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Teaching on supply

Vicky Adam from Vale of Leven Academy shares her experiences as a probationer on supply.

Maths Teacher, Flexible Route Probationer

Since the fourth week of term, I have been teaching in the Vale of Leven Academy in West Dunbartonshire. I teach five of my own classes in Maths from S1 through to S5/6 and can be asked to cover a few more classes in a week, and usually do.

I take part in the whole school community such as parents' evenings and charity events, extra curricular activities and supported study and have been able to attend some of the probationers' CPD courses offered by the authority.

I'm fortunate in that my school, and the authority, are very supportive and essentially treat me as a probationer, although I do have a full timetable and don't attend regular Supporter Meetings.

Starting out

In my first few weeks at the school, I found it very difficult to adjust: picking up from the previous teacher's work, learning the discipline policy and simply getting used to teaching again after the ten-week break between finishing my PGCE and getting a school to work in!

I was also used for cover more often than I am now, as I didn't have such a full timetable. As a result, I know my way around the school better than most teachers, I have seen how different subjects are organised and how some of my pupils relate to other subjects. This is good as most teachers don't get that opportunity.

I had to be careful not to fall into bad habits because when you are covering classes here and there, you can't recap the previous lesson or set realistic targets.

One of the most rewarding things I have found this year has been getting to know my pupils, as I had worried I might not be in the same school long enough. As it is, I have my own classroom, and feel very much a part of the school.

Top tips for supply teaching

From my experience so far, I have learned that some things are absolutely essential when teaching in general, but more so when on supply:

Stock up

Have your own supply of pencils, you might not be able to find them in someone else's classroom and pupil's rarely have their own!

Set the ground rules at the start of the lesson

Be clear that you expect the pupils to work well and have a game or quiz ready to play in the last 10 minutes if they work well.

Learn school discipline procedures early

Learn school rules as soon as possible and try to always carry some pink/yellow cards and incident reports with you. The last thing you want to worry about is where to find them when you really need them.

Have lessons prepared

Try to have some stand alone lessons and puzzles ready just in case pupils run out of work when covering classes, especially in the case of an unplanned absence when there is no work set for the class.

Use seating plans

Pupils are impressed if you know their names and it helps with behaviour management. If there isn't a seating plan, check the name on their jotter.

Be proactive

Being on supply means that you aren't entitled to a reduced timetable and won't have a specific mentor. You will have to be forthcoming in asking for CPD and observed lessons and get involved when you can!

Adopt the school you're working in

The more activities you get involved in, the more you will feel at home Pupils will recognise you from other areas of the school which will raise your profile with them and help you in the classroom.

Try to enjoy it!

It's not always easy, but neither is the probation scheme and keep in mind that the end result is the same!