you can help or if there are any tasks you can take on to help the full-time teachers.
Show a willingness to do whatever the school needs you to do for the day (including yard duties). Schools really appreciate the offer to do a duty if your teacher doesn't have one. As a full-time classroom teacher, it can make your day for someone to do your yard duty.
Last year’s NSW Relief Teacher of the Year winner Nidy Durairaj was a master at this and was what made him a real stand out for the award. You can read Nidy’s story here.
7. Find out about routines
The start of the day is crucial to how well the rest of the day will go, so make sure that you are aware of the daily routine. Children will be reassured those routines haven’t changed and that you are in command.
8. Know your groups
Not off by heart, of course – unless you have a photographic memory. But have names of children and relevant groups to hand so that the class can be easily organised. The children will usually know which groups they are in, but you may get a few who will play around so stick the list on the wall.
9. Have fun ideas for time fillers
There are always times of the day when you will need to fill short gaps, such as when a session finishes early or assembly is running late. It’s always worth having a few entertaining ideas, and a cupboard puppet seems to do the trick for some.
Don't be surprised if children finish tasks early. Have a collection of five-minute fillers ready to use for literacy and maths to keep the class on task and engaged. Ensure the activities can cover a variety of age groups so you can use them regularly.
Being prepared for anything is key. The Relief Teacher Association has a course on ‘Creating a highly effective bag of tricks’ which is packed full of ideas and useful tools to ensure you are never caught out.
10. Know your bathroom limits
Manage toilet needs by having a maximum of two children in the bathroom at any one time. There could already be a rule about this though, so check with another teacher. You want to avoid half the class visiting the toilet at one time.
Want more tips? Here are some other useful blogs from the archive.