But I want my own class – pitfalls of being a supply teacher

I never really longed for my own class, not when dreaming of becoming a teacher aged 10, not when going through the teacher training process, and not even when applying for a job as an NQT.

This could be because I had a lot of respect for our ‘regular’ supply teachers in junior school myself.

It could be because I played instruments as a kid, and loved the idea of being a peripatetic teacher, going from one school to the other, ‘playing’ viola or piano all day!

More probable, it’s because I’m not very sociable. I always found it hard to build relationships, and to be honest, wasn’t interested in forming relationships with a bunch of kids, and a room full of staff, I had my flat, my pets and my chocolate! So supply work always appealed to me.

Supply teacher without a classroomHaving said that, once I got my own class, I did love them one and all, and my Teaching Assistant / Special Needs Assistant, and my classroom. Despite being the old cookery room, and having at least 4 cookers in there, and all the cupboards filled with crockery, it was mine. I wasn’t allowed in the cupboards, I wasn’t allowed to touch the ovens, and I had to ask the school caretaker to put up display boards for me. I lovingly hand-wrote and illustrated a few children’s poems, pre-Microsoft Publisher days, and was promptly asked to take them down as ‘it isn’t the sort of thing we advocate in this school’ (? this still confuses me!) Nevertheless, I made the classroom my own, in the same way I had made my bedroom my own as a teenager, with pretty much the same art posters.

One thing I enjoyed about having my own class was the air freshener. What? Yes. You’ll soon learn. I like vanilla-based air fresheners, and don’t like heavy floral fragrances. The classroom next door to mine had the most abundant bouquets of roses and azaleas lurking somewhere, I just never found them. It was overwhelming, and I hated teaching in there!

I ought to mention watching the children grow. Yes, it’s nice. It’s very special, and as a teacher you’re in a very privileged position. But fear not. Supply teachers see this too. I still see the ‘Eureka!’ moments, I still see self-doubt overcome, and when you’re fortunate enough to be the regular supply teacher for a school, you see it the school over rather than one class. You could do regular supply work in one school for years, and see younger siblings coming through, reminding you of their older brothers and sisters with their little idiosyncrasies.

It is lovely to have your own class. It is yearned for by some, I know. But I do believe that supply teaching can offer the same job satisfaction. And I wholly believe that it would be better for all NQTs to spend a year or two as a supply teacher before having their own class. Teaching practices are limiting. See other schools. Explore other methods of teaching. Hone your behaviour management skills. Increase your confidence. Just make sure that when you do apply for jobs, that you display all these qualities learned on supply to the full, make the selection panel believe that you have grown during your time of supply.

2 thoughts on “But I want my own class – pitfalls of being a supply teacher

  1. This has just confirmed why I am doing supply teaching. Due to personal circumstances, I was unable to teach immediately after my PGCE. I went back to my old job as a support worker. I have now handed in my notice and start my supply teaching tomorrow. I am petrified and feel sick about getting in front of the class again. However, I know it is a positive step and that I will have so much experience under my belt when it comes to applying for teaching posts. Great article. Cheers

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