About Sharon Wood

Sharon Wood, aka NuttySupplier, launched the forum at SupplyBag.co.uk in 2005 whilst on supply. Having worked as a primary teacher for too many years, I chose supply teaching as a career, in order to achieve a good work / life balance.

CPD for Supply Teachers: A Self-Study Course – All Key Stages

A 6 part self-study course for supply teachers of all Key Stages.

£15 – upon completion of payment, please click on 'Return to Merchant' which will take you to the document for download.
Your Certificate will follow by email within a few days.
 


 

More information coming soon as I am moving this CPD course from TheSupplyTeacher.com to SupplyBag.co.uk!
 

Are you a Ninja Worrier? Helping yourself when supply teaching anxieties hit

The last week of the month (possibly the third week if I've been a little careless) always brings with it a little fear, I am afraid I might go overdrawn. It is a genuine fear, borne out of historical actions, debts and bills. It's quantifiable, somewhat avoidable but there all the same. The anxiety that comes with it, that's a whole new story, I build that on the rocky foundation of fear, but fear and anxiety are very different.

Are you a Ninja Worrier? Do supply teacher fears have you quickly climbing the anxiety ladder?The genuine fear of the telephone not ringing to offer work will resonate with most supply teachers, the anxiety built on that fear will be different for everyone, but it will always be built on the firm foundations of fear. Not getting that phone call when there's bills to pay is real, but not always something you have lots of control over, how you deal with the lack of call and associated worry is controllable, with  practice. How you climb up the ladder of anxiety when the call doesn't come may feel like something rapid and out of control, but there are techniques to talk yourself down because it is within your control. I'm not talking about deep rooted, clinical anxiety that limits life and ability, I'm talking about day to day anxiety that can blow up like a balloon that rarely pops, (but it can be deflated!)

When you climb up the ladder of anxiety you get from the bottom rung of perhaps not having enough to cover bills, right to the top rung of losing your home and being penniless and in the streets quicker than you can physically climb. It may sound extreme but as you climb up the ladder with the speed of a ninja warrior (or worrier), you get to the top, the worst rung where life has collapsed and there is nowhere to go. Except down.

Imagine all the skills you have for the classroom; reasoning, knowledge, bringing life to life, conflict resolution, rationality and reason. It is this emotional resilience that you will teach others as second nature that is often very difficult to apply to yourself. On the top rung of the anxiety ladder, worried and wobbly, reasoned argument can feel a very long way away. Take some deep breaths and step down a worry. Think realistically, how have you managed before, what is within your control, what is real? What do you need help with and what can you do yourself?

Any situation of anxiety is fear pushed to the extreme limits, stretched beyond reality and mixed with a massive blob of negative imagination. Worst case scenario shouted in capitals with some exclamation marks at the end. But how often does the worst of what we imagine actually greet us in reality?

Have that thought in your mind as you step down a rung. What proactive things can you do to make calls come? Step down a rung. What could you do with a day at home? Plan and cook some cheap meals, make some realistic plans, step down a rung.

Hold what you can in your hands that is within your control and work or what you can do with that. The things out of your control need to be let go of as these cannot be changed. Step down a rung. Deep breaths, reasoning, and the top of the ladder may seem quite far away.

Explosions of worry and anxiety are part of life. How we negotiate with ourselves once we are at the top of that anxiety ladder will determine how well we manage to deal with the day to day worries that arrive. Keeping things real and rational will save us the exhaustion of all that climbing and give us time to be in control. And that's when we get things done.

By Resident Writer Helen Bradford

Ellie’s Friends

Living with cancer is hard. No matter what. 


Ellie’s Friends is dedicated to improving the lives of adults (16+) living with cancer, all around the UK. They provide frequent freebies from caring businesses and individuals, to offset some of the financial and psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis.

Being diagnosed with cancer is just the start of an incredibly difficult experience – there are so many pressures that are rarely mentioned: the financial impact of having to give up work, paying for trips to the hospital, healthier food; the eternal boredom and depression that sets in during recovery from chemo.

They help to reinstate ‘treats’ and give their registered users a bit of a lift at a difficult time. From days out with friends or family to special packages delivered in the post, they do what they can to continue the vision of Ellie Jeffery, who wanted to “Make the Big C Smaller.”

I found Ellie's Friends exactly a year after my own diagnosis and immediately joined Ellie's Army: a group of volunteers aiming to increase the number of treats available to adults living with cancer.

If you know an adult living with cancer, please do direct them to the website to register for treats… 

If you think you could provide a one-off treat, or a regular treat for an adult living with cancer in the UK, please do get in touch: sharon@supplybag.co.uk

Thank you so much… S x

Top Supply Teaching Tips: Working with an agency

While it may be financially better to work direct for schools as a supply teacher, not everyone has that option.  Many counties no longer run a supply teaching pool and many schools only employ their teachers through an agency.  Working with an agency can, at times, be quite difficult. In this Top Supply Teaching Tips article we look at the best ways to get the most out of working with an agency.

Top Tip 1: Ask questions / read everything

It might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many supply teachers don’t know that their agency might offer them cover supervisor work. Or send them over a certain distance. Or offer a different key stage to the one that they prefer. Or pay through an umbrella company with all the associated deductions that go with it. These issues can be solved right at the start of the working relationship by reading carefully every document your agency give you and asking the right questions. In the interview be really clear on the type of work you will, or will not, accept and ask questions if you have any doubts about any aspect at all. This is particular true when it comes to pay. PAYE is usually better, but there can be tax implications if you work for more than one agency. Some smaller agencies do not have the payroll staff to be able to process the pay for all of their supply teachers. If your agency has to use a payroll company ask if they can increase your daily rate to offset the deductions.

Top Tip 2: Agencies work in a high pressure environment

 An agency's number one priority has to be to keep the customer, the school, happy. They will need to find a teacher, TA or cover supervisor to fill a role at very short notice. At the same time, they are trying to make sure that all of their supply staff get as much work as possible.  This can, at times, seem to conflict with your own priority of getting more work.  This isn’t to say one role is easier than another. Just a little mutual understanding helps build a good working relationship.   

Top Tip 3: How agencies work

Most agencies offer new supply teachers day to day work before offering longer assignments term assignments.   Day to day work will usually be emergency cover first before pre-booked, and longer assignments can range from a week to a term or more. This method of working allows the agency to get to know the supply teacher better and gather feedback from the schools the supply teacher has worked in.  It is down to personal choice whether a supply teacher will accept emergency day to day cover or pre-booked only, but it is worth remembering that the more flexible you can be in terms of working pattern the more work you are likely to get.

Top Tip 4: Agencies are not your friend

A good working relationship with your agency is essential but they are not your friend. Just like you should be friendly but not a friend to the children you teach, the same is true with agencies.  Obviously this might not be true in every case but as a general rule it would be a bad idea to become Facebook friends with anyone from your agency.

Communication with your agency is quite a skill!

Top Tip 5: Communication

Good communication is essential to a good ongoing relationship with your agency.  Contact your agency regularly to ask about work, particularly if you are not getting enough or only being offered work which doesn’t fit your needs (too far away, wrong key stage, wrong role etc).  

If anything goes wrong, no matter how trivial, when on an assignment: tell your agency.  It is better that they hear it from you than from a school or other third party.

It is also worth keeping in contact when on long term assignments, just to remind them you still exist!

However, remember Top Tip 2 above – agencies are in a high pressure sales type role. If you phone at certain times of the day they may be really busy trying to fill roles. Do not be offended if they seem to brush you off or can’t spend a long time chatting. It’s not personal!

And finally…

Working with an agency does not need to be stressful. Most agencies want to offer a good service to the schools they work with and know that the best way to do that is to have supply teachers who are happy to work for, and with, them.

Have you any other top tips for other supply teachers? How do you ensure that you have a good working relationship with your agencies? Let us know in the comments section below!

By Resident Writer Colin

Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching

As a mum with two small children, I have spent the past three years wrapped in a bubble. A bubble of innocence and the sweet smell of a sleeping baby. I've nurtured and my little ones are growing. And it's time to let go, just a little bit. It's time to begin to walk that fine line back into the world of work, and jobs, long drives home with the stereo blaring, and cold, early mornings with frost on the windows before the world is fully awake.

How do I prepare for this coming year?

Work life balance teacher SAHM supply teaching1. I plan to be realistic about what I can do, and I will be open and honest about the amount of work I can take on. I don't want to let anyone down. Doing a good job is something I take great pride in. Having an “off” day or being below par is something I can't bring myself to do professionally. Or personally. I owe it to my small people to be the best mum I know how to be.

2. In the past three years, I've learned what it really is to face the unexpected and think on my feet. Everything from hospital stays to running after an escapee toddler at top speed, I have honed and developed so many skills. Not only that: I have spent the last year or two fine-tuning my behaviour and time management! I've had to occupy small children at short notice with few resources at my disposal, and I've learned the words to more nursery rhymes and songs than I would care to mention. I've done a lot of it with very little money and on not enough sleep. My teaching experience has been tremendously valuable to me now I am a mum, and I know that being a parent will unimaginably enrich my professional life.

3. Sometimes spending every day with two small people who don't yet really know how to be gracious is hard. There are days when I want to throw in the towel and start over, but you can't do that when you have a family. You keep on going. You tackle problems and you develop persistence. You learn patience. You discover ways of motivating yourself, and them, even when it has been a really difficult day. And you learn to accept that sometimes, a bad day is just that. A bad day. We all have them, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing. It's good to be able to put that into perspective.

4. And yet, I wouldn't change who I am and what I do. It's a cliché that a stay at home mum is everything, but it's true. I'm chief cook and bottle washer, nurse, engineer, social secretary, teacher, playmate, doctor, friend, entertainer, photographer and director. I can't imagine a life without my children. I love it, and I love them with all of my heart. I enjoy being with them, and I have great pleasure in finding out what makes them tick. I've learned how to interest and engage them, and keep them motivated to complete even the most routine of tasks on even the dullest of days. And I take great pride in that. I have always loved this about teaching, too, and being an early years teacher has meant that I can dive in and engage with whatever the children are doing, and wherever their learning is taking them. I become as enthusiastic as they are when I'm in the classroom. I know that, right now, I don't want to go back long term or full time. I want to enjoy my work, and have enthusiasm for what I do, and I will, as long as I know that I will be able to enjoy life with my own children.

5. Last but not least, I will look after myself. I will make sure I take care of my mental health. Being with small children can be exhausting, whether they belong to you or somebody else. At the end of the day, I'll need to find time to switch off, and leave my work at the door. The life of a working mum is never easy and I'll need to learn to be kind to myself. I'm sure there will be times I will find this juggling act a struggle and feel pulled in two directions at once but I'll learn.

So when September rolls around I'll be there, ready to go back to school.

Are you a SAHM mum thinking about a future back in the classroom? What are your concerns? What are you looking forward to? Tell us below!

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith

 

Supply Teachers: Embrace Your Gut!

Supply teachers can sometimes find themselves in tricky situations, where they feel obliged to make big, yet snap, decisions, without having all the information necessary, or the time to reflect on the implications. 

Imagine you're at the zoo watching the tigers prowl at a safe distance when the zookeeper approaches and tells you to get in the enclosure, it's quite safe, they've been fed. I would imagine that the majority of you would decline the offer, sensing an uncomfortable feeling in your gut, an inner discomfort that it might not end well, and choose not to believe the zookeeper and her proclamation of safety.

Supply teaching: be more tiger, don't get in with one!But what about less obvious scenarios, when you are in a situation where someone asks you to do something and your inner discomfort is alarmed, your gut feeling churns and you push that feeling as deep down as you can whilst you nod your head in agreement at the request? You walk away with concerns but you have already agreed.

The gut is often referred to as the second brain, you feel delight, excitement, anxiety, worry, indeed endless emotions deep in the pit of your enteric nervous system, and yet these complex and marvellous feelings are often ignored, pushed away as not real and not quantifiable. Increasing evidence suggests that we should listen and act on our gut feelings.

Imagine you get asked to lower your daily rate to ensure more work, or do five trails in schools for free; your gut churns and you feel uncomfortable, but you've bills to pay and debts mounting, surely something is better than nothing? Free work might equal opportunities, but it still doesn't feel right at all. What can you do?

Time isn't always of the essence

Perhaps the most important thing you can give yourself is a bit of time. Don't say yes, (but even if you do, you are allowed to change your mind!) take some time, reflect on the request and think about what you don't like about it. What were your expectations of the situation? Why is the other party not giving you this? Is there a game of negotiation being played and the agent / head / school are hoping you'll feel too uncomfortable to shake your dice?

Ask for it in writing

Having things written in black and white often helps. Send an email, reflecting on what has been requested of you and be honest about why you are not happy to agree. If it has been suggested more work will come your way ask for percentages, proper confirmation. It's better to feel uncomfortable because you've chanced your arm than because you've aimed low to fit in with someone else's expectations and wants.

Understand your instincts

Go with your feelings but own them. Tell the other party that you feel disappointed in their request, that you feel undervalued and you had expected more, deserve better. Be honest and rational, lay those feelings out and bullet point them if you have to so you can get a decent response. Happily own your gut and share it! I'm sure that businesses love to depart from corporate speak to consider the feelings of those they make money from, so highlight your self awareness and emotional intelligence in the pursuit of answers and resolution.

A problem shared…

Supply teaching can be quite isolating, and you might feel like you are not part of a team, who do you run your feelings of discomfort by to say "This just happened and I'm uncomfortable"? Your online community is massive, they are your gut-sharing, emotion-confirmation team mates, so share! Even if you feel embarrassed doing it. It's far better to share and get what you want than feel uncomfortable for months because you ignored your gut.  Embrace your gut!

Have you embraced your gut? What feelings were you left with? Share with us below!

By Resident Writer Helen Bradford

Top Supply Teaching Tips: Dealing with Adults

Dealing with adults in a school can be a challenge for the most experienced of supply teachers. It can be even more of a nightmare for an NQT or those new to supply.  Many teachers can feel totally in control of a class of 30 children but awkward when talking to adults. There are a few top tips that that can make life easier when talking to a parent, teaching assistants or any other adult.

Top Supply Teaching Tips: Dealing with AdultsParents

The teacher is usually the first point of contact in a school. If a parent has a complaint or issue they are more likely to mention it to the class teacher first.  

Parent Tip 1: Avoid making empty promises or promises which may turn out false. If a parent does talk you about an issue make it clear that you will make note of everything that is said and pass on to someone else within the school.

Parent Tip 2: Report it! As soon as possible find a senior member of staff and inform them of the conversation. Tell them everything that was said and try not to miss any details out, no matter how small it may seem at the time.  If no senior member of staff is available write it down and leave it in a secure place for them to find. Not the staff room table!

Parent Tip 3: Remain calm. This might seem obvious but education can be an emotive issue and it’s quite possible that the parent will be angry or frustrated with the school.  It is not personal though, it’s just unfortunate that you happen to be in the classroom the day the emotions came out.

Parent Tip 4:  If things get ‘heated’ signal another member of staff to join the conversation. If this isn’t possible offer to walk with the parent around to the school office to discuss the issue.

Parent Tip 5: In extreme cases you may need to just walk away. If you do make sure you find a member of the SLT immediate and brief them on the situation.

Depending on the circumstances it would be a good idea to inform your agency of any conversation that gets heated or could lead to an accusation from a parent. It is important to cover ourselves at all times.

Teaching Assistants

Most teaching assistants are great. Occasionally however they can make life difficult e.g. by trying to take over or disappearing with no explanation. But a good working relationship is important especially if they are a permanent member of staff and you are there on a supply contract.

TA Tip 1:  Acknowledge their experience and knowledge of the class/school. Ask about the school routine including things you need to know about the children or special events that day etc. Even if you know the school quite well things change so the TA is best place to help update your knowledge.

TA Tip 2: Explain your rules to the TA. Every class teacher has slightly different expectations of how they would like the children to work. At the start of the day explain to the TA, and the class, what your expectations are.

TA Tip 3: Give clear instructions. It can be difficult, especially if the TA is more experienced than you , but try to give clear instructions on how  you would like them to support the children.  If possible go through the lesson plans prior to the lesson so the TA has a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

TA Tip 4: Unless the TA is allocated to a particular child (e.g. SEN support) its useful to move the TA to a different group. For example: you support the middle ability in the first lesson while the TA supports the lower ability and you swap in lesson 2 etc.  Not only does this give you good understanding of all the children in the class but it also shows the TA that you value their subject knowledge.

TA Tip 5: Thank them. Even if they have disappeared or been unhelpful thank them anyway. Always end of a positive note!

Remember the TA is the one who the school will probably listen go to should the agency ask for feedback on your performance!

Other Adults

There are many adults working in, or visiting a school. As a supply teacher it would be impossible for you to know them all or know who was a member of staff, the head, or a visitor for the day.  

Other Adults Tip 1:  Be friendly. Smile and talk to everyone. This might seem silly but a positive outlook will create a good impression. This isn’t the same as making jokes all the time or being a comedian just try to look like you are enjoying the time in their school and that you want to be there.

Other Adults Tip 2: Go to the staffroom.  Even if it's only for a few minutes, it's always worth getting to know other members of staff in the school. This will help build a good relationship with the school and, possibly, mean you get specifically requested for future bookings.

Working with adults can be very difficult. Hopefully these tips will help  relieve some of the tension and make the world of supply more enjoyable experience.

Have you any other top tips for other supply teachers? How do you ensure that communication is effective, and productive, with other adults in a school? Let us know below!

By Resident Writer Colin

Show Me Show Me Skills!

I've been fortunate enough to be able to stay at home full time with both of my pre-school age children, and while I'm not quite ready to make the leap back to work, I recognise that what I do day to day doesn't stand in isolation, and that I will be able to transfer the experiences I have developed in my job as a parent to my role in the classroom, and enhance my skills and expertise along the way. It has taken time to believe in myself, and to appreciate that being a stay at home mum has added to, rather than detracted from, my portfolio of skills. When you're not a member of the workforce for any reason, it's easy to forget your professional capabilities, and not see them in yourself. I decided to sit down and write a list of some of the skills I use every day that would prove useful in a classroom environment, and share them with you.

Parenting Skills transferred to supply teaching1. Facilitation

My children have many and varied interests…from space to sticker books to singing. They love to make, create and imagine. And one of my most important roles is to help them do that. I encourage their passions, and help ignite their enthusiasms and bring them to life. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly confident this is something I'd be able to utilise in the classroom!

2. Problem solving

In our house, we spend a lot of time talking about being “problem solvers”. I encourage my three year old to look for solutions and try to think of creative ways of arriving at them. It enables her to think for herself and to value her own contribution. I hope this will help her to develop a growth mindset, and allow her to see herself as a resilient learner. This is also something that we want for the children we teach.

3. Teamwork

My husband and I believe parenting is something we do as a team. We each have equal responsibility for our children, and we each have equal input into how we choose to raise them. And we believe it is healthy for our children to be involved in our family decisions. Teamwork means sharing responsibility, creating a dynamic where everyone is valued and where all contributions are recognised. It's just as important to the family as in the work environment.

4. Organisation

Mums have to be organised. Getting from A to B on a wing and a prayer is not only difficult with two young children to cater for, it's also absolute chaos! Being ready to go out first thing in the morning, and being prepared to spend the whole day outside, plan for changes in the weather, anticipating hunger and thirst, and even toileting accidents, are all part and parcel of the job. Keeping my children as engaged and entertained as possible, and looking after their belongings, are all valuable attributes in the class teacher.

5. Prioritising

Making things happen when you need them to happen. Knowing what the most important thing on the never ending to do list of motherhood is, and ensuring it gets done. The small things that oil the wheels of family life, and keep it running smoothly. Something every good teacher needs to be able to do effectively.

6. Communication

Communication is a two way process. Learning to listen as a parent is just as important as what we say. In our house, we encourage our children to engage with us, and hope they see themselves as having an active role within our family dynamic. We want them to feel valued and invested, and I hope that this is something that would translate well to the teaching world.

7. Compromise

As parents, we all soon learn that our children may not have exactly the same idea for the outcome to any given situation that we do. We learn to be flexible with our approach, and we develop any number of ways of saying the same thing. We try one thing, and if that doesn't work, we try something else. Sound familiar? It should.

8. Discipline

My job as a parent is to give my children the tools to help them to grow into successful and capable adults. They don't need me to do things for them. They need me to teach them to do things for themselves. They need someone they can trust to help them to develop their own moral compass. This is something that has direct correlation in the classroom. Students need teachers who believe in them, and are committed to helping them to become self motivated learners.

There you go. Eight skills I have honed outside the classroom. What are yours? Let us know below!

By Resident Writer Jenny Smith

First Call Teachers – Teaching jobs throughout Newcastle and the North East

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First Call Teachers - Newcastle & North East Teaching Jobs
First Call Teachers is a forward thinking, North East based Education Supply Agency that constantly strives to make it easier for schools to access good quality supply teachers and support staff, who are highly motivated and well paid.

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If you’re new to teaching on a supply or temporary basis, don’t worry. First Call Teachers will be with you every step of the way and will support you by finding a day to day, long term or permanent job, in a school local to you.

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See what some of our Teachers have to say about working with First Call Teachers!

‘Having been employed in education for almost 22 years I took the plunge and decided to embark on a Supply Teacher career as of January 2017. Had I known how fantastic First Call Teachers were going to be I would have made this career move years ago!

From my first telephone conversation I felt welcomed, confident and positive about my future. At my sign up meeting my consultant listened to what I had done and my plans for the future and has since supported me fully. Needless to say I am very happy and content in my work and look forward to the new experiences each week brings. Chris is only ever a call/text/email away and I feel an integral part of the team – thank you so much!’

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‘Love my agency! Had two interviews lined up for long term work and I've got exactly what I was looking for! It's great to work with an agency that listens to your wishes and follows up to find you something brilliant! Couldn't be happier!’

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Click here to learn about how supply roles can work for you

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If you would like to find out more about working with First Call Teachers just give us a call on 0191 280 5849 or simply Click here to submit your CV and we’ll call you!

If you would rather pop in and see us in person the door is always open and the kettle is on!

First Call Teachers Ltd
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Cobalt Park Way, Wallsend
Newcastle upon Tyne
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T.0191 280 5849
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