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Nurturing Opportunities

Let’s admit that most of us don’t get into relief teaching and expect to stay there permanently. Relief teaching is often a stepping stone into a more permanent role. It can help us gain experience, build contacts in schools, and pay the bills as we complete various certifications. So what can we do to increase our chances of moving into a more permanent position when the time is right?

Build a Reputation for Excellence

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to get repeated calls and consideration for future job openings is to do your best. Do you come in well-prepared? Do you accomplish lesson objectives for the day? Do you leave the classroom neat and organized at the end of the day? Do you leave copious notes for the permanent teacher upon their return? Doing all these things well can help make you stand out from the many other relief teachers coming in and out of the school on a regular basis.

Network Hard

There are many ways, big and small, to network at a school while relief teaching. Smiling and gabbing with the school receptionist upon entering and leaving is a great opportunity that should not be passed up. Remember, this person is the one communicating to the principal on a regular basis. When it comes time to submit your CV for an open teaching position, the receptionist can help you get it onto the principal’s desk with a warm recommendation so be friendly!

The staffroom is the absolute best place to network. Many relief teachers can shy away from the staffroom. They don’t know anybody and everyone else seems to have known each other for years. Our best advice is to be bold and strike up conversations or join groups of conversing teachers. Not only can they act as a reference for you when you apply for an opening, they can also give you tips on teaching your regular classes. It’s possible that they had been a relief teacher early in their career as well and can tell you what worked for them.

Be Friendly & Volunteer

A smile can go a long way and just smiling at other teachers and staff in the hall, even if you don’t know them, can leave a positive impression. Sometimes you can have a tough class or maybe getting a last minute phone call at 5:30 am got you off to a bad start for the day, but it’s important to shrug those things off and show staff and students your best in order to leave a good impression.

Also, volunteering to help out with little projects is another great way to get noticed. Maybe it’s helping another teacher rearrange their room between classes or helping out with buses at the end of the day. You might not necessarily be getting paid to do such activities, but the willingness to help others can really set you apart.

Even if you aren’t looking to make the move into permanent teaching quite yet, by following the above advice, you can increase your chance of getting regular calls for relief teaching. Getting enough hours can sometimes be a challenge, but these are surefire ways to get you noticed and get you more hours. Plus, it’s always nice to work at the same school as you get to know the staff and the students, so there are many benefits to building your reputation at a particular school. When you’re ready for that full-time position, you’ll have one or more schools that would be excited to have you!



Hot topic alert! Classroom Management!

Classroom Management for the Relief Teacher

“No learning takes place when you discipline. All disciplining does is stop deviant behavior, which must be done, but no learning has taken place. Learning only takes place when the students are at work, or as we say in education, on-task.” – Harry Wong

Harry Wong makes a great point. As teachers, relief or otherwise, we need to have a great way to manage our classrooms. It can be easy to assume that disciplining students who are off-task or misbehaving is the way to go, but it’s often ineffective.


So what are some ways to manage a new class that doesn’t know you?

The number one issue surrounding classroom management is always engagement. Do all the students have something to do? Imagine a typical activity you see in many classes where one student is asked to read out loud while the others listen. In this activity, you have one engaged student and the rest are bored and ready to stir up trouble.

We always want to run activities in a way that keeps everyone engaged. For example, in the read out loud activity, maybe you could do a running dictation instead.

Follow Routines
Routines are the second most important issue in classroom management. Ideally, the teacher has left you notes. If not, maybe you can ask another nearby teacher or the principal if they are familiar with certain routines in the class.

The students are also great resources for understanding routines. You’ll be surprised how, even at the Kindergarten level, children will let you know if you are doing something out of order or not at the usual time.

Set Clear Expectations
Students need to know, beforehand, what is expected of them. If they have a clear idea of your expectations as a teacher and their role in an activity, they will be much more likely to stay on task. It’s also a good idea to involve the class in setting expectations. This will give you buy-in and make it more likely that students will follow them. Just like above, you can ask for what usually happens in the class, but feel free to change one or two up for the day to fit your teaching style.

Consistency with expectations is also essential. If we set an expectation, but fail to follow through on holding students accountable, then we send the message that we’re not serious.

Prepare to Be Tested
In this vein, students are going to test your resolve and to see what they can get away with. If you’re lucky, this will probably only be one or two students usually known to be class clowns. Our advice is to never give warnings. Once the expectation is set, any deviation results in immediate consequence. This sends a crystal clear message that you’re not going to allow testing.

The worst classes for a relief teacher are the ones spent constantly trying to keep students on track. If you follow these basic principles, you will greatly increase your chance of a successful lesson. Taking the time to establish classroom management right away will allow you to focus on teaching and the students to focus on learning for the rest of the class.

Let us know how it goes!



Interactive Whiteboards and Teaching The Way Our Students Learn by Susan Burke

"If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach they way they learn."

 (Ignacio Estrada)

Student engagement must be our top priority in classrooms today. Gone are the days where you can continue to follow tried and tested lesson plans that you used five years ago.

Why,  you ask?  The content is the same.....but the students are learning in different ways.

Not surprising is it, given the amount of TV, video games and internet time the average student has access to. The reality is that students today have shorter attention spans, a higher expectation of instant gratification and an increased need for entertainment. We can bemoan this state of affairs all we like, but it won't change it. Instead, we need to embrace our learners and evolve our teaching techniques to enhance their learning experience.

There are a multitude of strategies and technologies we can use to improve student engagement. This article will focus on how to use the Interactive Whiteboard effectively to captivate students' attention, tap into multiple intelligences and increase student engagement in the learning process. Effective use of the Interactive Whiteboard can make a teacher's life much easier too!

1) Administrative tasks and the IWB: Using the IWB to mark the roll each morning can save time. We all know how precious time is, especially in the morning, whenresearch shows that the best learning occurs. This could be as simple as having students write their names on the board as they come in, or a basic roll marking resource can be created by adding student photographs, names or avatars to a page and having the students move their name onto specific part of the board. You can find some free pre-made resources like these that you only need to add names to here:

Roll marking resource by

2) The Power of Music and Video: There are some fantastic videos on YouTube and TeacherTube that are extremely useful to use in the classroom. Having students view video and songs on the IWB is a great way to tap into multiple intelligences. You can easily ensure that students don't see any inappropriate ads and surrounding video by converting a video to SafeShare:

3) Handwriting: Modelling correct letter formation is essential in the early years, and the IWB is a brilliant tool to use to do this. You can scan a page from a handwriting text and use it on the board, or create your own custom lesson. You can model the formation, and students can have a go on the board before writing in their books.

            Handwriting resource by

4) Scaffolding Perceptual to Figurative Counting: Kinesthetic and visual learners benefit greatly from using the IWB. Certain concepts, such as place value can be difficult to grasp, and there is a big jump from manipulating physical MABs to visualising them. Also, you may not have enough physical manipulatives available for each student to use. This is where you can utilise the IWB for group work. Visual representations of theMABs that can be moved provide an excellent scaffold for students between the perceptual and figurative counting stages.

                                                Place value resource by

5) Practice Makes Permanent: There are many skills that require lots and lots of practice! For example, learning your times tables. Use the IWB to make this practice FUN! There are numerous interactive games available on the internet, and you can create resources of your own on the IWB that turn a rote learning yawn-inspiring task into something your students will actually ask you to do! 

Researched and prepared by Susan Burke, director of Susan Burke Interactive Lessons Design &



Motivating Students Part 2 - Why Motivation is Self Sustaining

Our first ever guest blogger is the creator of our hugely popular PD course on Behaviour Management, Bob Brandis. Bob runs a website He has extensive experience is dealing with student behaviour and runs several support programs through the site that assists all teachers in supporting behaviour management in the classroom. Membership to this website is free.

Motivation is self-sustaining. It is the internal power that generates its own energy.

How did you feel when you received your first smart phone? I bet the internal combustion of the motivation engine was pumping away. Why? Because you saw yourself as a successful smart phone user.

Fred needs to see himself as a successful adder of fractions.

The self-belief that comes with positive feedback about performance will make a qualifying difference to Fred’s motivation.

Your positive feedback is now based on irrefutable evidence. You can see it and Fred can see it.

It is the black and white of performance indicators that is being highlighted.

Fred is now inspired.

Comments like, “Fred that is a well-constructed sentence. Your use of descriptive adjectives is powerful. I am looking forward to reading your completed story.”

And again, “Fred, you have some great research about the planet Neptune. I like how you included the history of its discovery. Your completed project is going to be very interesting to read.”

There are specific elements to this type of feedback?

Feedback about performance must:

  • Highlight clear, unambiguous evidence of success.
  • Explain performance indicators of what makes the evidence.
  • Put this success in the context of the whole.

Giving this type of feedback is likely to inspire Fred into further action.

True motivation doesn’t come about because of a fear of the consequences. It is about being inspired to succeed.

The positive feedback is performance based and honest.

For unmotivated kids, focus on the LEARNING, not the behaviour.

It has to be all about the learning if you ever want to provide motivation for the unmotivated.



Motivating Students

Our first ever guest blogger is the creator of our hugely popular PD course on Behaviour Management, Bob Brandis. Bob runs a website He has extensive experience is dealing with student behaviour and runs several support programs through the site that assists all teachers in supporting behaviour management in the classroom. Membership to this website is free.


Motivation is a big issue for teachers. Unmotivated students make teaching painful. They refuse to participate in the learning activities and their moaning, groaning and negative attitude can quite often undermine your teaching.

Learn strategies to motivate the unmotivated

We all know that praise has an impact on behaviour.

Praise works well on behaviour. It makes a difference if the kids value the praise. Unmotivated kids are a different matter.

Unmotivated kids are seldom motivated by praise about behaviour. You see, the reason these kids are not motivated doesn’t have behaviour implications.

Unmotivated students lack motivation towards learning.

Unmotivated kids have an issue with learning. The task:

  • may be too difficult,
  • may not meet their needs,
  • may be inappropriate to their beliefs.

Whatever the reason, the answer is not a behavioural one.

Motivating for the unmotivated requires different strategies.

Praising unmotivated students needs a different tact. We all know kids rise to encouragement. Their behaviour changes but not usually their attitude.

Some teachers go to extraordinary lengths to praise and cajole unmotivated kids. It just doesn’t seem to have any impact. The lack of student response to your actions can be immensely annoying. The kids don’t seem to respond so the teachers just heap more praise on unmotivated students to no avail.

Let me offer some words of advice. Stop with the praise already!

You cannot motivate a student unless the student sees themselves as a learner of what you are teaching.

A student won’t become motivated unless they see themselves as a learner.

For some kids that as far away from reality as possible. They just DO NOT BELIEVE they can consume what you are selling.

It is like my level of motivation if you try to sell me a skate board. There is no way in the world that I will ever be able to skate. Or so I believe. If you were teaching me how to use a sewing machine, I would be equally as motivated. I just don’t see myself as a successful learner of what you are teaching.

In the classroom context, if you are teaching the addition of unlike vulgar fractions, your students will become unmotivated if they do not see themselves as a partner of this skill.

You can praise the student for sitting up straight, writing neatly, playing the classroom game of being quiet, putting their hands up until the cows come home. It won’t change their level of motivation.

No amount of encouragement about classroom behaviours will make a difference to their motivation because they just don’t relate to you as a receiver of what you are selling.

Intrinsic belief is the only thing that is going to make a difference. They are not going to jump through hoops to get a sticker or a star or their name on a good chart because they do not believe they can jump through the hoops you have on offer.

These students need a success switch turned on. So, unlike what I have suggested in the past about finding them doing something good, ignore it. Don’t heap praise on behaviours.

However, find the slightest learning success and ring the bells, raise the flags and stop the buses. They are on the right track to LEARN.

So what is they haven’t mastered addition of fractions yet. But just suppose they were on track to finding equivalence. Now they need acknowledgement. Not the stuff where you release the pigeons, ignite the fireworks and have the tabernacle choir sing 45 versus of Hallelujah.

The type of acknowledgement needed at this juncture is feedback. These students will respond to feedback about where this success fits into their learning continuum.

“Fred, it’s great that you can find equivalent fractions. That’s the first step to solving addition problems.”

That will motivate Fred like nothing else will.

Fred now sees himself as a learner. A real learner. He is now a consumer of what you are selling. He can see his purpose in your classroom.

Patting Fred on the back without the productive feedback will have little impact.

But mention that Fred is about on track to successfully negotiate his way through the quagmire of the addition of fractions and he will feel 10 foot high and bullet proof.

Look out for part 2 of Bob's thoughts on motivation - 'Motivating the Unmotivated'